Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve BioBlitz #2

Lake Superior Vista from Yellow Trail Overlook (Photo by Clinton Nienhaus)

It was mentioned last year and I will say it this year: A BioBlitz is an incredible thing! Even the most familiar places can hold new secrets. For me, the trails at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, are, in part, familiar territory. A trail, however, is an ever changing landscape. Last year, almost to the day, a massive wind storm toppled many large, mature trees in the Duluth area and Hawk Ridge was no exception to losses. Many of these trees were great trail markers and "old friends" to observe as you made your way to Summit Ledges or toward Amity Creek. Since the wind storm, much of the forest has been impacted. How will this influence the plant and animal communities within Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve? Perhaps, a BioBlitz may be the best way to investigate this question!

Education Director Clinton preparing the group for the day
(Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
Sunday July 23, saw the second a BioBlitz that has run at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in conjunction with the Bog to Ridge BioBlitz supported by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog. For those unfamiliar with a bioblitz, the even takes place at one location during a general time frame to find as many species as possible! Now, this may be limited by the expertise of the trip leaders or the participants, but it is a great way to catalog species that can be found in an area. The Hawk Ridge Master Species List (soon to be available online!) is still growing and changing. Lots of information has been gained on birds that migrate through and breed at the Nature Reserve, however, there is very little information on moths, beetles, fungi, bumble bees, spiders, and insects in general. Last year, the BioBlitz added 75 new species including new information on 26 species of lichen! Lichens had not been surveyed from this location, so even the most common species were new to the list. In total, 11 total participants were able to find 159 different species including Ragged-fringed Orchid, Black Bear, and Diamond Spider!

The group looking at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve trail map (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
This year, we were able to find 156 different species, including 49 new species for the species list, with 12 total participants: Nearly a mirror image of last year! Just like last year, cloudy and inconsistent weather tried to slow down participation. However, those who did participate were able to add a huge number of species to the master list. Nearly 1/3 of the species observed on Sunday were new to the Master Species List! Big surprises include adding 27(!) new species of plant and 20(!) new species of invertebrate! Exciting invertebrates include Giant Cranefly (Tipula abdominalis), a beautiful species of Orbweaver (Enoplangtha ovata), and a species of bumble bee mimicing Robber Fly (Laphyria sp.)! Another fun surprise for the day included a few neat bird observations like an early flyover by Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, and tons of Cedar Waxwings! Also noted by the bird group were many of the breeding warbler species at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve including American Redstart, Ovenbird, Black-throated Green, Mourning, Chestnut-sided, and Nashville Warblers.

A beautiful and tiny Orbweaver (Enoplognatha ovata)
found near the Pine Plantation (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)

Though you can't tell from the photo, the Giant Cranefly (Tipula abdominalis) has a leg span of nearly 4 inches! (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)

You might need to look twice at this bug to see that it is not a bee!
This is one of the bee mimicing Robber Flies (Laphyria sp.)
(Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
A BioBlitz is great event to show folks the diversity of even the most familiar landscapes. Each year, interest in finding and documenting species grows within the general public. Citizen science is as popular as ever and is easier than ever for those interested in reporting sightings. This year, Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve has added a new way for visitors to record the diversity they encounter: iNaturalist!

iNaturalist is a site for the citizen scientist with interest in every piece of the natural world! On iNaturalist, you can document species found in an area with a quick photo and submit these observations to the website for confirmation of ID and is a great way to record any species. Within iNaturalist, you can submit observations on your own, or to projects. Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve BioDiversity is the project where you all can submit your observations of species on your adventures through Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve! This project is looking to record documentations and add to the knowledge of the species diversity at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. All you have to do to submit data is make an account on iNaturalist and snap a few photos! You can then upload those photos to the project and share in the understanding of the biodiversity of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve!
Participants at species compilation, looking over some final species IDs
 (Photo by Janelle Long)
All in all, when we see and observe and document the biodiversity around us, we getting a better understanding of the places and species around us. Hopefully, the interest in the diversity at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve will extend to your yard and beyond!

-- Clinton Nienhaus, Education Director

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fall 2016 Migration Recap

The Vista from the Ridge
Fall 2016 Migration Recap

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, our nation’s emblem
since 1782. Its numbers continue to increase thanks to
 comprehensive conservation efforts. Photo by Karl Bardon. 

February 2017

Dear Friend of Hawk Ridge,

The 2016 fall migration was another record-breaking, thought-provoking season at Hawk Ridge. A total of 415,604 migrants were counted, slightly below 2015’s half-a-million.

Here are some highlights—and some questions. But first, thank you for your membership and support. You’re keeping our eyes on the skies and helping researchers around the world unlock the mysteries of migration—so we can better protect our global natural treasure of hawks and songbirds.

Raptor Highlights

66,369 raptors counted, slightly below the long-term average.

Totals for Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon were greater than any other season since counting began in 1972.

Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons continue to rebound from historic lows, demonstrating the effectiveness of targeted conservation efforts.

Merlins are increasing as they adapt to nesting in more urban areas.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk count is especially good news, since this species has been in long-term decline. Typically Hawk Ridge has only one day each season with over 1,000 Sharpies. This fall there were six such days with a peak of 1,454 on September 20.

Finally a respectable Red-tail total! The season total of 8,867 Red-tailed Hawks is the best season since 2006. Is the long period of low Red-tail numbers over?

Of continued concern, counts of Northern Goshawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, and American Kestrel were all below average.

What are the reasons for these declines? In the case of Northern Goshawks, it is now well established that invasions no longer happen. As for Broad-winged Hawks, it may be nothing more than weather variables during their peak migration season. Researchers believe the lower numbers of American Kestrels indicate a real decline in population.

Non-raptor Highlights

349,235 non-raptors counted

132 Greater White-fronted Geese, an unprecedented number.

Flocks of American White Pelicans impressively large with a season total of 699.

2016’s non-raptor big surprise—the amazing number of Empidonax flycatchers!  The season total of 394 empids is more than all previous seasons combined.

Crazy numbers again this season for Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets (more than 3,600) and Brown Creeper (173).

Although the number of migrating thrushes heard at night always dwarfs the number actually counted during the day, a record number of more than 1,200 thrushes in the genus Catharus were seen in morning flight fall of 2016.

And the prize goes to the warblers—with a total of 78,297 counted, another season record! October 6, 2016 was the peak day for warblers, when 19,465 were counted. A season total of 27,688 Yellow-rumped Warblers compares to the previous average of only about 3,500!

In the case of all these non-raptor groups of birds, the numbers in recent years are ten times higher than in previous years. These numbers represent very real and recent changes in the migration at Hawk Ridge. What are the reasons for these changes and how long will they last?

Eyes on the Skies

Count Director Karl Bardon has been tirelessly tracking raptors and non-raptors at Hawk Ridge for a decade. In addition, he submits data to the Hawk Migration Association North American and other research groups, files extensive reports for HRBO and its members, and continues to inspire new generations of hawk and songbird counters. Many skilled observers helped him in 2017, including HRBO Counter Alex Lamoreaux, Count Trainee Amy West, Count Interpreter John Richardson, Steve Kolbe, Jan and Larry Kraemer, Kathleen MacAulay, Dave Carman, Stephen Nelson, Russ Edmonds, Allie Pesano, Ian Gardner, Andrew Longtin, Josh Lefever, Joe Beck, Tom Reed, Brian Sullivan, and Jerry Liguori. A round of applause and thanks to all.

As the snow flies this winter season, we hope this Vista from the Ridge is providing happy memories of beautiful fall days on the Ridge in 2016. Stay tuned for new things for our members, like Snapshot from the Ridge, more updates on Facebook (, and exciting plans for Hawk Weekend Festival and upcoming gala in September 2017.

Again, thank you for your support. We simply cannot do this important work without you.

Janelle Long
HRBO Executive Director

Andrew Streitz
HRBO Board Chair