Thursday, November 3, 2011
Hawk Ridge 2011
This past fall season has been incredible up here in the northwoods Minnesota. Nearly the entire spectrum of bird migration has moved through, but there is still more to come... Right now we're witnessing many birds that are not just migrating through the area, but to the area. Only the hardiest of birds and bird species will overwinter in the frigid, blustery, and so uniquely-gorgeous habitat that exists in the northwoods & along Lake Superior.
Over the past week, the hawk counters at Hawk Ridge (Duluth, MN) have surpassed 64,000 raptors for this fall! Raptor migration is a breathtaking spectacle that is a must-see for any nature lover. As raptors (birds of prey) migrate southward, many of them rely on updrafts and thermals to aid them in the long journeys which they partake in. Up at Hawk Ridge, raptors can be seen migrating past in noteworthy numbers along the North Shore of Lake Superior, eventually funneling into the lake's western-most tip where Duluth is located. Raptors struggle and tire-easily when they fly over large bodies of water. Thermal activity is very weak over large bodies of water, and because of this this atmospheric rule of thumb, the phenomenon of concentrating migrating raptors takes place in areas like Duluth! A stunning adult Northern Goshawk (above & left) and juvenile Northern Harrier (above & right) are shown. Both were observed in-the-hand at Hawk Ridge this fall. They were banded at the raptor banding stations located within and near the ridge.
Weather plays a big role in raptor migration. In order for strong thermals to exist, sunny skies are needed to be present. On cloudy days where relatively little sun hits the ground, the raptors that are migrating tend to be observed lower in the sky. Wind direction plays a big role in the numbers of raptors observed each day too. Winds that are coming out of the west and northwest tend to bring the largest raptor numbers, wheres winds strong out of the east tend to blow raptors inland beyond the viewing area of Hawk Ridge. The thoroughly-enjoyed "westerlies" meander raptors eastward until many of them get to the North Shore of Lake Superior. If you visit Hawk Ridge on a sunny autumn day of northwest winds (especially if it's on a day just following a cold front storm movement), there is a good chance that raptors will be rushing through in good numbers. The raptor on the left is an adult male Merlin, flying past Hawk Ridge.
Photographing raptors in-flight is a fun and exciting challenge. In case you'd like to see more of my photos from this fall at Hawk Ridge, the link below directs you there.
There are many people which visit Hawk Ridge every year. Some people come from just below the hill of Hawk Ridge, sometimes randomly stumbling upon the beautiful views of scenery and birds that has always existed a few blocks up the hill. Not surprisingly, these visitors are instantly hooked, and often make returning visits to this incredible place! Many visitors come from the Twin Cities. Some avid hawkwatchers even come from the East Coast! Over the past four years of working at Hawk Ridge, I've been privileged to meet and get-to-know the wonderful group of hawkwatchers coming from Pennsylvania. They are a real treat to have at the ridge, and are very inspirational friends :)
Do you know someone that has changed you for the better? Someone who helps guide you, teaches you, and inspires you to really shine in the world? Someone who makes you aim higher in your personal goals to really make the world a better place?
Debbie Waters, education director at Hawk Ridge, is just that to me. I couldn't wait to finally catch up on the Naturally Avian blog and share some of the fun Hawk Ridge happenings with all of you, as well as put forth some words of thanks that make me slightly teary-eyed as I'm getting my thoughts together... I want to thank Debbie for being such a true source of inspiration for doing my best at Hawk Ridge. Even outside of Hawk Ridge, she has provided me with some guidance in selecting and partaking in seasonal field positions. The world and lifestyle of doing season-to-season "bird jobs" is rewarding, and can also be very challenging. To have a good friend to talk to regarding field jobs, experiences and the likes, is a treat.
Debbie coordinated the educational aspect of Hawk Ridge, and so much more. She became the Hawk Ridge naturalist in 2001, and has been the education director since 2005. This fall is her last fall season as the education director. Her lively spirit, passion, and teaching expertise will be missed at the ridge. Within an organization, some people come along that set the bars higher, to make the organization really turn for the better. Thank you Debbie, for the inspiration!
*My good friend Curt Rawn took this picture of Debbie and I at Hawk Ridge, this past fall.
I am excited to share my experiences with all of you throughout the upcoming winter - through birding trips, sharing my sightings with you, and posting photos for you to enjoy!