Letting go

As nice as it is to look at pictures of birds, sometimes it’s nice to see people, too.

Kurt Kuehn took these pictures at Hawk Ridge on Sept. 22:

That’s naturalist Tara Haynes of the Hawk Ridge staff in the top picture. We don’t know who the woman is who’s releasing the bird. If you know, please tell me. For that matter, can you help me out with the hawk? Merlin? Northern harrier?

Kurt also shared pictures of a roosting box he made for chickadees:

Share your bird pictures and stories at: jlundy@duluthnews.com. Thanks!

Fine birds there, mate

What do white-throated grasswrens, white-lined honeyeaters, hooded parrots and chestnut-quilled rock pigeons have in common?

How about torresian crows and and blue-winged kookaburras?

If you said they are birds I saw during a walk on the Western Waterfront Trail the other day … Nope.

All are found in Australia’s Northern Territory, according to an e-mail I received from something called Robertson Solutions, which apparently has Northern Territory tourism as one of its clients.

The Robertson Solutions folks certainly make a bird-watching trip to the Northern Territory sound enticing. The e-mail notes that gouldian finches, one of the region’s most endangered bird species, have been seen consistently this year.

You can take tours that allow you to search for such exotic-sounding birds as the spinifex bird, rufous-crowned emu-wren, orange chat, gibberbird and the letter-winged kite.

This all sounds good, but I don’t think my budget is going to permit a trip to Australia anytime in the next year or so. And things being what they are in our industry, I don’t think I’ll ask Forum Communications to foot the bill, either.

Besides, I get jet lag crossing the Blatnik Bridge.

But in case you’re interested, or if you just want to learn about some very cool birds on the other side of the world, here’s a Web site to check out: en.travelnt.com/birdwatching.aspx

P.S. Apparently the angry virus that got in to our network has been eradicated. If you tried to access this blog and found yourself under virtual attack, my apologies.

Your pictures and stories on birding from this side of the world to the other side always welcome: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

Birding online

Elsie Sullivan has stepped up with a couple of more links from the wonderful world of birds on the Internet.

First, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece about a truly impressive swarm of starlings patronizing a performing arts center in Milwaukee:


Elsie also included a Journal Sentinel update on Operation Migration (the people-guided journey of whooping cranes from central Wisconsin to the Deep South). But I think it might be even better to go directly to the Operation Migration Web site here:


According to Monday’s report, the migration is under way, but it was grounded today by more bad weather. The dispatch was from Juneau County, Wis.

I look forward to hearing your stories and pictures about birds: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

Brown thrasher amid the twigs

Brown thrashers seem perfectly colored for autumn. Here’s one Lyle Anderson captured with his camera in his backyard on Park Point Saturday:

Lyle reports that this thrasher was having some problems. It came down in some brush, and then was fluttering around with seeming difficulty maneuvering. "Something just wasn’t right with it," Lyle writes. "I lsot track of it, but I hope it made it all right. I like to hear brown thrashers when they sing."

I told Lyle about a red-winged blackbird that spent some time on and around my deck this afternoon. It seemed to have a broken right leg, but it was compensating for it nicely as it gobbled up some millet. It appeared to fly without difficulty. I imagine perching was difficult.

For those of you who are interested in technical details, Lyle took the thrasher picture using a manual focus and a 70-300 lens combo plus a 1.7 converter lens over that for 818 mm. Brush and twigs got in the way, Lyle said, but I kind of like the way they frame the bird.

Pictures? Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Declarative statments? All are welcome: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

Golden eagle veers west

That golden eagle with its own GPS unit still might be seen over Hawk Ridge one of these days, but the chances aren’t looking good.

Mark Martell, director of bird conservation for Audubon Minnesota, notified birders and the media this afternoon that GPS Bird, aka Golden Eagle 42, continued his southbound journey over the past couple of days but veered to the southwest. As of Friday evening, the eagle was in Koochiching County, well to the west of Lake Superior and — at least for now — Hawk Ridge.

Here’s what the eagle’s journey looks like since Monday:

On Hawk Ridge

After the sad story about the bald eagle in the Saginaw/Twig area, maybe we’re ready to see one that looks to be at the height of its powers. Happily, Tony Mitchell got a wonderful picture of just such a bird last weekend at Hawk Ridge:

And as good as that is, there’s more. Tony was on hand to see an immature bald eagle released. Here it is:

And that wasn’t the end of it. Check out this northern goshawk:

And this golden eagle:

Which, of course, is a good reminder that the golden eagle featured on Page A1 of Friday’s Duluth News Tribune — the one with its own GPS unit — is headed in this direction after beginning its migratory journey from beyond the Arctic Circle. No guarantees, of course, but it could, possibly, be seen over Hawk Ridge sometime this weekend.

Even without that, Tony already has given you plenty of reasons to spend some time at Hawk Ridge this weekend. In addition to the raptors pictured, he saw American kestrels and red-tailed hawks last weekend.

If the weather is sunny, as supposedly it will be today, so much the better. But if it’s cloudy, the birds are likely to fly lower, so that might really be the better situation.

Tony adds that he also is seeing plenty of activity at his feeders: blue jays, hairy and downy woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches (white-breasted and red-breasted), dark-eyed juncos, white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows, goldfinches, yellow-rumped warblers, crows and ravens.

Pictures and stories from your bird experiences eagerly sought: jlundy@duluthnews.com.



More on the eagle

Thanks to Peggy Farr, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Duluth, for follow-up information on the distressed bald eagle from my previous post.

After Michael McIlvain brought the eagle to the Department of Natural Resources office in Cloquet, the folks there called Peggy about the eagle. It happened that another birder, Andrew Longtin, already had agreed to take a wounded saw-whet owl to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center on a trip back to the Twin Cities from Hawk Ridge. 

So Andrew ended up with two winged passengers.

Andrew e-mailed Peggy on Wednesday with the sad news that the eagle had been euthanized. The Raptor Center folks found the bald eagle was in bad shape. As far as they could tell, it was blind in both eyes, and X-rays revealed lead fragments. They decided they couldn’t save the eagle.

The good news is that it was euthanized humanely instead of starving to death, which certainly would have been its fate if Michael hadn’t intervened.

To end this post on a happier note, I want to tell you about some wonderful pictures Tony Mitchell took last weekend at Hawk Ridge. I’ll be posting them soon.

I’m always glad to hear from people about birds and to see pictures. You can e-mail me at: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

Man rescues bald eagle

Michael McIlvain lives in the Saginaw/Twig area, where he has been seeing a lot of eagles in recent weeks. A particular gathering point was a deer carcass near his house a few dozen yards into the woods. Every day, between one and three eagles (juvenile and adult), ravens, crows and the occasional turkey vulture would stop by to feast on the deer. Every few days, Michael would walk in to check on the birds. The birds on the ground would fly away, but the eagles in the trees would let him come within 20 to 30 yeards.

Michael stopped by on Monday and saw that the carcass was down mostly to hide and bones. I’ll let him take up the story from there:

"I didn’t see any birds, but figured I would walk around a bit.  It wasn’t raining, and the temperature was decent.  I wasn’t walking for more than a minute or two when I saw an adult bald eagle sitting on a branch.  Normally this isn’t a big deal, but in this case the branch was only three feet off the ground, and I was only 30 feet from the bird.  It just sat there.  I figured something was wrong.  I got a few steps closer and I could see that its left eye was all white.  It was blind on that side.  I got to within 10-12 feet of it before it heard me, and turned its head to look at me with its good eye.  It tried to take off, but only gave about 3-4 half-hearted flaps before it crash glided into the brush.  It tried taking off again, with even worse results.  This time it was stuck on its back in the brush and grass."



This poor eagle was in a desperate situation. It had no way of knowing it, but the right man had come along. Michael knew the bird wasn’t healthy, whether because of illness or injury. He gathered the bird up in his jacket, took it home and transferred it from his jacket to a comforter.

After a lot of phone calls, Michael took the eagle from his home to Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Cloquet.

That’s as much of the story as I know at this time, although Michael’s hope is that the bald eagle is being cared for at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center by now. If I find out more, I’ll let you know.

Thanks for sharing your story and your pictures, Michael. I’m glad you were there for that eagle.

I encourage you to send your stories and pictures as well: jlundy@duluthnews.com.

Cranes on your computer screen

I suppose some of the most famous birds in the country are the whooping cranes that follow human-powered aircraft between central Wisconsin and Florida, being taught to migrate.

The cranes are still at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, waiting to begin this year’s flight. They’ve been grounded — aren’t we all? — by the rainy weather.

But you can watch them on the ground via CraneCam. As the Operation Migration folks put it, they are still tending to them instead of flying with them. Here’s the link:



A merganser and a grouse walked into a bar …

… and I don’t know how to finish the joke.

But I’ve got the pictures, thanks to Lyle Anderson and Kurt Kuehn. Here’s a trio of mergansers in a picture that Lyle Anderson of the Park Point neighborhood sent in last week:

And here’s the ruffed grouse that Kurt Kuehn came across during the past weekend:

So that’s what they look like! My experience with ruffed grouse consists of me walking through the woods. Everything is peaceful and quiet. Suddenly, there’s an explosion of feathers about 5 feet away as a startled grouse bursts from its hiding place. After I return to earth and my heart rate returns to normal, I continue my quiet, peaceful walk. I don’t really see ruffed grouse (grouses?). I experience them.

Thanks for the pictures.

So, friends, what are you seeing at your feeders and on your walks? Juncos and house finches are the dominant birds in my yard recently, supplemented by chickadees and white-throated sparrows. I’ve seen a house sparrow or two as well, and I’ve had occasional visits from a hairy woodpecker, red-breasted nuthatches and starlings. I don’t think I’ve seen a red-winged blackbird in the past day or so; just a couple of weeks ago I saw more of them than anything else.

Your pictures and observations always welcome here: jlundy@duluthnews.com.