Thursday, August 13, 2020

Hawk Ridge News - July 2020 Update




Dear Hawk Ridge Friends,

Indigo Bunting by Andy WitchgerHope you are doing well and enjoying the summer season. We are working hard on our plans for the fall migration season and will continue to keep you updated through our e-news and website. A few volunteers and researchers are also actively working on research and stewardship projects at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. We are clearing and maintaining trails and trying to keep the overlook free from invasive plant species.We are also completing our sixth year of participation in the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) bird banding project, which is a nationwide cooperative research project. You can read more about the project below.

Soon, we will all transition to the fantastic fall bird migration season. Beginning around August 1, the fall passerine (songbird) banding project will begin. The fall raptor banding and bird migration count research plans to start August 15. On September 1, we are hoping and planning to have some safe level of public programming begin at the Ridge (pending on COVID-19 guidelines in Duluth and MN). Again, please stay tuned for more information and thank you for your continuing support!

Summer MAPS Bird Banding Project at Hawk Ridge

Ovenbird with partial leucistic feathers - Photo by Miranda DurbinInstead of our usual fall projects assessing birds as they migrate south, the MAPS project is all about breeding birds. The early sessions assess which birds come back in the spring to Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve and which birds have moved in or out of the study area. This gives us an idea of survivorship. The last few sessions include many young birds which gives us an idea of productivity.

Together, all the data we collect is combined with data from other sites around our region including Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association, Wolf Ridge ELC, and two sites near Isabella, MN, as well as data from other sites around the country. The combined data helps the research scientists who coordinate the study assess long term increases or declines in bird populations. Every summer, we are privileged to recapture many birds that return to the same breeding territories after long migrations sometimes as far away as South America.

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

Rainbow over Hawk Ridge by HRBO Staff 3

As we transition into summer, there is much to reflect on. From the world pandemic to racial justice and equality, momentous changes continue to unfold environmentally, socially, and economically. Learning about birds can help us better understand ecosystems and the importance of interconnectedness and diversity. How our actions have an impact on our environment is one of the conservation messages we strive to educate about through our work at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. It is not only important to us as an organization to foster a safe learning environment that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable, but it’s also good for the birds and humanity.

Our Spring Migration Count ended with a total of 19,217 raptors and over 13,000 other species (full report by Frank included below). A big thanks to our counters - Frank Nicoletti and John Richardson, as well as volunteers, for upholding the migration research and managing it safely during these trying months. You can read more about what's ahead for the fall season and other updates in this e-newsletter. Thanks for your support!

West Skyline Spring Count Summary 2020

By Frank Nicoletti, Spring Count Director


Red-tailed Hawk 2020 2Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory conducted the West Skyline Spring Count from February 29 through May 31, 2020. This is the third year of the 10-year, full-time consecutive spring count, thanks to a generous donation. The same protocol was used this season, as in past years with the use of two count sites depending of wind direction. The spring count data can be viewed real-time online during the season through the Dunkadoo database (via our website), as well as the raptor count on A summary and total of birds counted were also entered into the eBird database each day (WSHC--Thompson Hill & WSHC--Enger Tower).


Peregrine Falcon by J RichardsonA total of 19,217 raptors of 16 species and 13,000+ other birds of over 100 species were counted during of 91 days out of 93 possible. The two days not covered were due to inclement weather. A total of 574.5 hours were covered giving an average of just over 6 hours per day. The hawk per day and hourly rate was 211 and 33, respectfully. This season’s total raptor count of 19,217 was the second lowest of full-time coverage (14,992 recorded in 2009 was lowest) and is well below the average of 26,000+. Most species were recorded in lower then normal numbers with the exception of Peregrine Falcon, which established new daily and seasonal records.

Broad-winged Hawk May 2020 by J Richardson 3It’s unclear at this point why the numbers were well below the 2000-2005 averages, which is currently the most complete set of data we can compare to. Certainly, weather patterns are somewhat to blame, as we had almost no southerly winds.  Northerly winds prevailed, especially during the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration. Broad-winged Hawk were almost 10,000 down, which would have brought our numbers up to the previous season totals. This was also seen on other Western Great Lakes counts, such as Whitefish Point and Brockway Mountain in MI. The species that have shown steady increases in fall counts, such as Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, were also recorded in good numbers this spring.


Imm Bald Eagle by J Richardson May 2020 2Some of the highlights this spring were the following: 5 Swainson’s Hawk, one adult dark morph Broad-winged Hawk, adult light morph Harlan’s and adult Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk, were all special for sure. Also unique was the peak flight of Bald Eagle in May, which has always been in the month of March. We recorded 407 Bald Eagles on May 27, which is an impressive number anytime.


Raven vs Red-tailed by J RichardsonCOVID-19 definitely had an impact on our visitation and programs planned, including canceling our Spring Migration Celebration, but we still had visitors (birders and general public) who came out to safely view the spectacular migration. John Richardson did a great job interpreting and teaching about the spring migration to visitors and media, as well as helping conduct the count. You can watch a great video feature on the Spring Count with John HERE via "The Slice" on our local PBS station. 


Trumpeter Swans by J RichardsonHawk Ridge Bird Observatory is excited to continue to gain knowledge about the spring migration through Duluth and how it compares to the fall counts. The West Skyline Spring Count has been a great addition for public outreach and continuing the education of raptor and bird conservation in the Western Great Lakes Region. We truly appreciate your support and hope to see you next spring!



Volunteer Ralph at West Skyline Spring Count May 2020 by J RichardsonI would to thanks Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the special anonymous donor for making the West Skyline Spring Count possible. Thanks to John Richardson for educating vistors and helping with the count. Thanks to Dave Carman, Ralph Larsen, Ed Longhway, and John Edwards for their volunteer time at the count, as well as others who made it out to help in various ways. Thanks to Kate, my wife who continues to support me and my passion in life.

Hawk Ridge Fall Bird Migration 2020 - What's Ahead?

Margie doing bird demo for public - J Richardson Sept 19As we look ahead to the fall migration season at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, there is still much uncertainty with our funding sources, staffing, programs and events. The good news is that birds will continue to migrate, even though the experience may be different for us. The health and safety of staff, volunteers, members, and visitors will remain our top priority. Due to COVID-19, one of the tough decisions we've made is to cancel our Hawk Weekend Festival (September 18-20). We hope to implement other special ways to continue to celebrate the migration that week virtually and/or perhaps in smaller groups. With Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve being an outdoor space, we plan for it to continue to be open this fall to view and learn about the migration. We are currently working with the City of Duluth on these details and will keep you informed of what you’ll need to know about visiting via our e-news and website. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to connecting with you again soon! 

Hawk Ridge Diversity Initiative

Birding, nature, and outdoor activities have provided comfort and served as a safe space for many during these uncomfortable times. However, even these don’t come without inequities, such as experienced by Christian Cooper (black birder harassed in New York City's Central Park). You may have heard about Black Birders Week that evolved after the incident, which you can read more about HERE. Hawk Ridge acknowledges racial barriers and inequities faced within communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We started a Diversity Initiative several years ago, as a first step to make our own organizational change. Taking action to promote professional training in the field and education opportunities were two of the priorities identified and have made progress with. We will continue to work on how we can do better in solidarity and support for BIPOC communities, especially with providing a safe and welcoming environment for birding.

Chalk Art at Hawk Ridge

Chalk Art Photos by A GeniuszIf you've visited the main overlook at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in the last few weeks, you likely came across the beautiful chalk art on the road. Annmarie Geniusz, local artist and former Hawk Ridge Owl Bander, created the chalk mural for Denver Colorado's Virtual Chalk Festival on June 6th. The mural featured a bander and 3 Northern Saw-whet Owls, which is most common owl we band during the fall season at Hawk Ridge. Thanks Annmarie and we hope you have a chance to see more of her chalk art around Duluth (and Hawk Ridge again!)!

Charitable Giving Incentives

Under the the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) passed in March, there are increased tax incentives for charitable giving. If you itemize your taxes, the AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) limit for charitable cash contributions has increased from 60 percent to 100 percent deducted. IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions can also be applied. If you don't itemize your taxes, the CARES Act allows for an additional "above the line" deduction for up to $300 for cash gifts made to charities, like Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Donors should consult with their tax/legal advisor for questions on charitable giving incentives.

Keeping Safe While Visiting Hawk Ridge

We love our visitors, but as everyone is aware, these are exceptional times for the safety of everyone with COVID-19. We encourage visitors at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve (on road and trails) 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).  

COVID-19 Social Distancing Infographic

Upcoming Events
*Please stay tuned for fall program updates & changes due to COVID-19

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

Birdwatchers at Hawk Ridge 2

Unfortunately, the Hawk Weekend Festival is canceled for fall 2020. Due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns and having limited staff, we are unable to run the festival. We still plan to celebrate the migration that week and are looking at other ways to do that safely within our capacity.

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk by John Richardson (3)Fall Bird Migration at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve

We are continuing to work on our plans for the fall season. We are planning on conducting our migration count and banding research, as well as having limited public education/interpretation. More information on visitation, programs, etc. will provided in August. Please stay tuned.

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're not a member and have enjoyed your experience with Hawk Ridge, we invite you to 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!


2019 ANNUAL HIGHLIGHTS - Please click HERE to read and see how your support is helping us make a difference! Thank you!

Support Hawk Ridge by Shopping!

Purchase one of our unique artist-designed Hawk Ridge shirts or tote bags online. Two more 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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