Friday, July 19, 2019

West Skyline Spring Count 2019 Final Report and Monthly Summaries


West Skyline Spring Count 2019
FINAL REPORT
By Frank Nicoletti and John Richardson

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory conducted the West Skyline Spring Count full-time in starting in the spring of 2018. It will now continue for the next 8 years, thanks to a generous donation, and is hoped to continue for a number of years to come.  Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is excited about gaining knowledge about the spring migration through Duluth and how it compares to the fall counts. This is also a great way for public outreach and continuing the education of raptor and bird conservation in the Western Great Lakes Region.



Counts have been conducted and published in the past from 1997-2006 (Nicoletti, 1998 and 2009) and in 2009 and 2010, when Karl Bardon conducted the count full-time.  The years following were done on ocassions with just  limited volunteer observation each year. The same protocol was used this season,  as in past years, with the use of two count sites depending of wind direction (Nicoletti, 2009). However, we used Dunkadoo via a tablet to record all the weather and count data. These counts and data can be viewed real-time online through the Dunkadoo database as well as at hawkcount.org. Each day, a summary and total of birds counted were put into eBird to continue that important database.

The 2019 season was conducted from March 1 through May 31. A total of 30,904 raptors were counted of 16 species observed during of 79 days covered out of 91 possible. The twelves days not covered were due to inclement weather. A total of 516 hours were covered giving an average of just over 6.5 hours per day. The hawk per day and hourly rate was 391 and 60, respectfully.

This season’s count of 30,904 was the third highest total in the history of the WSHC with 32,602 and 33,228 in 2018 and 2004, respectfully. Most species were recorded in higher then normal numbers with the exception of  Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Goshawk,  and American Kestrel. It’s unclear at this point why the numbers were well below the 2000-2005 averages which is currently the most useful set of data we can use (Nicoletti, 2009). Certainly species which have shown steady increases in fall counts such as Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle and Peregrine were recorded in record numbers this spring. We had two daily records, Bald Eagle with 1,076 on 21 March and 53 Golden Eagle 17 March.  

Some of the highlights this spring were the following: Record Bald Eagle season total of 7,727 which is the highest count of any site in the country. Hawk Ridge’s best flight posted in 2017 of 6,099. The migration was certainly late this spring, so likely continuing into June would have eclipsed 8,000. Also always great to document is the migration of some of the less common migrants.  We had 5 Swainson’s Hawks,  4 dark morph Broad-winged Hawks, adult light morph Harlan’s and adult Krider’s were special for sure.

We only recorded 111 species this year (vs 172 species in 2018), but you could be forgiven for thinking it was not another amazing spring migration. Many species were late this year, with only a few days of optimal weather. Many big pushes of birds just kept going while the going was good, so we missed them. We were fortunate to see Red-headed Woodpecker and Black-backed Woodpecker which are uncommon in the northland. Also, a Lesser Black-backed Gull which are rare in the spring. Further down the taxanomic pole a single Townsend’s Solitaire from the western parts of the US made a brief appearance. We see maybe 4-5 in the fall. 

Waterfowl came in overnight as they do and settled in the bay and in the lake is good numbers. However, due to the conditions we never saw them leave as they seemingly left after sun-down. Thus, we did not get the chance this year to record the numbers we did last year.

We had a record number of visitors who came out to view the spectactular migration. Our visitation more than doubled from 2018 (650 to over 1400)! This included the birding community as well as the general public. John Richardson was on hand many days teaching and talking about the spring migration and Margie Menzies teaching school and group programs. Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union (MOU) Savaloja Fund, we were able to provide a naturalist to have school groups come out to view and learn about the spring migration firsthand. A total of 13 school programs were delivered to over 250 students Pre-K through high school.  We also held our first Spring Migration Celebration weekend which included field trips, hawk watch, and workshop as well as an evening talk by Carrol Henderson on the Peregrine Falcon recovery in Minnesota.

I would like to thank Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory for their support and to the special anonymous donor for making this important and educational opportunity possible to continue this count. Thanks to the MOU Savaloja Fund for granting funds to help make our school programming possible and to Margie Menzies and naturalist staff for education efforts. Thanks to John Richardson for helping with the count and educating vistors.  Thanks to Steve Kolbe, Stephen Nelson, Ralph Larsen and Ed  Longhway were also helpful volunteers with the count. Thanks to all the visitors and members who made it out and help in various ways. To Kate, my wife who continues to support me and my passion in life.
 

May 2019 Summary
West Skyline Spring Count

As with March and April, May came in like a lion, it remains to be seen if it will go out like a lamb!

Duluth received 9.1” of wet heavy snow on the 9th and a few more inches on the 19th - perhaps winters’ final cruel joke of the 2018/19 winter season? Let’s hope so!

Persistent east winds made hawk counting a rather cool endeavor in May as the chill from the remaining ice on Lake Superior slowly receded and thankfully returned to liquid form.

Kettle of Broad-winged Hawks May 4 2019 by J Richardson 2It wasn’t a huge season for BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, but we were nevertheless treated to one day of spectacular views as low kettles churned above our head. A true spectacle where viewers were left in awe, oh and so we’re the counters! We are just over 6,000 for May and just over 13,000 for the season.

BALD EAGLES have continued to impress with currently close to 750 in May, made up of many young birds, and/or birds from the South coming up for a cooler summer.

I must say, on the season itself we have reached over 7,200 BALD EAGLES with about one week left to go. That is an incredible number!!

We have had an amazing flight of GOLDEN EAGLES too, 212 so far (a record for HRBO) with 5 more tallied this month.

It was slightly disappointing haul of SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS this spring with currently only close to 2,500, I think many travel low as many are observed from Park Point, which is well out of our viewing.

Swainson's Hawk Juvenile by J Richardson 5-4-19We did see 4 SWAINSON'S HAWKS this month of May.

Usually, the passerine flights are much anticipated in May for everyone, but as of the 17th we have seen relatively very few neo-tropic migrants. They will come, I promise!

Future hawk counter by J Richardson April 2019

It has been a hugely successful spring count with record attendances of visitors. I look forward, as I am sure you do, to reading Frank Nicoletti’s final report of Spring 2019.

Thanks to everyone who came out to keep us company and enjoy the birds. We look forward to seeing you all in fall 2019, it’s not that far away folks!!


April 2019 Summary
West Skyline Spring Count

Spring migration in Duluth is a special time.

Count Interpreter John Richardson teaching visitors at Spring Count 2019Hawk Ridge is well known for one of the best Fall migration counts in the nation, but the Spring migration count is now also gaining some well-deserved attention! Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (HRBO) is happy to provide educational opportunities for the public to view, enjoy, and learn from counters and naturalists during both the Fall and Spring migration.

Having count interpretation and education about the migration for visitors has proved to be very popular and valuable. This has been made possible thanks to funding from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union in 2018 and 2019.

The Spring count starts March 1st and continues through the end of May. HRBO staff conduct the count on West Skyline Parkway at either one of two sites depending on wind direction.

This March proved challenging in the first half as winter appeared reluctant to let go!

Dueling Bald Eagles by J Richardson April 2019Nevertheless, that did not stop HRBO recording a world record one-day count for Bald Eagles with 1,076. In addition, a record number of Golden Eagles have also been recorded with 207 so far.

I should also mention that we have had more visitors then ever before according to Frank Nicoletti the Spring Count Director since the spring count’s inception back in 1997.

In his words “seeing 60+ people on a Saturday in Mid-March braving the cold is a true testament to what we do and offer!”

Peregrine Falcon by J Richardson April 2019We held our first HRBO Spring Migration Celebration weekend at the end of April.  With education staff on hand, we were able to offer a workshop, 3 fields trips, kid’s activities, and interpretation about the birds and migration. Carrol Henderson also delivered a wonderful presentation “The World of the Peregrine Falcon and its Return to the Skies of Minnesota”. The event weekend was well attended and received great reviews from the participants!

Raptorthon Day 2019 John Richardson Janelle Long Frank Nicoletti Erik BruhnkeWe also held the Raptorthon event on Sunday, April 28th with 630 raptors counted of 11 species in support of both the Hawk Migration Association of North America and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Results of the Raptorthon are published each year in the Hawk Migration Studies Journal. Thank you to those that contributed and if you'd still like to pledge to support both Hawk Ridge & HMANA’s efforts in raptor conservation, monitoring and research programs, you can do so here: https://www.hmana.org/events/franknicoletti-the-hawk-ridge-spring-counters/

There’s still time to visit the Spring count and enjoy the bird migration! Broad-winged Hawks are now moving through in good numbers, with one day the last week in April with over 4,000. There are many more to come and May should bring plenty more! 



March 2019 Summary
West Skyline Spring Count



No two years are the same in Duluth at the hawk watch. Last March, and what seemed like all spring we were delivered day after day of easterly winds pushing birds away from Duluth and making it harsh counting conditions and lower numbers then we would like.

This March, the opposite appears to be the case. Despite a cold start to the month and a slow two weeks the winds have been very much in our favor and the numbers reflect that.

Only 3 days was the count conducted at Thompson Hill, surprising even to the well-seasoned and founder of the spring count Frank Nicoletti!!

The later half of March proved to be an extraordinary experience not only for the counters, but the hoards of visitors we have had the fortune of seeing here. Thanks to you all and hope to see you in April!

As you have seen in our recent postings on Facebook it’s the BALD EAGLES that have stolen the show posting some big numbers.

The highest 1-day total between March 1st-15th, 42, with 225 total individuals. The rest of the month we had 4,657 with the 21st producing a new North American 1-day record of 1,076!!!

No less impressive, we have a new season total already for GOLDEN EAGLES, 186 already!!

As the majority of the northern population of breeding Bald Eagles as now north of us we are starting to transition to the RED-TAILED HAWKS and other raptors; in addition to, a good chunk of the waterfowl, sparrows, blackbirds and other non-raptors.

We have not seen too much for non-raptors so far, but we have seen our first KILLDEER, GREAT BLUE HERON, SANDHILL CRANE, and a smattering of early AMERICAN ROBINS, COMMON GRACKLES and waterfowl.

April is and exciting time as bird life and warmer temps (usually!) make it a great time to come visit the count. Of course we will be counting everyday and will be at Enger Tower on West Skyline Parkway, otherwise we will post on FB if we are at Thompson Hill if winds swing easterly.

Don’t forget to sign-up for our events this April which you can find at 
hawkridge.org, we will have field-trips, a presentation on Peregrine Falcons by Carrol Henderson and much more.

Eyes to the skies everyone, and hope to see you at the count!!






Monday, June 17, 2019

Spring Count April & May Summaries and Upcoming Events

HRBO_DM_LogoCMYK 2

Dear Hawk Ridge Friends,

First Broad-winged Hawk of Hawk Ridge Spring Count 2019
We hope you can join us for our last weekend and week of our Spring Count now through May 31! It's been an amazing season! Hawk Ridge has been counting all the birds during the spring migration since March 1st. Approximately 30,000 raptors of 16 species have been counted, as well as close to 16,000 other birds (~95 different species) have also been counted.

Many returning daily visitors by J Richardson April 2019Highlights have been setting the new North American one-day record for Bald Eagles of 1,076 on March 21, 2019. Season total record highs have also been set for both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles and still counting! Be sure to read more in our May and April summary reports below by John Richardson, as well as how to get to the Spring Count and learn about other upcoming events!

Thanks again for your support and if we don't see you this spring - be sure to catch the migration with us in the fall!

May 2019 Summary
West Skyline Spring Count

As with March and April, May came in like a lion, it remains to be seen if it will go out like a lamb!

Duluth received 9.1” of wet heavy snow on the 9th and a few more inches on the 19th - perhaps winters’ final cruel joke of the 2018/19 winter season? Let’s hope so!

Persistent east winds made hawk counting a rather cool endeavor in May as the chill from the remaining ice on Lake Superior slowly receded and thankfully returned to liquid form.

Kettle of Broad-winged Hawks May 4 2019 by J Richardson 2It wasn’t a huge season for BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, but we were nevertheless treated to one day of spectacular views as low kettles churned above our head. A true spectacle where viewers were left in awe, oh and so we’re the counters! We are just over 6,000 for May and just over 13,000 for the season.

BALD EAGLES have continued to impress with currently close to 750 in May, made up of many young birds, and/or birds from the South coming up for a cooler summer.

I must say, on the season itself we have reached over 7,200 BALD EAGLES with about one week left to go. That is an incredible number!!

We have had an amazing flight of GOLDEN EAGLES too, 212 so far (a record for HRBO) with 5 more tallied this month.

It was slightly disappointing haul of SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS this spring with currently only close to 2,500, I think many travel low as many are observed from Park Point, which is well out of our viewing.

Swainson's Hawk Juvenile by J Richardson 5-4-19We did see 4 SWAINSON'S HAWKS this month of May.

Usually, the passerine flights are much anticipated in May for everyone, but as of the 17th we have seen relatively very few neo-tropic migrants. They will come, I promise!

Future hawk counter by J Richardson April 2019

It has been a hugely successful spring count with record attendances of visitors. I look forward, as I am sure you do, to reading Frank Nicoletti’s final report of Spring 2019.

Thanks to everyone who came out to keep us company and enjoy the birds. We look forward to seeing you all in fall 2019, it’s not that far away folks!!


April 2019 Summary
West Skyline Spring Count

Spring migration in Duluth is a special time.

Count Interpreter John Richardson teaching visitors at Spring Count 2019Hawk Ridge is well known for one of the best Fall migration counts in the nation, but the Spring migration count is now also gaining some well-deserved attention! Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (HRBO) is happy to provide educational opportunities for the public to view, enjoy, and learn from counters and naturalists during both the Fall and Spring migration.

Having count interpretation and education about the migration for visitors has proved to be very popular and valuable. This has been made possible thanks to funding from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union in 2018 and 2019.

The Spring count starts March 1st and continues through the end of May. HRBO staff conduct the count on West Skyline Parkway at either one of two sites depending on wind direction.

This March proved challenging in the first half as winter appeared reluctant to let go!

Dueling Bald Eagles by J Richardson April 2019Nevertheless, that did not stop HRBO recording a world record one-day count for Bald Eagles with 1,076. In addition, a record number of Golden Eagles have also been recorded with 207 so far.

I should also mention that we have had more visitors then ever before according to Frank Nicoletti the Spring Count Director since the spring count’s inception back in 1997.

In his words “seeing 60+ people on a Saturday in Mid-March braving the cold is a true testament to what we do and offer!”

Peregrine Falcon by J Richardson April 2019We held our first HRBO Spring Migration Celebration weekend at the end of April.  With education staff on hand, we were able to offer a workshop, 3 fields trips, kid’s activities, and interpretation about the birds and migration. Carrol Henderson also delivered a wonderful presentation “The World of the Peregrine Falcon and its Return to the Skies of Minnesota”. The event weekend was well attended and received great reviews from the participants!

Raptorthon Day 2019 John Richardson Janelle Long Frank Nicoletti Erik BruhnkeWe also held the Raptorthon event on Sunday, April 28th with 630 raptors counted of 11 species in support of both the Hawk Migration Association of North America and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Results of the Raptorthon are published each year in the Hawk Migration Studies Journal. Thank you to those that contributed and if you'd still like to pledge to support both Hawk Ridge & HMANA’s efforts in raptor conservation, monitoring and research programs, you can do so here: https://www.hmana.org/events/franknicoletti-the-hawk-ridge-spring-counters/

There’s still time to visit the Spring count and enjoy the bird migration! Broad-winged Hawks are now moving through in good numbers, with one day the last week in April with over 4,000. There are many more to come and May should bring plenty more!

DIRECTIONS TO THE HAWK RIDGE SPRING COUNT SITE

West Skyline Spring Count by J Richardson 2You can likely find us below Enger Tower on West Skyline Parkway (look for the sign) or if the winds swing easterly - we will be on W. Skyline below Thompson Hill (we'll note that on Facebook, which also can be viewed on our home page on our website at www.hawkridge.org).
Thanks to you all that have visited and be sure to keep coming in May!

Eyes to the skies everyone, and hope to see you at the count!!

You can view the spring raptor count via HERE or the full live count HERE or from our home page at hawkridge.org. We invite you to come out and visit us 10am-2pm (weather-dependent)! Please see direction information below.

Spring Count Visitors 2019 by J RichardsonIMPORTANT: Please note that the spring count takes place on WEST Skyline Parkway (at one of two sites depending on wind direction) vs our fall count site at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve on EAST Skyline Parkway.

Directions:
In S, SW, SE, N, NW or W winds: overlook below Enger Tower.
Continue past the Enger Golf Course on West Skyline Parkway to overlook pullout just below Enger Tower (marked with a sign, “Rice’s Point"). If you go to far, you’ll come to West 5th Street. If you don’t see anyone at the overlook with binoculars, try the Thompson Hill site or check our Facebook page.

In NE or E winds: overlook below Thompson Hill rest area.
Directions: From Hwy 35, take the Boundary Avenue exit (249) and cross to the north side of the freeway. Turn RIGHT onto West Skyline Parkway as if going to the Thompson Hill Rest Stop. Drive past the first rest stop entrance to the overlook directly below the rest stop (you’ll come to the second rest stop entrance if you go too far).
If you don’t see anyone at the overlook with binoculars, try the Enger Tower site or check our Facebook page.


SAVE THE DATES!

Hawks on High Book Cover by Penny PerryHawks on High Book Launch - September 9th, 2019

Phil Fitzpatrick will be officially releasing his poetry book Hawks on High:Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season on September 9 at Zeitgeist in the Atrium (222 E Superior St, Duluth). This book highlights Hawk Ridge with delightful poems about the birds, migration, people, and history. Artist Penny Perry will open her exhibit of the drawings from the book there as well. It all starts at 5:00 p.m. with a reception, poetry reading by Phil at 6:00 p.m., and music by the band Woodblind starting at 7:00 p.m.We invite you to join us at this special event!

Hawk Weekend Festival - September 20th-22nd, 2019

John Fitzpatrick Director of Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Come and celebrate the fall bird migration with us! Hawk Weekend is the annual festival held by the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, MN. It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase one of North America’s best places to experience the fall bird migration at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. There will be a variety of field trips, hikes, programs, and activities for all ages! We’re also excited to announce our Saturday evening guest speaker will be John W. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He will present “How Birds (Including Hawks!) Can Save the World"! Registration and more info coming late spring/early summer!

Take Flight Logo Karl BardonTake Flight with Hawk Ridge Gala - Fri. October 11th, 2019

Please join us for an inspirational & important evening in celebration and support for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory at the Radisson Hotel ballroom in downtown Duluth. Enjoy a delicious dinner, complimentary beer (while it lasts!), cash bar, live music, live education birds, nature & artwork fundraiser. We’ll share highlights from the spring & fall bird migration, other exciting news, and end the evening with a fantastic guest speaker. Scott Weidensaul, ornithologist and author, is well known for his over 2 dozen books, including Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, and owl migration research through Project SNOWstorm and Project Owlnet (www.scottweidensaul.com). Registration and more info coming late spring/early summer!

NEW Fall OWL Workshop! Coming in October - more info coming soon! 

Northern Harrier 2018 by J Richardson 3BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!
If you're already a member of Hawk Ridge, we sincerely appreciate your support! THANK YOU! If you aren't, we hope you've enjoyed your experience with us and at Hawk Ridge and ask that you renew or join as a Hawk Ridge member today! Our memberships and donations help drive our bird conservation research and education programs. You can check out our exciting membership benefits and join or renew online HERE!

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk by John Richardson (3)2018 ANNUAL HIGHLIGHTS - Please click HERE to read and see how your support is helping us make a difference! Thank you!

RAISE $ FOR HAWK RIDGE BY WITH YOUR ONLINE SHOPPING!
Two simple ways to raise money for Hawk Ridge are by using 1) GoodShop and 2) Amazon Smile for your online shopping in support of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory to receive proceeds.

Thanks again for your support!

Sincerely,

Janelle Long
Executive Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
P.O. Box 3006
Duluth, MN 55803-3006
Call: 218-428-6209
Contact: mail@hawkridge.org
Visit: www.hawkridge.org
Join us on Facebook and Instagram
Non-Profit Organization

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Monthly summary, March, 2019

No two years are the same in Duluth at the hawk watch. Last March, and what seemed like all spring we were delivered day after day of easterly winds pushing birds away from Duluth and making it harsh counting conditions and lower numbers then we would like.

This March, the opposite appears to be the case. Despite a cold start to the month and a slow two weeks the winds have been very much in our favor and the numbers reflect that.

Only 3 days was the count conducted at Thompson Hill, surprising even to the well-seasoned and founder of the spring count Frank Nicoletti!!

The later half of March proved to be an extraordinary experience not only for the counters, but the hoards of visitors we have had the fortune of seeing here. Thanks to you all and hope to see you in April!

As you have seen in our recent postings on Facebook it’s the BALD EAGLES that have stolen the show posting some big numbers.

The highest 1-day total between March 1st-15th, 42, with 225 total individuals. The rest of the month we had 4,657 with the 21st producing a new North American 1-day record of 1,076!!!

No less impressive, we have a new season total already for GOLDEN EAGLES, 186 already!!

As the majority of the northern population of breeding Bald Eagles as now north of us we are starting to transition to the RED-TAILED HAWKS and other raptors; in addition to, a good chunk of the waterfowl, sparrows, blackbirds and other non-raptors.

We have not seen too much for non-raptors so far, but we have seen our first KILLDEER, GREAT BLUE HERON, SANDHILL CRANE, and a smattering of early AMERICAN ROBINS, COMMON GRACKLES and waterfowl.

April is and exciting time as bird life and warmer temps (usually!) make it a great time to come visit the count. Of course we will be counting everyday and will be at Enger Tower on West Skyline Parkway, otherwise we will post on FB if we are at Thompson Hill if winds swing easterly.

Don’t forget to sign-up for our events this April which you can find at hawkridge.org, we will have field-trips, a presentation on Peregrine Falcons by Carrol Henderson and much more.

Eyes to the skies everyone, and hope to see you at the count!!