Adopt a hawk

When you adopt a raptor at Hawk Ridge, you get to hold it, then let it go on its way. They take pictures. You can get digital images of those pictures, and in a few weeks you’ll get a packet in the mail that also will include those images.

I adopted a female sharp-shinned hawk a couple of weeks ago, and I got to see the images for the first time last night. Here they are:

Adopt it. Let it go. I like that.

Your bird pictures and stories welcome at:

Shuddup already

Dianne Buelow of Ashland received this picture in an e-mail. It was titled “When a man can’t stand it anymore!”

I don’t know where the photo came from originally, but it did put a smile on my face, as Dianne said it would.

Dianne is watching migrating birds, and she said they had a huge gathering of robins in a 25-foot-by-40-foot area of leaves. The leaves were flying. She said a picture never would have quite captured it. I totally understand that. Sometimes, you just have to be there.

Your bird pictures and stories always welcome at:

This is cold

Sparky Stensaas reports, via the Minnesota Ornithological Union, that the first annual Brrrrdathon — billed as the world’s coldest birdathon — is on tap for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 14 and 15, right here in Northeastern Minnesota.

It’s a chance to compete for the most bird species spotted in one weekend in the “hinterlands and urban wilds of Northeastern Minnesota,” as Stensaas puts it, AND compare notes on which boots, parkas and gloves/mittens keep you warm the longest.

And it’s a fundraiser: The goal is to raise money for a Sax-Zim Birder Welcome Center in the bog. It would be a place where “visiting birders can get the latest bird sightings, watch feeders (off the road), use an outhouse, AND warm up!” Stensaas writes.

Teams of two to four birders will compete, with the option of participating on Saturday only. A compilation/awards/photo brunch will take place Sunday, Jan. 16, at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. The event is sponsored by  BirdNation!, an organization dedicated to helping America’s threatened birds and bird habitats. The organization’s current project is to focus on education and awareness of the black spruce/tamarack bogs of northern Minnesota and the birds that visit them.

You can get more information, registration and a brrrdathon video here:

And your bird photos and stories can be sent here:

More from Hawk Ridge

It’s Hawk Weekend at Hawk Ridge, and although I won’t be around for the festivities on Saturday and Sunday, I did get to spend some time up there today. I spent more than half of the time tromping around in the woods. I saw two people on horses, two people on mountain bikes, three people with two dogs each, a few chickadees, a couple of bluejays and a whole bunch of sparrows — mostly white-throateds, I think.

At the Ridge, a saw three red-tailed hawks and one Northern harrier — a lifer for me. And another kettle; I think someone said this one was mostly bald eagles, but don’t hold me to that. I would have never known I was seeing red-tailed hawks or a Northern harrier if Erik Bruhnke hadn’t been pointing them out.

I also had a little better luck catching raptors with my camera as they were released …

Once, I might have even clicked the shutter a split second too early …

When I’m at Hawk Ridge, I don’t just watch birds. I noticed today that there were seven ships out on Lake Superior. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that many at one time before. And I have to say that half of the fun is watching people watching birds:

It didn’t hurt a bit that it was another perfect September day in Duluth.

Your bird photos and stories gleefully welcomed at:

Hawks, hummers and ????

I’ve received a wealth of wonderful images during the past couple of days. Thanks so much — your pictures and stories are what make this blog worth doing.

First from Gerry Sibell in Hibbing, who took these pictures/works of art of a ruby hummingbird. In the second picture, the hummingbird is, uh, well, as Gerry put it, multitasking:

By the way, thanks to you for all of your responses on my question about hummingbirds. I think what happened at the Wannabe Ranch is the goldfinches took over and scared the hummers away. I walked 18 minutes from my house yesterday, sat on a rock next to a babbling brook in the woods (it’s an idyllic life, eh?), and watched a hummingbird dance above the water. So they are still around.

Melanie of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., sent this picture she took at Long lake near Cotton on Sunday. She thinks it might be a juvenile cedar waxwing, and she wants to know if you agree:

Kurt Kuehn, who volunteers at Hawk Ridge, labeled his pictures “What you missed on Monday.” It also was what I missed on Sunday, because he actually managed to get shots of the birds as they were released.

First, a red-tailed hawk:

And a northern goshawk:

Your bird pictures and stories welcomed enthusiastically at:

At Hawk Ridge

I went to Hawk Ridge today, and I found out that I’m much better at taking pictures of birds when someone is holding them.

Here’s my collection:

“A bird in the hand,” as the Hawk Ridge folks like to say. The bird in this hand is a young female sharp-shinned hawk, not that I would have known that all by myself.

Same bird, a bit closer. This one wasn’t real happy with the situation, but it would be on its way again soon.

There’s a broad-winged hawk in the midst of that crowd, getting rock-star treatment from the paparazzi.

There it is!

And there! Hawk Ridge is very kid-friendly, by the way.

The broad wing of a broad-winged hawk.

This bird, too, was about to be released. But when it came to taking pictures of the moment of release, the broad-winged hawk was way too fast for me …

Ditto later on, with a sharp-shinned hawk:

Hawk Ridge is a wonderful place for a Wannabe Birder to go at this time of the year, not only because there are so many raptors to see, but because the staff and volunteers of Hawk Ridge are there to tell me what I’m seeing. So I’m happy to say that, in addition to the caught-and-released birds, I saw several bald eagles, several sharp-shinned hawks, several broad-winged hawks, my first two American kestrels ever and my first kettle ever — a kettle being a mob of raptors riding the thermal updrafts as they migrate south. I was told there were at least 40 of them, and that most if not all of them were broad-winged hawks.

It happened to be a pretty good day for raptor movement over Hawk Ridge. I haven’t looked at the Website to see the final count, but it was more than 1,000 raptors by the time I left around 4 p.m.

Hawk Weekend starts Friday; you should go. But if you happen to have some free time between now and then, you might consider heading up there this week. Erik Bruhnke of the Hawk Ridge staff said it’s likely the biggest numbers of the season will be seen sometime this week.

Your pictures and bird stories joyously received at:

Hummers and hawks

Question: Have hummingbirds left the Northland? I haven’t seen any at the Wannabe Ranch in more than a week. Has anyone else seen any lately? Is it time to take down the hummingbird feeders and put up the suet?

Meanwhile … plenty of hawks and other raptors are being spotted at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory on the east side of Duluth.

Leading the way is the sharp-shinned hawk. The official counters have reported 1,938 of them so far this month (through Thursday), along with 486 broad-winged hawks and 443 American kestrels.

Wednesday was a good day: 456 sharp-shinned hawks and 242 broad-winged hawks.

The official counters — Cameron Rutt and Karl Bardon — also kept track of non-raptors, including 3,646 bluejays.

This isn’t the festival weekend at Hawk Ridge. But there’s always plenty to see, especially if the wind is out of the northwest, as it was on Wednesday.

Bird pictures and stories welcome at:

When a rose-breasted isn’t rose-breasted …

When it’s a female or an immature male, as Tony Mitchell’s splendid recent picture of a rose-breasted grosbeak demonstrates:

It’s not as showy as the mature male, but it’s still a pretty bird. Tony took this picture in his yard, where he also has had a mob of goldfinches, quite a few bluejays and northern flickers.

And he spotted this at Sam’s Club:

This gorgeous bird is a belted kingfisher. I guess if we can see birds like that at Sam’s Club, we don’t have to feel too bad about Erie Pier.

Your bird pictures and stories unabashedly welcomed at:

Little mob

I’ve always had a hard time attracting goldfinches to my feeders. Until this summer … when I’ve had two or three pretty much every day since early August.

And suddenly, the past four or five days, I’ve been invaded by a Little Mob  of goldfinches:

They’ve swarmed my two nyjer feeders almost constantly this weekend. I counted 13 this morning, then quit trying. But I think the total is probably 15 or 16. This is 12 or 13 more than I’ve ever had at once before, at least for any extended period of time. It’s interesting to me that although a couple of males still have their bright yellow coats, the majority are dull-colored. I don’t know if this means there are a couple of males with a harem, or if there are quite a few juvenile males who won’t be promoted to bright yellow until next year.

I saw one other interesting bird at the feeders a couple of days ago. It was the size of a large sparrow (e.g. Harris’ sparrow), had a thick beak and distinctive white, circular lines on a brownish face. Some kind of grosbeak, I thought. And sure enough, when I checked the book I decided it must be a rose-breasted grosbeak — again, either a female or a juvenile male. As I watched from inside it seemed quite docile, but as soon as I opened the door to try to get a picture it fled, and I haven’t seen it since.

I also saw LOTS of interesting birds — including seven or eight barred owls — in one of my dreams last night, but that’s another story.

Your bird stories and pictures welcome at:

An owl, and news on two birding places

It’s so good to see the pictures of owls that folks share. It always makes me think that maybe I’ll see one someday …
Here’s a picture Darin Golden took of a barred owl that spent a big part of Wednesdayin their yard in Rice Lake Township just off Martin Road. He says it’s the first owl they’ve seen in the six years they’ve lived there.
I wouldn’t try to win a staring contest with this owl. Thanks for sharing this beautiful portrait, Darin.
On another topic, I’ve been working on a story for the News Tribune on the Erie Pier area off 40th Avenue West in West Duluth, just off Interstate 35. It’s a popular birding area, especially during the spring and fall migration seasons. But it’s also a staging area for the I-35 megaconstruction project, as well as for other contractors. So it seems to be off limits to birders during this migration season. Check the Duluth News Tribune in print or online in the next day or two for more information.
On the other hand, you’re always welcome at Hawk Ridge. Kurt Kuehn reports that northwest winds are expected during the coming weekend. That would create ideal conditions for raptor migration, he says. Follow Skyline Parkway off Glenwood Street on the eastern side of Duluth.
Your bird pictures and stories welcome at: