Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Hawk Ridge News - Spring 2020


Dear Hawk Ridge Friends,

Coopers Hawk April 20 by J RichardsonWe hope you’ve been enjoying the spring migration, as well as the sunshine and warmer weather. Many birds are moving through now, as we’ve seen this past week at the West Skyline Spring Count. As of Friday, April 24th, over 10,000 raptors of 15 species have been counted. Over 8,000 other birds (~65 different species) have also been counted. Please continue to follow along online via our live count HERE and raptor count HERE! If you’ve enjoyed keeping up with the count, one way to support our raptor monitoring efforts for bird conservation is by pledging to our annual Raptorthon (read more below)! Thank you and we send continued wishes for good health and good birding!
Sunday, April 26th

Red-tailed Hawk Apr 20 by J Richardson 2Late April is perhaps the best time to see the wide variety of raptors traveling through on their way north. Team Frank & the Hawk Ridge Spring Counters will be conducting the Raptorthon on Sunday, April 26th (weather pending). We invite you to please consider pledging to the 2020 Raptorthon to support both Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the Hawk Migration Association of North America’s (HMANA) efforts in raptor conservation, monitoring and research programs.
John Richardson (left) and Frank Nicoletti (right) by J Long 2

We thank you in advance! Results will be posted in our next e-newsletter and on our Facebook page. Results of the Raptorthon are also published each year in the Hawk Migration Studies Journal via HMANA. To sponsor Team Frank & Hawk Ridge Spring Counters, on behalf of Hawk Ridge & HMANA, please make your pledge by clicking HERE! THANK YOU! 

FALL 2020 Hawk Ridge Seasonal Positions

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is tentatively hiring for the fall 2020 bird migration season. While we are hopeful to fulfill all seasonal positions, circumstances are subject to change due to COVID-19. Please click HERE for more information about open positions. Thank you to all of our current and former staff and trainees! Our crew rocks and we hope you can join us!

* If you missed our newsletter last week, we encourage you to continue reading below for more information about our research, events, and other educational resources.

West Skyline Spring Count - March Summary Report

By John Richardson2020 marks our third consecutive year conducting the West Skyline Spring Count full-time March-May. As we are all doing our best to adjust during these trying times, March has quickly come and gone. We are now one month into the Spring Count. There were 3,116 raptors counted in March (plus 18 more counted on February 29, as it’s a leap year). That total is below March 2019 at 5,487 raptors, but above March 2018 at 2,148. We had 5 days with no raptors in March, due to poor migration conditions and/or inclement weather.

Bald Eagle by John RichardsonThe majority of the raptors we see in March are eagles – both Bald and Golden. Over 2,500 Bald Eagles have passed by on their way to defend their territories and get ready for the season ahead. We had some wonderful days of Golden Eagle flights, including a total of 33 counted on March 11th and one day with 4 observed together right over the counters. A total of 140 were counted in March. The Duluth News Tribune also published a nice article highlighting the eagle migration, which can be viewed HERE.

March 2020 Count 2Red-tailed Hawks began to kick in late March with respectable numbers (343), including a total of 112 counted on March 30th. April is their peak time, as well as the majority of our raptors.

Rough-legged Hawks were counted about half the days in March with a peak of 11 on March 8th and total of 32 for the month.

As we entered the last week of March, numbers slowly began to pick up for other raptor species: Sharp-shinned Hawk (14), Northern Harrier (7), Merlin (5), Cooper’s Hawk (4), Turkey Vulture (3), American Kestrel (3), Northern Goshawk (2), Peregrine Falcon (2).

American Robin by J RichardsonPasserines (songbirds) have been thin on the ground (or air!) so far, but the last week in March did see a noticeable uptick, as the blackbirds, robins and juncos started to arrive in decent numbers. Notably, Frank Nicoletti had flock of Bohemian Waxwings (50-/+), which seemed to be really scarce this winter.

As the temperatures warm, we will continue to see more migrants in April. We encourage you to follow along with us with our live count online HERE and our raptor count HERE.

Stay safe and we look forward to days ahead when we can watch the birds all together again! Thank you for your support!

Stay Safe - Let the Birds do the Migrating & Flocking

We love our visitors, but as everyone is aware, these are exceptional times for the safety of everyone. With the advent of COVID-19 and Governor Walz’s Stay at Home Order effective at least through May 13, we are also encouraging visitors to stay safe and keep others safe by following physical and social distancing guidelines outdoors. The National Recreation and Park Association put together a statement HERE for safe use of parks and open spaces following guidelines set by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's important for the safety of everyone that we adhere to these guidelines to avoid congregating at the West Skyline Spring Count site(s) during this critical time. 

COVID-19 Social Distancing Infographic

Social Distancing for Birders 2
The great thing about birdwatching is that birds are everywhere! People are welcome to get outside locally and it's a wonderful time of year to enjoy birding. Spring migration can be viewed from your own backyard and neighborhood just by watching the sky and looking/listening for birds in trees, brush, near water and feeders. Here's a fun and educational image to help think about social distancing, while learning about bird wingspans too!

Keep on reading below for more ideas to connect with nature during this time and beyond!

Stuck at Home? Stick to Nature!
By Margie Menzies, Hawk Ridge Education Program Director

Good news! Nature will continue to move forward this spring and we may actually have more time to watch it unfold and enjoy it! Birds will gradually return to their breeding grounds, days are now longer than the nights, and Spring will continue to develop day by day.

While you are stationed at home or taking a break outside, here are some free resources you can try to hopefully add to your enjoyment of nature, as well as provide some peace and inspiration.

Cedar Waxwing by J Richardson 20181. Start a daily log of nature happenings in the outdoors where you live - your backyard, neighborhood - even just looking out the window can get you started.You can take pictures, sketch, and/or make notes on clouds, weather, trees budding, plants emerging, wildlife happenings, bird migration movement, insects arriving, and more. This a great activity for all ages! And if you want to contribute to citizen science while you do this, you can log your photos and notes on the iNaturalist app to help build the scientific database for biological diversity in your area:

American Kestrel March 20202. Check out what's happening with the spring bird migration here in Duluth, MN through our live count page HERE. You can also view what's happening at other spring hawkwatch sites throughout North America at through the Hawk Migration Association of North America at:

Migrating Sandhill Cranes 2018 by J Richardson 23. Watch the progress of spring as it moves north through Journey North, an online resource for tracking spring events like the First Hummingbirds to be seen, Monarch Butterflies, Sandhill Cranes and more! Lots of learning activities for students of all ages! Some of my personal favorites are Solve the Mystery Classes, Watch Weather and Songbird Migration. Your guide to spring’s progress in North America:

Merlin by J Richardson4. As birds begin to return north and begin nesting, try to keep a log of which birds you see and hear each day in your backyard. If you're not sure, you can try the Merlin app to help you puzzle out who that mystery bird might be Another citizen science option is to log your findings in the eBird app to contribute to our knowledge of bird migration and movements:  You can also use eBird for your area to learn what birds might be present nearby. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology put together a great resource list HERE with links to live bird cameras, bird id tools, educational resources, and more.

5. For the kids - check out the Audubon for Kids page HERE for DIY bird feeders & guides, bird art lessons, and more!

Please feel free to reach out with any education questions at or (218) 428-8722.

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory announces a new research finding:
“Northern Harriers Have a Geographically Broad Four-Year Migration Cycle”

Published in the March 2020 issue of Journal of Raptor Research, an international peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Raptor Research Foundation (link to the full article is HERE). 

Northern Harrier 2018 by J Richardson 2A team of scientists from four hawk-watch sites led by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory found that the number of Northern Harriers migrating in the fall has fluctuated over a 4-year cycle across interior northeastern North America for at least 35 years.  This conclusion means that estimating long-term trends in harrier numbers from migration tallies can be improved by taking the cycle into account, which hasn’t previously been done.  The research also suggests that the harriers’ important summer prey, meadow voles, may cycle in concert in many places across a large area, which has not been documented and merits further investigation. Cyclic change in vole numbers was previously linked to a 4-year cycle in harrier breeding only at a local level. Link to full article HERE.

Discoveries like this are possible only because efforts supported by many people produced raptor counts for decades in widely separated places.  Hawk Ridge and other migration watch sites are of global importance for their research to better understand nature. There is great potential in continuing to combine efforts from multiple watch sites like this harrier research does. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory sincerely thanks David Schimpf, of the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory Research Committee, for originating and leading the data analysis and other aspects of this project.

Upcoming Events 
*Please stay tuned for possible changes due to COVID-19

Hawk Weekend Festival - September 18-20th, 2020 (tentative)

Birdwatchers at Hawk Ridge 2
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! Registration and more info on guest speaker coming soon!

Future Counter - J Richardson - Sept 19BECOME 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)2019 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!


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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