Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hawk Ridge

Hawk Ridge Sanctuary, run by a nonprofit organization, sits atop a rise above Duluth, Minnesota. Because hot air thermals do not form over water, migrating hawks tend to fly around large bodies of water, such as Lake Superior.  Hawk Ridge provides some of the most spectacular hawk-watching opportunities in North America, with an average of nearly 95,000 raptors passing overhead from October through November (MOU). Erika and I, along with our friends Gerry and Merry H., paid Hawk Ridge a visit last Sunday.
We enjoyed our visit, despite large crowds of visitors and relatively few hawks. Only about 500 were counted on Sunday (and we saw only a fraction of that number). Most of these raptors, like this juvenal Broad-winged Hawk, flew at such heights that they were often visible only as pin-spots, requiring scopes or binoculars to see, much less to identify them. Many of the hawks are identified only by body silhouette.  Our hawk lacked the broad white tail bands of an adult, but can be told by the general body shape and by the relatively broad dark band at the end of the tail.
Hawk Ridge bands both raptors and passerines. Trained volunteers run these programs. While we watched, they banded a half-dozen Sharp-shinned Hawks (see photo above) and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks. The crowds of people were well entertained and educated by these activities. The volunteers allowed people to "adopt a raptor," by paying $25 and releasing the banded birds. I will write more about Hawk Ridge over the next week of blog posts.

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