Friday, February 12, 2021

Hawk Ridge News December 2020


Dear Friends of Hawk Ridge,

We hope this letter finds you healthy and happy during this holiday season. This has been a rough year for all of us, but THANKS to our wonderful donors, awesome staff, and beautiful birds, we had a great year at Hawk Ridge. You can read the November count and banding reports below, as well as our highlights from 2020. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation to help Hawk Ridge continue to do our best for the birds in 2021, you can easily do so by clicking HERE TODAY!  We truly appreciate your gift and look forward to connecting with you soon! 

November 2020 Banding and Count Reports

Raptor Banding Summary (Nov-Dec 2020)

Despite a warmer than average temperature in November, including a week stretch of 60’ and even two days in the low 70’s, we had a good November for banding raptors. Flights slowed down after the 18th but picked up slightly at the end of November, which prompted me to continue banding until the 9th December. Except for a period after the 18th, the weather was warm, but winds were consistently from a westerly component. Although Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawk flights had ended in the first half of November, and nearly all the Rough-legged seen afterward were adults, capture rates were low. However, Northern Goshawks kept us busy the remainder of November and December and were mostly adult birds.
Owl banding continued to push through November with nets closing on the 20th. No banding was attempted in December. We were somewhat surprised not to catch any Boreal Owls given the fact that Great Gray Owls started showing up in late October, including two observed in the banding station field. We were able to finally band one Great Gray on November 5th, which certainly was a highlight for the banding crew and others who got to see this amazing bird. It was a second-year male in good shape. Although we had a record year for Long-eared Owl, November numbers were modest with 20 banded with most coming in October.

A final report on the season will be written with more in depth details. Thanks for your continued support to the raptor banding project and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

The following were banded in November-December:

Northern Harrier-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-4

Northern Goshawk-72

Red-tailed Hawk-10

Rough-legged Hawk-16

Northern Saw-whet Owl-123

Long-eared Owl-20

Barred Owl-4

Great Horned Owl-3

Great Gray Owl-1

Total Raptors-254

 Frank Nicoletti, Hawk Ridge Banding Director

November Bird Migration Count Summary

November marked the end of the Fall 2020 migration count, wrapping up a very memorable season here at Hawk Ridge! The month started strong with favorable winds and the flight continued relatively steadily with a few slow stretches towards the end. Unseasonably warm weather during the middle of November made the counters very happy but may have delayed the movement of some of the birds.


We counted a total of 2,152 raptors this month, with 1,039 Bald Eagles making up the majority. They were our most reliable raptor, with at least one or two counted despite adverse weather conditions. Even when no other birds were moving, Bald Eagles forged ahead in gale-force winds, sleet, and snow! The season total for Bald Eagles is 5,300 individuals.

Bald Eagles Sketched by Count Trainee Emma Regnier

The second most numerous species of the month was the Rough-legged Hawk, with 520 individuals counted. Last month’s record-setting single day count of 583 Roughies consisted of mostly juvenile birds, so we were anticipating a later push of adults. And, like clockwork, they arrived! The overwhelming majority of the Roughies counted in November were adults - a good mix of dark and light morphs, too. This time last fall, only 79 Roughies were counted in November and the 2019 season total was 158 individuals. This has been an exceptional year for Rough-legged Hawks with our season total for Roughies now at a staggering 1,948 individuals, far surpassing the previous season high at Hawk Ridge of 1,123 from 2017!!

In contrast to the abundance of Roughies this month, we were surprised by the lack of Red-tailed Hawks seen in November. While Red-tails are still one of the most prominent species of the month, we only counted 351 individuals. This monthly total is much lower than the 840 counted in November 2019. Similarly, the 2020 season total of 4,720 Red-tails is significantly lower than the 2019 season total of 6,734. Despite the lower numbers, we still enjoyed the incredible variation in the individuals we observed, including a handful of dark morphs and even one dark adult Harlan’s Hawk on November 16th!
November at Hawk Ridge is also well-known for the arrival of Northern Goshawks. On November 1, we counted 40 individuals and achieved our highest daily total for the season! With 26 more counted on November 2, and a steady stream throughout the rest of the month, our November total reached 141. An impressive proportion of the goshawks counted this month were adults, which is expected for late-fall, but still proved exciting when compared to the numbers of juveniles observed in the previous months. The season total of Northern Goshawks is 268.

The next most numerous raptors were Golden Eagles, with 70 birds counted in November. We had a few days of double-digit Goldens, but for the most part they trickled through in twos and threes. Nonetheless, it was always refreshing to spot a distant Golden circling with a group of Bald Eagles. Even though the number of Goldens this month seems down from last November, we still finished with a season total of 208 individuals (comparable to last year’s season total of 203). Guess the Goldens just got an earlier start to migration this year?

Not to be forgotten, there were a few other raptor species that helped to occasionally spice up the species diversity for the count. Some 21 late-season Sharp-shinned Hawks zipped through during November, as well as 5 Northern Harriers. On November 17th, one fashionably late adult Broad-winged Hawk circled the count platform, flanked by a pair of Rough-legged Hawks! No one expected to see a Broad-wing in mid-November, but that’s one of the beauties of hawkwatching - you never really know what each day might bring! We even counted one surprise Merlin on the final day of the 2020 season.

The raptors were not the only migrants of interest this month, as the late-season passerines continued to move through in steady numbers! Common Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, and Red Crossbill all made November appearances, and always brightened up the count with their charismatic vocalizations. It has been an exceptional year for winter finches, especially when compared to their notable absence last season. You can also look back at daily sightings of all species from this fall on the HRBO eBird account or via Dunkadoo and HawkCount.

And that is a wrap on the Fall 2020 migration! Thank you to everyone who joined us up on the ridge and helped make this season a success. We look forward to more migration in Spring 2021.

-Maggie Brown & Emma Regnier

Hawk Ridge Fall Count Trainees/November Counters

2020 Hawk Ridge Highlights

Here’s what your support helped us achieve in 2020. We couldn’t have done with without our amazing members and donors, like you! Thank you so much for continuing to partner with us! You’re the best!

Bird Migration Count Research – A “rough” year was had in more than one way – and this was a good way with record numbers of Rough-legged Hawks counted this fall! We broke both the daily & season high counts. Both spring and fall counts were able to be conducted this year with a total of 82,000 raptors of 17 different species and over 185,000 other migrating birds of over 170 species counted in 2020! Over 3.1 million raptors have been counted at Hawk Ridge since the standardized count started in fall 1972! We’ll be back in action for the Spring Count starting again on March 1st!

Bird Banding Research – Hawk Ridge is the largest raptor banding operation in the country and completed its 49th fall season! Over 4000 raptors (including 1900+ owls) were banded in fall 2020. Highlights included recaptured Eastern Screech Owl (banded as a first record at Hawk Ridge in 2018), banded Great Gray Owl & Golden Eagle, record season highs for Rough-legged Hawks & Long-eared Owls, and multiple research projects. We also continued passerine banding at Hawk Ridge, including the volunteer-led summer MAPS research project.

– We created a safe set up to still connect with thousands of visitors this fall season in person at Hawk Ridge and virtually. We were able to teach a few small group education programs, hold some live bird demonstrations, and sell limited merchandise at Hawk Ridge and online (not surprising – Hawk Ridge masks were our #1 seller!). We look forward to continuing to share the wonder of  birds, migration, and our conservation work!

Stewardship & Volunteers – While we couldn’t have our regular volunteer program in operation this year, we still had several wonderful volunteers helping behind the scenes and at the Ridge. Volunteer projects included helping with office work, invasive species management, cleaning up the reserve (trails, litter), and working on site improvements.

Events – Due to the pandemic, we were unable to hold our Hawk Weekend Festival and other events. We were able to hold a few virtual programs and we plan to hold more in 2021. We are also looking forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2022, so stay tuned for details on that!

Traineeship Program & Graduate Research –We taught 4 new research trainees professional field experience skills this fall within our count and banding program areas. We also worked with 4 University of MN Duluth grad students (including 2 former trainees) on their graduate research projects in collaboration with Hawk Ridge.  Hear from each our trainees below on the positive impact of their experience this fall!  


You can also find out more on how your gift can help Hawk Ridge soar by reading our booklet at or HERE. We are counting on your continued support!

2020 Hawk Ridge Trainees

Hawk Ridge was very fortunate to have 4 amazing trainees this fall season. Halle & Jessy trained with Frank and his crew at the banding station. Emma & Maggie trained with John & Nick at the count platform. We truly appreciated working with them and thank our wonderful lodging hosts for making this possible as well! Thank YOU!

Emma Regnier: "Hawk Ridge opened my eyes to the marvels of bird migration on a scale I’d never seen before. Thanks to the count traineeship, I gained invaluable experience in the technical aspects of conducting count research, such as identifying bird species in flight and tallying large numbers of birds as a team. Witnessing the ebb and flow of raptors and non-raptors over the course of the season, I felt personally connected to this spectacular migration and the greater Hawk Ridge community. Being a count trainee for Hawk Ridge strengthened my sense of self as an early career raptor researcher and fueled my ongoing fascination with bird migration. I truly feel that I came into my own as a hawkwatcher this season!"


Jessy Wilson: “I cannot say enough positive things about my experience at Hawk Ridge. The banding traineeship at HRBO spurred my love for raptor biology, and it has opened doors for me that I would not have thought to be possible otherwise. The knowledge and skills I have learned while here will have lasting impacts in all my career ventures moving forward. I am immensely grateful to have been part of this program, and I am excited for the future trainees that Hawk Ridge will continue to impact. My highlights from this season include catching the first great gray owl in over a decade with my fellow trainee Halle, and catching goshawks with Frank!” 

Maggie Brown: “It has been an incredible privilege to work as a member of the HRBO team this fall and witness the spectacular migration of birds through Duluth. As a Count Trainee, I quickly fell in love with the views from the ridge, the rhythm of the migration, the unpredictability of each day, and of course, the bird themselves. This opportunity has shown me the true value of teamwork across all HRBO programs and has certainly helped me grow more confident in my identification of raptors and non-raptors alike. While it is impossible to pick just one favorite moment from this fall, my most memorable season highlights include the peak days of Broad-winged Hawk migration in mid-September, the record-breaking Rough-legged Hawk flights in October, and getting to watch adult Northern Goshawks barrel towards the banding station in November! I will treasure these memories and am eager to carry the lessons I have learned here at Hawk Ridge into my future endeavors.”

Halle Lambeau: “What I enjoyed most about the banding traineeship was the amazing variety of species and methods that I was fortunate to learn about as well as the wonderful support I received from the HRBO staff, volunteers, researchers, and my fellow trainees.” 





2020 Hawk Ridge Limited Edition Merchandise

Hawk Ridge Limited Edition 2020 Online Merchandise Campaign (Still Available for Purchase!)

In case you missed our launch in November, we still have our unique 2020 merchandise still available for purchase. We have 2 new fantastic designs we're excited to share with you! They're available in a wide variety of shirts and masks available online only for a limited time! All proceeds from sales go to support the bird conservation research and education efforts of Hawk Ridge!

Now is your chance to purchase limited edition "Corvid vs. Covid" merchandise (shirts & masks), while supporting 2 good causes (Hawk Ridge research & education and to help protect yourself/others from Covid)! Local artist and former Hawk Ridge Owl Bander, Annmarie Geniusz, is well known for her fun, creative spin on creatures of all kinds and created this one-of-a-kind design for Hawk Ridge!

Commemorate the record-breaking Rough-legged Hawk count at Hawk Ridge fall of 2020 with limited edition "2020 - A Rough Year" merchandise (shirts & masks). We all know 2020 has been a "Rough" year! This beautiful photo of a Rough-legged Hawk was taken by Jason Heinen, Hawk Ridge Naturalist.

 Click HERE to get to our online store!

Upcoming Events

Hawk Ridge has several upcoming virtual programs and workshops. Please click HERE for more info or go to our “Events” link on our home website at If you’re interested in scheduling a custom virtual program for a group, please click HERE for more info or contact Margie Menzies at or (218) 428-8722.


Hawk Ridge thanks each of you for believing in and supporting the work we do for the protection of birds. Every gift is much appreciated!

Charitable Giving Options

Charitable Giving Incentives Under the the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) means there are continued 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 per tax return in 2020 (or up to $600 for joint filers in 2021) 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. Please contact Executive Director, Janelle Long, if you have questions on gifts of stock or other securities. 

Become 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!

Support Hawk Ridge by Shopping!

If you missed out on one of our fun shirt designs from a past season at our merchandise trailer, you might be in luck. You can order some of our past designs like this adorable Northern Saw-whet Owl by Alexa Carson and it's shipped directly to you! Order online HERE!

Two more simple ways to raise money for Hawk Ridge are by using charitable online shopping options. 1) You can shop online at your favorite stores through GoodShop and Hawk Ridge earns cash back! 2) If you like to shop on Amazon, you can add Hawk Ridge as your charity you support via Amazon Smile and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory receives a donation of 0.5% of eligible purchases!

Simply Donate

You can always simply donate online by clicking HERE or by mailing a check made out to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, P.O. Box 3006, Duluth, MN 55803

P.S. If you missed any of our recent previous newsletters, you can find them HERE.

Thank YOU and Happy New Year!


Janelle Long

Executive Director

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory


Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

P.O. Box 3006

Duluth, MN 55803-3006 


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 Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with mission to protect birds of prey and other migratory birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education, and stewardship.