Birds Impaled By Sticks

Below is actually a repost of a blog post made back on September 25, 2006 (holy cow, how is my blog that old). I wanted to link to it on the Facebook page but because it's on the old blogger platform and it's not letting me grab just that particular blog entry. Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 2.53.31 PM

I'm reposting it because there's a news story of a young bald eagle that got caught in a tree because it was impaled by a branch as it was learning to fly. You can read about it here or watch a video here. Above is a screen grab of the video that shows you what a dire predicament the eaglet was in--way at the top of a dead cottonwood tree--almost too dangerous to climb.


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We need to give a medal to this guy, Gordon Sasa, an arborist who risked his life to climb the tree and grab the bird.

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Look at Gordon go, getting that eagle!

But birds getting impaled on branches does happen.  I think we don't see it all that often because they die or get scavenged. But this old post from 2006 shows a sharp-shinned that survived impalement.

All the photos below this entry are courtesy of Frank Taylor.

I just got in a weekly banding report from Frank Taylor. In it was a an interesting account of a first year sharp-shinned hawk that had impaled it's wing on a twig. Frank said that it had healed up with a bit of the twig still in the wing!

They didn't try to pull out the twig, just clipped the ends that were close to the wing. The bird seemed to be doing just fine and they didn't want to stress it out with a trip to The Raptor Center down in the Cities. Frank used to be curator of birds at TRC and has been a master falconer for longer than I've been alive. He knows a healthy flight in a bird when he sees it, and with a high strung bird like an accipiter, letting it go gave it a better shot at survival than time in a rehab facility.

The injury was healed, I wonder how long ago it happened? Perhaps when it was learning to fly.

Another fine example of how birds will survive no matter what. It would never occur to this bird that, "Hey, I've got a stick in my wing, I don't feel like hunting and heading south to find food. I'm just going to hunker down and sleep today." Birds just do what has to be done in order to survive. I love that.


Awesome Sunday At Hawk Ridge

Saturday at Hawk Ridge:

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday At Hawk Ridge:


...hawks, northwest winds, fair temperatures, shining sun--all the things that make hawk watching special.

I helped out at the NatureScape News selling subscriptions and issues and the table became a catch all table for everybody. I was selling shirts and calendars (shirts were a hit to men and women of all ages), and Rick Bowers helped at the table too and was on hand to autograph his books (that's him above with his massive camera, Mammal Guide and shearwater head--I geeked out a little...okay, I geeked out a lot) and BirderBlog hung out and sold some of her books including her new book 101 Ways to Help Birds.

The Eagle Optics table was right next to ours so I got to see my good friend Katie. And, per WildBird on the Fly's request:

The odd thing is that we have Katie here kissing a dehydrated shearwater head and she's healthy, while I came down with some nasty intestinal bug last night that still has not quite left me. Curse you, hot-pepper-wild-rice bratwurst, and everything you stand for! At least I hope that's what it is, I haven't felt this bad since I lived with that party-animal of a parasite, giardia. I really don't want to go through that again. But enough about my digestive problems, you read this blog for birds so:

Look at this beautiful adult sharp-shinned hawk, taking a brief stop in its journey to educate the crowd about migration. They're so pretty when they grow up.

Here are the new counters at Hawk Ridge this year Corrie and Sue. Look at that--they are women--fun and intelligent women too. Paging Kevin Karlson, here are some hot up and coming women should you ever consider doing another list for WildBird. When it's not so busy, I plan on going out for a beer and learning more about them. It's hard to talk and get to know them during the peak of broad-wing migration, they're a little preoccupied. They did request that the next time I'm up that I bring Cinnamon, they really want to be disapproved of.

There was a whole lotta releasin' going on at the Ridge, since they were getting so many sharp-shins at the banding station.

I got some great shots of some of the releases:

Here we have an excited little girl releasing a shin that ended up veering through a surprised audience. Sharp-shins are an accipiter and are well known for their ability to dart around objects quickly and for short super fast bursts of speed. Here's an up close view of the above photo of the shin going through the audience:

Looking at where Hawk Ridge Education Director Debbie Waters has her camera aimed, was she fast enough to get the young sharpie flying away?

This is my favorite photo. There's a sharpie being released right above everyone's head. Here's a closer view:

I wonder if this guy got his photo and even better yet, look at the excited little boy below and behind him.

Another Day at Hawk Ridge


If I were the type of person who needed to call in sick to work, I would totally be taking sick days on Tuesday through Thursday this because it's been nothing but southeast winds at
Hawk Ridge in Duluth right now (the worst for hawk watching) and according to Weather Underground Tuesday afternoon they are supposed to switch to northwest winds (the BEST for hawk watching) and stay that way at least until at least Thursday. Hawk watching hasn't been too spectacular so far so I bet on Tuesday afternoon, all hell will break loose.


I spent this past Saturday helping Kim Risen and Ed Colosky with their day trip to Hawk Ridge. It was kind of a last minute decision for me to go otherwise I would have put the word out on the blog.

This was my favorite moment of Saturday. All of these kids were on the bust to go hawk watching. What could possibly have them so enthralled? A Hawk Ridge Naturalist was about to unveil a sharp-shinned hawk that was netted at the banding station:

There's a wealth of information that can be gained from banding birds, but when you open it to the public, this is where the real value comes in. Look at the faces of all of those kids, they are totally getting interested in birds. There is our future, ladies and gentlemen. The more kids we get excited about birds, bet better chance those kids will be interested in keeping those birds around in the future.

Many of the kids got to hold hawks or release them throughout the whole day. It takes me back to the first time I got to touch a sharp-shinned hawk (like the one pictured above in the very capable hands of Laura). That was a life changing experience and still is in the top five moments of my life. I remember thinking how incredibly lucky I was to touch a creature in the middle of a long migratory journey.

Here is young Trevor letting a recently banded sharp-shinned hawk go, continuing on its journey south.

We did have just about the worst possible weather for our bird trip to Hawk Ridge (the only thing that would have made it worse was pouring down rain) but we fortunate enough to get some great fall color and beautiful views from Hawk Ridge. I kept telling everyone that even though the weather was not promising, there was still a chance for great birds: cloudy days at Hawk Ridge are almost a guarantee for peregrine falcons. While I was taking a group on the Summit Overlook trail I heard a distant shout: "Peregrine Falcon!" We looked up and sure enough there was a peregrine right overhead!!

We did have a couple of programs for our tour group to watch and I have to say if you are at Hawk Ridge and a woman named Willow is about to give a presentation, pay attention. This chick is REALLY good at giving programs! She wowed our audience and did a great job of making sure everyone understood what she was talking about. What really separates her from the rest of the pack is her passion for the subject. I don't know how long Williow will be at Hawk Ridge, but it wouldn't surprise me if in years to come we see her on a list of great birders.

Another highlight of the day was seeing a Franklin's ground squirrel. Which we did see, almost as many as we did of hawks for the day.

They were able to bring a couple of birds out from the banding station so the day wasn't a total wash. I was glad about that, I really wanted the kids to get a chance to see the birds up close.

At the end of the day the group was tuckered out. Here is Sam, the youngest member of our group who behaved really well all day and slept almost all the way back to the Twin Cities.

Don't forget that this coming weekend is the official Hawk Weekend at Hawk Ridge and tons of people will be up. I'll be there selling calendars, official birdchick shirts and subscriptions to NatureScape News. If you're up there Saturday and Sunday stop over and say "hi!". If not, try to get up sometime mid week to watch those broad-winged hawks move through.

Birding with Neil

Periodically I am asked if I am really friends with Neil Gaiman. Yes, I am really am. And to prove it, I took Neil up for a day of hawk watching around Duluth, MN to experience the thrill of thousands of migrating birds of prey. First we stopped at my friend Frank Taylor’s hawk blind to band migrating hawks and then we headed to Hawk Ridge. Many don't know this, but Neil is quite the birder and has a way with passerines (note Neil with the song sparrow on the left).

Neil sits in the hawk blind to help watch for hawks flying over the field. There were a couple of times when he confused blue jays with sharp-shinned hawks but he got the hang of it before the end of the day.

We banded a passage female merlin. She graciously posed for a photo with Neil before continuing on with her migration.

Neil meets some pigeons at the banding station—all of whom never get harmed by hawks during banding due to protective leather jackets and expert handling by hawk banders. He tried to chat with them about their adventures, but being pigeons they were hesitant to speak of their exploits.

After a morning full of banding we stopped at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Neil took a look at the daily totals. He was most excited about seeing a Northern Goshawk and agreed with me that, goshawks are hands down the coolest North American raptor.

The banders at Hawk Ridge got in a Red-eyed Vireo—which are surprisingly aggressive and try to bite anybody. It’s okay because they are insectivores and have soft bills and don’t hurt so much when the bite. This one took a break from nipping for a photo with Neil.

A rare appearance by a Golden-crowned Kinglet at the Hawk Ridge banding station made for a special day. Neil graciously accepted a kiss from this secretive bird.

A fellow birder, Reier decides to make Neil feel like a true bird watcher by making fun of him. This is a good sign that Neil is being embraced by the birding community.

Before the day was done we found a huge mushroom. It reminded me of a smurf house. I wanted to see what it tasted like, but Neil smartly recommended we shouldn’t eat mushrooms we aren’t sure of.

Well hopefully this answers the question of just how well I know Neil Gaiman.

Hawk Trapping

I finally got to spend a day at the hawk blind! This fall has just been CRAZY and I've barely had time to enjoy my favorite part of birding (hawk migration) but I finally had a chance to participate in some hawk banding today. I headed up to Duluth Saturday after a signing with Stan at the Wildlife Science Center (a very cool place by the way--you can have a birthday party with wolves). Well, I was so unfocused I forgot to book a hotel room and decided that rather than stopping from motel to hotel to look for vacancies I would just bunk it with the boys out in the field. Rick was kind enough to offer the back of his truck and Frank was kind enough to offer a sleeping bag. I had plenty of clothes, spare blankets and a pillow in my car and thought this would be what Opie Taylor would call "adventure sleepin'" (you can see my cozy little bed pictured above). It was only supposed to be in the low fifties maybe upper forties so I figured I would be warm enough. Not only that, I had a flask of 15 year old scotch with me just in case I got cold...or couldn't sleep.

The hard part getting to sleep was being distracted by all the outside sounds. I could hear night migrants overhead and that always sends chills down my spine. Then at some point someone in a truck drove by the field with a large flood light, I assume they were shining deer. Other than that it was a pleasant night outdoors snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag listening to the sounds of Duluth.

The trapping was slim pickins'. The winds were pushing the hawks up so high they weren't interested in coming down to the nets and at this point adults start passing through and they are more difficult to get into the nets than the first year birds. We got two hawks in the nets today, one was a passage female merlin. We placed a band her and released her (pictured right). After I snapped the photo, she dropped down and bounced off my arm and headed for the woods, but not without giving us a little merlin shriek before she was out of sight. I wonder if it's good luck to have a merlin ricochette off of you?

Our second bird in the net was a passage female sharp-shin--Oh! She had a really cool flight. Frank and I were watching it high in the sky and it started a straight dive down at a small bird then stopped half way and continued in our direction, but still quite high. As it was right over the blind, Rick pulled the pigeon and it did a straight stoop down! You could see the landing gear (legs) position right in front of the face, locking the talons on the target. Then just mere feet overhead, it dodged and darted from side to side to slow down and not smashing into the ground and in an instant it was in the nets! A really great flight into the net really makes up for a slow bird day.

Since the birds were slow, we closed down the banding station early and Amber, Reier and I headed to Hawk Ridge. It was surprisingly busy, which is good because Hawk Ridge needs all the support it can get. I was so excited, they had shirts--shirts that fit women and don't make us look like shapeless bags of potatoes! So ladies if you are looking for a bird shirt that won't add ten pounds to your figure, get a Hawk Ridge V-Neck. They appear to be available in gray, white or pink.

They wern't getting too many hawks in at their banding station, but they did get some cool passerines into the nets including a golden-crowned kinglet and a red-eyed vireo (left).
Well, this has to be the end of the entry--there's just tons of freaks on TLC tonight. First it's "Face Eating Tumor" followed by "I Am My Own Twin" and to top it off " 101 Things Removed From The Human Body". Now that's what I call quality tv, and it has be educational if it's on The Learning Channel.

Call of the Wild

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match...

So, if anyone out there is interested in picking up men, especially rugged outdoors type guys, I can't recommend wearing camo enough. In order to go photographing with Wheeler and Tekiela we were ordered to be in full camo, plus they covered us in tarps so the birds would see nothing at all. When we arrived in Duluth, we stopped at a gas station for some coffee and breakfast sandwiches in our camo pants and jackets. As we entered, every male eye in the place was on us. I opened the refrigerator case for nice wholesome bottle of milk when I heard a roguish voice ask, "So, you ladies up here deer hunting?" He cocked his eye brow, coyly and gave a knowing smile.

I wanted to tell the truth, that we were going to sit on the ground covered in a tarp, watch hawks soar overhead and listen to two of the greatest bird photographers of our time go "clickity, click, click, click, click" with their cameras. Alas, I decided to flirt back and sound macho so I gave a little white lie and said, "We're hawk trapping!!" (we do go up for hawk trapping, however we were not this particular day).

He looked bewildered and a little disappointed that I wasn't going to go out and take out a buck with a nice rack (while sporting a nice rack of my own--ba da ching). Anyway, I tried to make it sound cool and exciting, but really in thirty seconds of flirting it's incredibly difficult to get the finer point of hawk trapping across. Knowing my luck, he probably thought I was going to kill hawks and is turning me in as I type.

The moral of the story was that if you want to meet men, go to a gas station wearing's a turn on.

This is a bird chick blog so, I should mention birds seen up in Duluth LOT AND LOTS of bald eagles! We had a kettle of about 7 eagles at one point and one of them turned out to be a golden eagle. We also saw many rough legged hawks. I saw more dark morph rough legs yesterday than I have in my entire life. Other points of interest included black-backed woodpeckers, snow buntings, lapland longspurs, gray jays, harriers, and my favorite raptor the goshawk!