Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hawk Ridge Banding Report: November 20-30, 2013 and Final Season Totals

This period saw several good days of banding, notable were the 23th and 26th with strong northwest winds. Both days brought 4 adult goshawk each. The period included: 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 11 Northern Goshawks and a Long-eared Owl. 


This season a total of 2,019 hawks were banded and include: 4 Bald Eagle, 24 Northern Harrier, 1,593 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 41 Cooper's Hawk, 87 Northern Goshawk, 14 Broad-winged Hawk, 125 Red-tailed Hawk, 31 Rough-legged Hawk, 36 American Kestrel, 55 Merlin and 9 Peregrine Falcon. 

This season a total of 1,121 owl were banded and include: 996 Northern Saw-whet Owl (plus 71 previously banded), 120 Long-eared Owl and 5 Barred Owl (plus 1 previously banded).

A full banding summary will be included in the Hawk Ridge Newsletter with many of the important details. Please consider becoming a member of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory to recieve this and learn about the many other important activities that Hawk Ridge conducts during the year.

I would like to thank the staff and the many volunteers who made this season a great success.


Thank you and have a great Holiday Season!

Northern Goshawk, image by F. Nicoletti

Frank Nicoletti

Banding Director, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hawk Ridge Raptor and Non-raptor Summaries Fall 2013


November was exceptionally slow; after the great flight of 155 Rough-legs, 141 Bald Eagles, and 21 Golden Eagles on November 2nd, the average count was only 51 birds per day. Even though several large cold fronts moved through during the month, the predicted large eagle flight never occurred. A trickle of eagles, Rough-legs and goshawks continued through the end of the month.

On December 2nd-4th, a three day blizzard dumped about 30 inches of snow on Duluth, and on December 5th and 6th when the weather finally cleared I skied up to Hawk Ridge to see what might be flying.  Since we had only got a few inches of snow previously, I figured this megastorm would motivate any remaining raptors to leave the northland.  In two days of watching at the Ridge in brutally cold conditions, there were over 231 Bald Eagles, 2 Golden Eagles, 3 Red-tails, 10 Rough-legs, and 5 Northern Goshawks. Apparently these are the highest numbers of Bald Eagles counted in December.

The season ended with a total of 43,133 raptors seen, which is the tenth season in a row of below average numbers. Nevertheless, there were some fun highlights, and it was a still a great season to be at the Ridge. Here is a quick species by species summary of the fall 2013 raptor count:

·        Turkey Vulture (1088): slightly below average numbers

·        Osprey (277): continued below average numbers

·        Bald Eagle (4466): continued above average numbers, peak of 342 on 19 October

·        Northern Harrier (368): slightly below average

·        Sharp-shinned Hawk (13,270): slightly below average, peak of 1090 on 2 October

·        Cooper’s Hawk (120): slightly below average, peak of 17 on 2 October

·        Northern Goshawk (159): well below average, and clear now that there will not be an invasion during this 10-year cycle (we were due for an invasion in 2012)

·        Broad-winged Hawk (14,983): lowest season since 2001, peak of 7228 on 12 September;  there were 5 dark morphs (the most I have counted in a season);

·        Swainson’s Hawk (5): slightly below average number, but record late light adult on 6 November

·        Red-tailed Hawk (6146): seventh year in a row of below average numbers, peak of 1135 on 21 October; total includes 1 light adult Harlan’s, 1 light adult Krider’s, 2 partial albinos, and 33 dark/rufous adult Westerns (less than usual)

·        Rough-legged Hawk (518): average numbers, including excellent number of juveniles, and great flight of 155 on November 2nd  (third highest count)

·        Golden Eagle (136): continued above average numbers, peak of 21 on 2 November

·        American Kestrel (1200): eleventh year in a row of below average counts, peak of 246 on 1 October

·        Merlin (169): slightly below average, including 1 Richardson’s type on 2 November

·        Peregrine Falcon (154): record season, including record day of 33 on 30 September (previous high count was 21 on 29 September 1997)

·        Mississippi Kite (2): single birds on 27 August and 4 September; fourth year in a row this Casual species has been seen at the Ridge.

The raptor count may have been low, but the non-raptor flight was truly exceptional this season. The season total of 283,484 migrating non-raptors was the second highest count to date, which includes 176,466 counted from the Lester River shore site in the early morning, and 107,018 counted from the Hawk Ridge main overlook throughout the entire day. For the last four seasons, these two counts have been combined to yield a composite total of non-raptors. The abundance of birds this season was overwhelming at times, and we were witness to multiple mass migration events when the flow of birds was close to uncountable. Here is a quick species by species summary of some of the most significant non-raptors seen this fall:

·        Greater White-fronted Goose (1): one on 5 September, rare for Duluth

·        Ross’s Goose (6): average number, considered rare in Duluth

·        Cackling Goose (20): exceptionally low season! (previous average is 854); where were all the Cackling Geese?

·        Canada Goose (8244): above average number, peak 1106 on 15 September

·        American White Pelican (362): above average number, peak of 156 on 3 September

·        Double-crested Cormorant (781): best season to date by far, peak of 244 on 2 September

·        Sandhill Crane (418): average season, peak of 169 on 6 October

·        Upland Sandpiper (1): one on 5 September, rare for Duluth

·        Red-necked Phalarope (56): single flock on 20 August, unusually high number for Duluth

·        Eurasian Collared-Dove (1): one on 2 October, only second record for Duluth

·        Common Nightahwk (43,011): best season to date, peak of 30,874 on 21 August (second highest state count)

·        Red-headed Woodpecker (5): above average count, all 5 seen on 11 September (rare in Duluth)

·        Black-backed Woodpecker (2): only 2 sightings, same as last year (unusually low numbers); previous average 2007-2011 was 54

·        Eastern Kingbird (368): above average number, peak of 283 on 21 August was record high count for state

·        Blue Jay (29,477): average count, peak of 5627 on 16 September was second highest count for state

·        American Crow (11,120): average season, peak of 1607 on 19 October

·        Common Raven (1127): above average count, peak of 107 on 19 October

·        Cliff Swallow (2567): above average count, peak of 1028 on 19 August

·        Boreal Chickadee (4): more than usual

·        Eastern Bluebird (1,170):  record season with record high count of 262 on 18 October

·        Mountain Bluebird (2): both seen together on 26 October, rare in Duluth

·        Gray-cheeked Thrush: record high count of 34 heard pre-dawn on 7 September

·        Swainson’s Thrush (9): although only 9 identified during the day, a total of 77 catharus thrushes were seen flying over during the day (more than usual), and I made an estimate of at least 1229 flying over at night (probably many more), including 500+ on 12 September

·        American Robin (47339): average total; peak of 4595 on 3 October

·        American Pipit (1572): above average total; peak of 345 on 2 October

·        Cedar Waxwing (41,608): record high season; peak of 6322 on 20 August, second highest state count

·        Warblers (33,591): best season since I started counting in 2007, with a peak of 11,674 on 29 September (fourth highest state count)

·        Lapland Longspur (180): below average count

·        Snow Bunting (644): average count, peak of 201 on 26 October

·        Rose-breasted Grosbeak (174): above average count, peak of 107 on 11 September was highest state count

·        Red-winged Blackbird (3540): below average count, peak of 888 on 22 August

·        Rusty Blackbird (18,688): above average count, peak of 5246 on 13 October was third highest count for state

·        Common Grackle (2535): average count, peak of 695 on 16 October

·        Pine Grosbeak (36): lowest count to date, previous average is 737!

·        Purple Finch (1769): below average count, peak of 261 on 11 September

·        Red Crossbill (18): lowest count to date, previous average is 776!

·        White-winged Crossbill (none!): lowest count to date, previous average is 1322!

·        Common Redpoll (none!): lowest count to date, previous average is 9526!

·        Pine Siskin (66): lowest count to date, previous average is 4572!

·        American Goldfinch (12,239): record season, peak of 3585 on 2 October was new state high count

·        Evening Grosbeak (15): lowest count to date, previous average is 68

Karl Bardon
Count Director, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Banding Report 11/11-20, 2013

There was no passerine or owl banding during the period, except for a Northern Shrike captured and banded on November 12. Uncooperative weather kept the owl banding from opening, and is likely done for the season. A season end total for all raptors (hawks and owls) will be provided in the next blog.

Hawk banding was surprisingly good especially on several days with strong northwest winds. November 11th and 12th provided 16 raptors of the 24 captured during the period. Although few non-eagles were seen on the count or observed at the banding station, a high percentages of those seen were captured. The breakdown is as follows: 15 Northern Goshawk (7 ASY, 3 SY and 5 HY), 6 Red-tailed Hawk and 3 Rough-legged Hawk. Highlights were 2 adult light rough-legs (male and female) on the 11th and a return goshawk that was banded as an after-second year on November 19, 2005, at Hawk Ridge (hatch in 2003 or earlier) making it at least 10 years old!!!

Frank Nicoletti,
Hawk Ridge Banding Director

ASY male Goshawk, image by Miranda Durbin
ASY (male & female) Goshawk, image by Frank Nicoletti
ASY male Rough-legged Hawk, image by Miranda Durbin

ASY female Rough-legged Hawk, image by Miranda Durbin

Northern Shrike, image by Miranda Durbin

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Banding Report: November 1-10, 2013

The migration has been slower than hoped for during this period. Passerine banding has ended for the season, except for the occasional bird in the raptor nets. Owl migration was good for the first week, until unfavorable weather restricted banding during the end of the period. Annmarie is hoping to get a few more nights in before the snow falls. Hawk banding has been a rollercoster with mostly slow days, but there were a few days of flights where we were able to catch  some birds.

The passerine total for the season at the overlook was 222 birds of 18 species. The high numbers were Black-capped Chickadee with 50, White-throated Sparrow with 82, and Slate-colored Junco with 39. Banding at the overlook was done to primarily educate the public with an emphasis on family and kids. It was a huge success. 
At the main station, we banded 1544 birds of 66 species. High numbers for banded birds were 61 Veery, 66 Swanson's Thrush, 206 Nashville Warbler, 123 American Redstart, 143 White-throated Sparrow, and 124 Slate-colored Junco with all the juncos coming in 5 days. So 1762 birds banded through 10/30 for the project, which is a very respectable total given the relative lack of birds this year. We covered 42 days at the main station and 13 days at the overlook. Thanks to everyone for supervising banding this year. It continues to be the main impediment to getting more days covered. 
-David Alexander

Northern Shrike, image by Chris Neri
In November a total of 86 have been banded, which includes 67 Northern Saw-whet Owls and 19 Long-eared Owls. The best night was on the 1st when there were 22 Saw-whets and 6 Long-eared Owls. Of the 67 Saw-whets banded during the month,  80% were hatch year, which now brings our season hatch year total to 21%. 
-Annmarie Geniusz

Long-eared Owl, image by Annmarie Geniusz
The hawk banding will continue until the 30 of November, but primarily from the main station as Chris Neri and Nova Mackentley have returned to Whitefish Point, Michigan where they live and work. It was great having them back for their third season. The month of October total of 625 hawks banded is as follows: 1 Bald Eagle, 2 Northern Harrier, 426 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 20 Cooper's Hawk, 51 Northern Goshawk, 2 Broad-winged Hawk, 88 Red-tailed Hawk, 18 Rough-legged Hawk, 4 American Kestrel, 10 Merlin and 3 Peregrine Flacon.
In the first ten days of November, there have been 28 hawks banded which includes: 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 9 Northern Goshawk, 8 Red-tailed Hawk and 10 Rough-legged Hawk. Other highlights this month included the observation of an adult light morph Swanson's Hawk that spent part of the day hunting the fields and perching on hay bales at Moose Valley site on the 6th. Also seen at that location was a rare visitor to Duluth, a flyby Black-billed Magpie on the 5th. 
-Frank Nicoletti, David Alexander, Chris Neri and Nova Mackentley.

Adult Northern Goshawk, image by Miranda Durbin
Frank Nicoletti
Hawk Ridge Banding Director

Monday, November 4, 2013

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries 27 October-3 November 2013


Most of the week was heavily overcast with fog, mist and drizzle, giving us some very low counts for raptors and non-raptors, but the good news was that once this weather cleared out with west winds on November 2nd, we got a great push of birds including 141 Bald Eagles, 21 Golden Eagles, 10 Northern Goshawks, and 155 Rough-legged Hawks. This count of Rough-legs is the third highest for Hawk Ridge, and the best flight since 1994 when 176 were seen on November 29th (the record count is 204 birds seen at the Ridge on November 10th, 1963). With most of November yet to come, when the majority of Rough-legs often move through, I am hoping for some more great Rough-leg days. In contrast to last year when very few juvenile Rough-legs were seen, this year there are good numbers of both adults and juveniles. Although it seems likely that most Red-tails and Northern Goshawks have moved through, no doubt there are still good numbers of Bald and Golden Eagles yet to come. If we get a major cold front in the next few weeks, there will likely be hundreds of Balds and dozens of Goldens riding the Ridge.


The same weather which held back raptor migration for most of the last week also did the same for non-raptors, with a great flight commencing on November 2nd, when 4881 non-raptors flew over, most of which were American Robins, but a good diversity of other species showed up as well, such as Horned Larks, American Pipits, Snow Buntings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, and a few Pine Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills. Most non-raptor migration is usually done by November, so this flight was somewhat unusual. With continued relatively mild conditions (and still some fall color left in the trees!), it seems possible that we will see more of these species.

A few Boreal Chickadees have shown up, including two on November 2nd, so perhaps this is the beginning of an irruption for this species. In contrast, it is quite clear by now that this is one of the worst finch years I have ever experienced. Whenever there have been good irruptions of northern finches during these non-raptor counts, they have peaked in late October, so it seems doubtful that any large numbers are still on their way. In the last five years, the overall number of finches counted has varied from 13,000-50,000, and this year the total is only at 11,819, most of which were American Goldfinches. A few of the northern finches can be expected in their usual range within the boreal forest of course, but I doubt that very many of them will make it further south this winter. Nevertheless, a local bumper mountain ash crop is already attracting robins, bluebirds and waxwings (including Bohemians), so perhaps it will be a good season for berry eaters.

This blog was made possible by generous assistance from Cory Ritter, Andrew Longtin and Joe Beck: we may not have built the Eiffel Tower or the Lift-bridge, but we certainly have counted a lot of birds together! Thanks guys!

Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Bald Eagle
Adult Bald Eagle flying below Hawk Ridge with fall color and Lake Superior in the background

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Education - 2013 Season

Today was the last day of the 2013 overlook season.  How does it go by so fast?  We saw so many birds, met so many people, created so many memories.  Here are some of my favorites.

Jared, Greg, David, Darlene, Margie and Nancy...

Releasing a Broad-winged Hawk in memory of family member Fred, "The Hawk", Haakensen

This young visitor from Poland gets her code, JAMI, and a bird band.
About 175 children were able to pretend they were birds and get a band!

This poem, in the shape of a bird, was given to me by a visitor.

wears daylight and
wind-roughed feathers-fills meadow morning skies
like October streams meandering, watches grasshopper
shadows scattering, grasses rusting, yellow stalks shaking
flies afternoon hungry over mouse hurry, rabbits
running, descends to talon catch 
and shrew's cry until
vole full of blood red
flesh strands, he rests after
sundown, wearing darkness as a gift.

                                       David Clowers
                                           Sturgeon Bay, WI

The final count for private programs this season was 82.

Plus, there were public programs, songbird banding at the overlook, raptor releases, banding station tours and the countless other ways that we share our love of raptors and birds with you, our visitors and supporters.  

Time marches on...  I forgot to take the picture, but the leaves are gone now.

Bumper sticker spotted during Hawk Weekend.

Thank you for coming.  Thank you for your 
continued support.

"Keep Calm and Soar On".

We'll see you next year at the Ridge.

Gail Johnejack
Education Director

Weekly Banding Report: 10/22-28, 2013

There was no passerine banding this week except for education programs at the overlook. There will be a full report on all passerine banding in the next blog posting to date. The only exception was two birds banded that were caught in the raptor nets, both adult Northern Shrike. Always exciting to capture and band these songbirds which are very raptor like and bite and rip like no hawk or owl!!!!

Northern Shrike, image by Dave Alexander

The owl migration has been steady with fewer big nights of Saw-whets and larger owls starting to move. The best night was on the 26th which coincided with our last public owl program. The staff and volunteers did an amazing job with educating the nearly 60 folks. We were able to bring up both Saw-whets and Long-eared Owls. The night ended with 34 Saw-whets (1 retrap), 33 Long-eared and 1 Barred Owl which had its own band!!!!
The weekly totals of 200 owls are as follows: 134 Northern Saw-whet Owl, 63 Long-eared Owl and 3 Barred Owls.
-Annmarie Geniusz

Barred Owl, image by Rachel Harris

Hawk banding has been slower then expected especially after the flight of the 21st with flights reduced everyday since. The bulk of Red-tailed Hawks seem to done, which is somewhat surprising, and the goshawk numbers are lower than in past years. However, we have been enjoying capturing and banding Rough-legged Hawks which are always a treat to see and our first adult Goshawks.

The weekly totals of 70 are as follows: 9 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 22 Northern Goshawk, 24 Red-tailed Hawk, 14 Rough-legged Hawk and 1 Merlin.
-Frank Nicoletti, Chris Neri, Nova Mackently and David Alexander

Red-tailed Hawk, image by Chris Neri
Rough-legged Hawk, intermediate morph, image by Jerry Liguori

Adult female Goshawk, image by Rachel Harris
Frank Nicoletti
Banding Director

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries October 13-26th


The last two weeks of October are always my favorite time for raptor flights, when all the larger, attractive hawks migrate against a backdrop of peak fall color. The migration has been dominated recently by Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, and Northern Goshawks. Surprising numbers of Rough-legs have been the highlight the last week, including counts of 49 on October 22nd, 30 on October 23rd, and 31 on October 24th. This Rough-leg flight has been dominated by juveniles, suggesting good production of young in the arctic, which is refreshing after last year when juveniles were virtually absent. The flight of raptors on October  21st was one of the best I have seen at Hawk Ridge, including 135 Bald Eagles, 7 Northern Goshawks, 1135 Red-tails, 17 Rough-legs, and 20 Golden Eagles, especially since periodic snow squalls seemed to induce the birds to cut inland, often coming directly over the counting platform. Interestingly, despite continued northwest winds during the subsequent three days, the overall flight of raptors slowly decreased each day. Another pocket of birds seems to be arriving with a fresh cold front on October 26th, so hopefully the next week will be full of fun raptors.

Non-raptor migration has been slowly winding down the last few weeks, with about 16,000 counted in the last week. The season total is now at 264,838 migrating non-raptors, which is probably about average. Rusty Blackbirds and American Robins have been the most common migrants the last two weeks, including peaks of 5,246 Rusty Blackbirds on October 13th, and 4,551 American Robins on October 19th. It is still possible we will see another large push of robins, since I usually associate their peak with the departure of leaves from the trees, which has happened as late as October 31st. Steady numbers of American Crows have also been marching down the shore over the last few weeks, including a peak of 1607 on October 19th. The great variety of songbirds we see earlier in the season has been mostly replaced by more wintry types such as American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Snow Buntings.

Eastern Bluebirds have been remarkably common the last few weeks, with a state record count of 262 on October 18th. The bluebirds just seem to keep coming and coming: on October 23rd another 158 Eastern Bluebirds flew over, including a single flock of 60, which is the largest flock I have ever seen, and on October 26th another 174 Eastern Bluebirds flew over, including two Mountain Bluebirds, which briefly landed in a spruce tree. The season count is now over 1018 Eastern Bluebirds, which is by far the best season yet!

Karl Bardon
Count Director

Adult male Rough-legged Hawk over Hawk Ridge