Monday, December 30, 2019

November Summary and 2019 Highlights

Dear Friends of Hawk Ridge,

Happy Owlidays 2019! Original photo by Hannah ToutonghiWe hope this letter finds you healthy and happy during this holiday season. THANKS to your support, we had another successful year! You can read the November count and banding reports below, as well as our highlights from 2019. If you'd like to make a year-end, tax-deductible donation to help Hawk Ridge continue to do our best for the birds, you can easily do so by clicking HERE TODAY!  We truly appreciate your gift and look forward to connecting with you in 2020! 

November 2019 Banding and Count Reports

Raptor Banding Summary
Trainee, Abbie Valine, with Northern GoshawkThe first half of November was good for migration. It was an impressive number of the raptors seen from the blind, this good response was due to colder than normal temperatures and a steady movement with westerly winds. The second half of the month turned to easterly winds, warmer than normal temperatures, and many cloudy days. It was clear that most raptors by then, especially goshawks, were already settled in their winter territory. It was unusual to not catch any goshawks after the 14th of November!!

RTHARaptors that eat small mammals (voles and mice) seem high from the reports I received from observers north of us. Lots of Rough-legged Hawk with counts of 50 plus in Sax-Zim alone were reported all month with lesser numbers of Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawk. Likely Boreal, which were reported moving in good numbers in eastern Ontario, were likely stopped short before reaching us due to the high density.
RLHA(2) 2The HRBO station was open 29 days with the 30th of November closed due to a winter storm that dumped 20 plus inches of snow in Duluth. A total of  96 raptor were banded, which is well above our average in recent years. The Moose Valley site was in operation on 3 days during the month. For the second year in a row, the season's only Rough-legged Hawk (an adult female light morph) was captured at this site. Trainee Hannah Toutonghi with Northern Goshawk
The following was captured and banded: 
Northern Harrier-2
Sharp-shinned Hawk-3
Northern Goshawk-42
Red-tailed Hawk-48
Rough-legged Hawk-1

One more highlight was catching and banding Northern Shrike. Two were banded this November.

-Frank Nicoletti, Hawk Ridge Banding Director

Owl Banding Summary

Owl migration came to a gradual close leading up to the end of the banding season on November 9.  A few Northern Saw-whet Owls were still moving through each night, with a total of 25 individuals caught in November.  Long-eared Owls kept the nights exciting until almost the very end, including a late push of 27 individuals on November 7.  In fact, nearly half of the Long-eared Owls caught this fall were caught in the last 10 nights of the season!

IMG_2506A total of 1263 individual owls of were caught throughout the fall: 1144 Northern Saw-whet Owls, 111 Long-eared Owls, 5 Barred Owls, 1 Eastern Screech-Owl, 1 Short-eared Owl, and 1 Boreal Owl.  Thank you to everyone involved in making this yet another amazing owl season at the Ridge!

-Kate Maley, Fall Owl Bander

Bird Migration Count Summary

Adult Bald Eagle by J RichardsonNovember wrapped up our last month of migration at Hawk Ridge! A total of 2,268 raptors were counted for the month, the most for the last five years. By far the most numerous of the raptors were Bald Eagles, with a total of 1,160 counted in November. This number is not unusual, though it did help set a new Fall record for Bald Eagles. That previous record was set two years ago at 6,099 in 2017. The new record this Fall is 6,177!

Red-tailed Hawk - J Richardson - Sept 19 4The second highest numbers were the Red-tailed Hawks. Many Red-tails came through within the first two weeks of November, but a few still trickled through right to the end of the season. We saw 840 this month and 6,734 for the season. The only other raptor to reach triple digits for the month was Golden Eagles, just managing to see 101 in November. This is almost half of all the Golden Eagles seen at Hawk Ridge for the whole season! The season total for Goldens is 203 individuals.

Rough-legged Hawk by Karl BardonThe rest of the more common November raptors made steady if not spectacular appearances. Rough-legged Hawks came in third with 79 birds in November, a very low number for the month where usually over two or three hundred are seen. In fact, the total Rough-legged count is just 158, the lowest season sincNOGOe 1989!

One of the amazing things about November is the chance to see fantastic looks at Northern Goshawks. This is the month when many adults begin coming through and many times, the view of these birds coming straight through the treetops is like nothing else. We ended up with a November total of 62 Goshawks leading to a season total of 239.

Finishing off theSSHA by Jason Heinen 2019 raptors came a few late Sharp-shinned Hawks, with 17 birds in November and 9 Northern Harriers. These late stragglers rounded out the November raptor species diversity a little, giving a small change of pace from eagles and Red-tails.
American Robin by J Richardson
Most non-raptor numbers decline at the end of the season. However, the American Robin made its way to the claim the highest number spot with 43,903 counted by the end of November. While “unidentified warbler” came in right behind Robins,

Blue Jay J Richardson Sept 19Blue Jays were the second highest of the birds we were able to identify at 24,371 for the season. One bird that also became a regular in November was the Northern Shrike. This hunting passerine made 11 appearances at the Ridge totaling 23 for the season. All of the passerine daily checklists can also be found on e-bird for Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve:

IMG_1135It was a cold and snowy end to the season, but we are very grateful to all the volunteers and regular watchers who made the last few months enjoyable. We are looking forward to the Spring 2020 count, and seeing many of you next Fall for another great season at Hawk Ridge!

- Krista Botting and Hawk Ridge Count Team

2019 Hawk Ridge Highlights

Here’s what your support is helping us achieve:

BAEA August 2019 by Jason Heinen
Bird Migration Count Research
Conducted both spring and fall counts this year with over 90,000 raptors of 17 different species and nearly 210,000 other migrating birds of over 160 species counted in 2019! New Bald Eagle records for both spring and fall! Over 3 million raptors have been counted at Hawk Ridge since the standardized count started in fall 1972! This data is contributed to hawkcount.oSandhill Cranes J Richardson Sept 19rg and other projects to be used for bird conservation research, such as the Raptor Population Index. You can view the fall raptor count totals HERE and season totals HERE. The West Skyline Spring Count starts again March 1st - hope to see you there!

Eastern Screech Owl Oct 2019 by K MaleyBird Banding Research –  Hawk Ridge is the largest raptor banding operation in the country and completed its 48th fall season! Over 3300 raptors (including 1263 owls) were banded in fall 2019. Highlights were recapturing the Eastern Screech Owl from 2018, as well as banded Short-eared and Boreal Owls! We continued passerine bandingHawk Ridge Banders with Scott Weidensaul holding Northern Harrier Oct 2019 research & education at Hawk Ridge, including the volunteer-led summer MAPS project and breeding bird surveys. All banding data is contributed to the USGS Bird Banding Lab. Through banding, we can better understand the life history and population ecology of birds by tracking survival, behavior, and movement.

IMG_7149Education - Taught over 200 programs nearly 5,500 participants of all ages in 2019! This includes our school programs, youth groups, workshops, field trips and outreach events. We also continue to share the wonder of the migration with thousands of visitors through live bird education demos, kid's cart activities and crafts, and interpretive programs. IMG_7852

Stewardship of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve - Coordinated volunteer-led projects and efforts throughout the year at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, including invasive species management, cleaning up the reserve (trails, litter), & working on site management maintenance and improvements.

Hawk Ridge Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients 2019 Jeanne Filiatrault Laine and Gail MarsmanEvents - Held our annual Hawk Weekend festival in September. Dr. John Fitzpatrick gave a wonderful bird conservation presentation and attendees enjoyed field trips and workshops. We also held our 3rd Take Flight with Hawk Ridge Gala in October. We shared successes & highlights, celebrated long-time volunteers Gail Marsman & Jeanne Filiatrault Laine with the Hawk Ridge Lifetime Achievement award, enjoyed a fantastic owl presentation by guest speaker Scott Weidensaul, and close to $9,000 filled our kettle of hawks in support of Hawk Ridge!
Count Trainee - Nick P with Northern Goshawk

Volunteer & Traineeship Programs - Over 70 volunteers contributed 3000 hours to Hawk Ridge this year! We had 7 new trainees this fall that worked closely with our managers and gained professional field experience skills within our count, banding, and education program areas. THANK YOU to all of our volunteers and trainees from 2019! We couldn't do what we do without you!

We hope our 2020 highlights will be just as memorable as this year! We are counting on your support TODAY to help make that happen!  Your tax-deductible contribution will have an enormous impact in not only helping ensure we can continue our fall migration count, bird banding, and environmental education programs, but also help Hawk Ridge reach it's full potential. Please consider making a year-end gift to make it possible to carry out our important bird research and education programs in 2020 and help Hawk Ridge Take Flight. Thank you!

We truly appreciate your support! 
NOTE: You can also avoid online processing fees and still help Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory by donating via mailed check to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, P.O. Box 3006, Duluth, MN 55803 or if you have a PayPal account, you can also Donate via PayPal Giving Fund with no fees.
Happy Holidays and THANK YOU!

Janelle Long
Executive Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Monday, November 11, 2019

October News - 2019 Fall Migration & Event Summaries

Compressed HRBO Logo

Dear Friends of Hawk Ridge,

Oct 2019 by J Richardson 3The fall season is winding down on another great bird migration at Hawk Ridge. We wrapped up our public education programs at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve on October 31. October summaries for our bird migration count, banding research, education programs, and the Take Flight with Hawk Ridge Gala event are included in this newsletter.

Fall 2019 Staff Last Day at Overlook by B Munson 3Thank you to all of our friendly, knowledgeable staff and volunteers for sharing the magic of the migration at Hawk Ridge with thousands of wonderful visitors this fall. We also can’t thank our amazing members and donors enough for visiting and supporting our cause.

Banding Trainee Hannah with HY Peregrine Falcon Oct 2019 by F Nicoletti
Give to the Max day is next week, which is a major annual giving day here in MN for many nonprofits, including Hawk Ridge. We would super appreciate your donation during this important giving campaign. We count on this day of support to ensure we can continue our mission of protecting birds of prey and other migratory birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education, and stewardship.

Let’s make 2020 another great year for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory together for the good of the birds, people, and place. Thank you!  

P.S. Remember you can view our raptor count HERE for totals & daily summaries and watch the count in action LIVE HERE or via now through November 30th!


Below you'll find the October summary reports and highlights from our bird migration count staff, bird banding research staff, and education staff. We had a great October and look forward to sharing more with you as our fall count and banding research continues through November!

October 2019 Fall Bird Migration Summary

SSHA by Jason Heinen 2019October was another spectacular month of migration at Hawk Ridge! An impressive total of 15,084 raptors were counted for the month. Sharp-shinned Hawks showed up in good numbers for October, including a surprisingly high count of 1,354 on the 13th. They slowed down to single digits per day by the end of the month, but Sharpies totaled 6,006, making them October’s most common raptor at the Ridge.

Red-tailed Hawks Oct 2019 by J RichardsonNot far behind the Sharpies were Red-tailed Hawks, which started the month relatively slowly but quickly built in numbers. Red-tails peaked at a total of 902 on the 23rd on their way to an October total of 5,565. Bald Eagle was the other raptor totaling in the thousands for the month, with 2,080 seen, including a peak of 172 on the 17th. With a full month to go, Bald Eagles have already surpassed 5,000, and are just shy of their average over the last ten years of 5,069.

Broad-winged Hawks were the story of September, but October brought just 22 of them, including two relatively late individuals spotted on the 23rd. Also tapering off early in the month were Osprey, with just eight seen, the final bird on the 10th. This brought their total to 201 for the season, well below the 10-year average of 269. Peregrine Falcons were near daily throughout the first half of the month, reaching a season total of 155, considerably higher than the 10-year average of 121.

First adult Goshawk of season Oct 2019 by J RichardsonRight on schedule, some late-season specialties have picked up considerably throughout the latter part of the month, and promise to continue their upward swing into November. Northern Goshawks have begun to put on a fantastic show, including a thrilling total of 28 on the 23rd. Golden Eagles also arrived en masse, with an October 28th peak of 18 contributing to a solid total of 100 for the month. Rough-legged Hawks have increased more gradually, peaking at 14 on the 20th and reaching a total of 78 for the month.

Rusty Blackbird in flight Oct 2019 by J RichardsonAs far as non-raptors, October saw some good movement of robins and blackbirds. On October 13, 3,277 Rusty Blackbirds and close to 800 Yellow-rumped Warblers were counted along with many other migrating passerines. A late Philadelphia Vireo was a nice surprise. October 14 was another amazing morning for robins and blackbirds with 4,237 American Robins, 3,165 Rusty Blackbirds, and 2,202 Common Grackles counted. The first Northern Shrike was also counted.
American Robin Oct 2019 by J RichardsonOctober 16, 17, 20, & 24 also had a good push of passerines, including 6,689 Rusty Blackbirds on the 16th and 12,530 American Robins on the 24th. All of the passerine daily checklists can also be found on ebird for Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve:

The fall count continues through November 30, so be sure to continue following along online or if you'd like to brave the cold - we welcome you to stop by the hawkwatch and say hi!

-Gary Palmer and Hawk Ridge Count Team

October 2019 Fall Raptor Banding Summary

Sharp-shinned Coopers and Northern Goshawk Oct 2019 by F NicolettiOctober numbers were down in comparison to previous Octobers. We were able to cover the Hawk Ridge station most days with less coverage at the two satellite stations. The flight never materialized and kept birds higher than normal. The one day that stands out is October 23 with 14 Northern Goshawks banded, including our first adults of the season.

October raptor numbers are below:
HY female Merlin and adult male Merlin Oct 2019 by F NicolettiNorthern Harrier- 10 (55)
Sharp-shinned Hawk- 270 (1651)
Cooper’s Hawk- 4 (24)
Northern Goshawk- 62 (69)
Broad-winged Hawk- 0 (11)
Red-tailed Hawk- 34 (52)
American Kestrel- 0 (24)
Merlin- 9 (68)
Peregrine Falcon- 3 (4)
Total- 392 (1958)
(#) Denotes season total

-Frank Nicoletti and Raptor Banding Team

Owl Banding Summary

3 owls - Boreal - N Saw-whet - Long-eared by H ToutonghiOctober was an exciting month for owl banding!  The month started strong, with peak Northern Saw-whet Owl migration occurring in the first half. The 954 saw-whets caught in October put the season total over 1,000.  And we still have part of November left!Eastern Screech Owl Oct 2019

Our biggest night of the season took place on October 3.  We caught 168 saw-whets as well as one Long-eared Owl and one Eastern Screech Owl.  Turns out, the screech owl was the same individual we caught in 2018, making it still the first and only Eastern Screech Owl to have been caught at the HRBO banding site.

Long-eared and Short-eared Owl wing by A Sundvall Oct 19 3Despite the lower Northern Saw-whet Owl numbers, the second half of the month was anything but a let down.  On October 28, in addition to the 28 saw-whets and 12 long-eareds, we caught a Short-eared Owl.  This was only the 17th Short-eared Owl caught at HRBO and the first in nearly a decade!  On top of that, we caught the first Boreal Owl of the season the following night!

-Kate Maley, Hawk Ridge Owl Bander

October 2019 Fall Education Summary

Naturalist Andy Witchger - Oct 2019So much bird education fun in so little time! October has come and gone, as have our days of daily outdoor programming (though one adventurous group scheduled a November visit)! Many thanks to our dedicated and talented education crew of naturalists Allie Quick, Andy Witchger, Jason Heinen, and Kaitlyn Okrusch, as well as Frances Whalen and Katy Dahl - our education trainees for 2019. Lisa Oakland and Noel Larson, our Visitor Services folks provided the glue to keep things moving smoothly for all of our many visitors. Alex Sundvall and Clinton Nienhaus kept visitors informed and enthralled as count interpreters.

Hawk Ridge Kids Activity Cart Bird Masks - Oct 2019October was a wet month with 4 full days of major weather cancellations, and a number of partial days, which required some creative rescheduling. Late October remained cloudy and wet, so it was almost a relief to have the wet switch to frozen forms. October weekends were full of great regularly scheduled weekend public programming. We also had 3 evening Owl Programs - the first of which was held indoors due to inclement weather, but the last 2 were held outdoors and well attended. MEA weekend was lovely this year with plenty of visitors and an opportunity to unveil our new Exploration Station- a drop by visitor education station filled with bird trivia, bird artifacts, and knowledgeable staff.

Young observers at Hawk Ridge platform feeder - Oct 2019 - thanks Myron Peterson for building feedersApproximately 450 educational programs were provided to over 10,000 visitors in fall 2019. These program included school programs and other private group programs, public programs, bird demonstrations, owl programs, Hawk Weekend festival, Kid’s Cart and Exploration Station.

Whew! That’s a lot of bird talk- but stay tuned there is always more to come over the coming winter and spring!
-Margie Menzies and the Education Team


Take Flight with Hawk Ridge Gala was a Success!

Hawk Ridge Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients 2019 Jeanne Filiatrault Laine and Gail MarsmanOur 3rd annual Take Flight Gala on Friday, October 11th was a successful fundraising event for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. 140 wonderful people filled the Radisson Hotel ballroom in celebration and support for the important bird conservation work we do. Attendees enjoyed the great music by Jeffrey Flory and members of the Arrowhead Chorale, artwork by Alexa Carson and jewelry by Curious Metal Design, live birds from Wolf Ridge ELC and the Lake Superior Zoo, and poetry by Phil Fitzpatrick from the Hawks on High book. We honored 2 of our loved, longtime volunteers, Gail Marsman and Jeanne Filiatrault Laine, with the 2019 Hawk Ridge Lifetime Achievement Award. The local news even came to interview them, which you can view HERE!

Board Chair Andrew Streitz presenting 10-yr board service award to Steve Wilson Oct 2019Steve Wilson also received a 10-year service award for his time on the Hawk Ridge Board. Many wonderful nature and art-related auction items were bid on, migration highlights were shared, and much support was given to help Hawk Ridge continue to Take Flight. The evening came to a close with a fantastic program "Owls: Souls of the Night" by Scott Weidensaul, which also emphasized the importance of the owl research we are doing at Hawk Ridge. Thank you to all that donated - whether it was your time, auction item, donation or other - it is all truly appreciated!

NOW through Thursday, November 14th!

Northern Goshawk migrating by J RichardsonEach year, generous supporters like you celebrate Give to the Max Day by making your online donation on Your generosity on this day makes a difference far beyond the 24-hour giving event. Please join us on November 14, 2019, for Give to the Max Day and help us continue to protect birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education, and stewardship with our work at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Your donation on Give to the Max Day also may help us win additional prizes! How? On November 14, every gift made on will be entered into additional prize drawings for Golden Tickets $500 will be awarded every 15 minutes and $1000 every hour, as well as one $10,000 Super Sized Golden Ticket. New this year are Power Hours at 10am and 10pm awarded to the top three organizations who raise the most money between 10:00-10:59 a.m. and 10:00-10:59 p.m. First place will receive $3,000; second place will receive $2,000; and third place will receive $1,000. Your gift of $10 or more could instantly turn into an extra $500, $1,000 or even $10,000 for us!

The more gifts we generate on during Give to the Max Day, the more our chances increase to receive those additional prizes. Imagine what we could do with $10,000! Our goal is to raise $5000 and you can help us reach it!

Be sure to mark your calendar and make your gift on November 14 by visiting and searching for "Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory" or by simply clicking HERE

Hawk Ridge Banders with Scott Weidensaul holding Northern Harrier Oct 2019 4September Migration Reports 2019 - Click HERE to read our September Bird Migration Count, Banding, and Education Summaries

August Migration Reports 2019 - Click HERE to read our August Bird Migration Count and Banding Summaries

West Skyline Spring Count 2019 - Please click HERE to read the West Skyline Spring Count Final Report and monthly summaries. It was an exciting season and we look forward to Spring of 2020!

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!

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 and hope to connect with you soon!


Janelle Long
Executive Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
P.O. Box 3006
Duluth, MN 55803-3006
Call: 218-428-6209
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