Friday, August 26, 2022

Hawk Ridge News - July 2022



Dear Hawk Ridge Friends,


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The days of summer seem to be moving faster than ever and soon the birds will be catching up with the start of migration! A friendly reminder that the early bird discounted registration for our big Hawk Ridge 50th Anniversary Celebration (Sept. 22-25) event ends in one week on August 1 and programs are filling up! You can register HERE today for this special event and find out more below! This e-news includes our West Skyline Spring Count Summary, updates on programs, and upcoming events. Thanks again for your support and we hope to see you this fall, especially at the special celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve! 

P.S. If you missed our last e-newsletter, you can view previous versions by clicking HERE

Hawk Ridge 50th Anniversary Celebration!

Sept. 22-25th, 2022

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We invite you to join us for this special celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve & raptor research at Hawk Ridge! The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve was established in 1972, which also was the first year of full-time standardized fall raptor migration count and raptor banding research. We will kick off the event Thursday evening at the beautiful Greysolon Ballroom for a grand celebration of the past, present, and future of Hawk Ridge on Thurs. 9/22/22! Our annual Hawk Weekend Festival will follow that weekend (Fri. 9/23 - Sun. 9/25) with a great line up of speakers, field trips, and special events. You can find all the details HERE! We invite you for this very special celebration and hope to see many of our Hawk Ridge friends from past and present!

REGISTER HERE TODAY! (*Early Bird Registration Discount ends August 1st!) 

West Skyline Spring Count Summary 2022

By Sean McLaughlin, Spring Counter

Prachi at West Skyline Spring Count

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory conducted the West Skyline Spring Count from March 1 - May 31 2022. This is the fifth year of a planned consecutive 10-year count, made possible by a very generous donation. The same protocol was used this season, as in past years with the use of two count sites depending of wind direction. 

This project documents migrants in the Western Great Lakes, in Duluth, Minnesota. 

Peregrine Falcon 22 by F Nicoletti 3

Observations were conducted from two sites, Enger Tower on N/W/S winds, and Thompson Hill on NE or E winds. A total of 19,089 raptors were tallied. Respectively, March totaled 3,272 raptors, April 5,410 and May 10,407. 16 total raptors were observed. Of the 92 days of the count, poor weather canceled or shortened the count period to less than 4 hours on 21 days. Total observation hours were 517.5. In addition to raptors, 117 other species of birds were recorded as migrants on Dunkadoo. 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 hawkcount.orgA summary and total of birds counted were also entered into the eBird database each day (WSHC--Thompson Hill & WSHC--Enger Tower) 

Northern Harrier (photo by Steve Kolbe)

The West Skyline Spring Count 5-year average stands at 23,993, putting 2022 below average, but similar to the previous 2 years. This decrease in count totals is likely related to unfavorable weather patterns. April consisted of 24 count days, and half with NE winds, usually unfavorable at the count site. Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Broad-wingeds, Red-taileds, and Merlin were slightly below the 5 -year average, between 8-25% decrease. Two species, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Rough-legged Hawks were down 45% and 64% respectively. Northern Harrier count was the highest since 2004, and the highest of the 5-year period. 

Adult Bald Eagle 3-15-22 by F Nicoletti

While seasonal counts were not outstanding, there were several high daily counts and unique raptors. On March 17, a new daily record for Bald Eagles was set at the West Skyline Spring Count with 1,206 counted. Some of the rarer raptors in Duluth included one dark morph Broad-winged hawk, three Red-shouldered hawks, and 5 Swainson’s hawks. 

Connecticut Warbler (M Furtman)

There were modest flights of warblers beginning in mid-April and only growing in numbers through May. One Connecticut warbler even sang briefly at Enger Tower. Fair numbers of Common Redpolls were seen heading north throughout the first two months, alongside fewer numbers of Bohemian waxwing. Other species of interest seen at the West Skyline Spring Count include Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, White-winged crossbills and Snow goose. 

Naturalist Sara measuring her wingspan

Spring education programs were able to expand this year with Education Director, Margie Menzies, and new Spring Naturalist/Count Interpreter Sara DePew. HRBO offered numerous school programs and also hosted the annual Spring Migration workshop, which was a great success. Approx. 35 programs were conducted with nearly 1,000 participants. The HMANA/HRBO Owls to Eagles Tour also came out to the West Skyline Spring Count for an afternoon of hawk watching. A huge thank you to all who visited this season, and we hope to see you next year to help further our understanding of spring migration on Lake Superior. 

Spring Counters 2022

Acknowledgements: I am incredibly grateful to all who helped spot this season, we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you to Sara DePew for fielding many questions at the watch and making sure every dog was greeted appropriately. A huge thanks to Frank Nicoletti, Spring Count Director, for being an incredible mentor, counter, and helping me to succeed this season. A special thanks to Daniel Erickson, Ralph Larsen, John Edwards, Ed Longhway, Hannah Toutonghi, and Steve Kolbe for your good spotting.

Pick A Bird Brain Series

March-August 2022 (virtual programs & field trips)


The last program of the Pick a Bird Brain series will be held in August on Raptors! You can register for either or both the virtual presentation on August 16th and field trip on August 20th. The field trip will be held at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve to learn about the fall raptor migration, see raptor research in action, and possibly even a live raptor in hand! Register HERE today or contact Margie Menzies at with questions!

Research Spotlights

Thesis Seminar by Emily Pavlovic, MS Candidate -

Natal origins and migratory patterns of juvenile raptors banded at Hawk Ridge

WHEN: Friday, July 29th @ 10am, Univ. of MN Duluth (Rm 115 SSB) or via Zoom HERE (Meeting ID: 932 8732 0745 Passcode: LRk8zW)

Emily Pavlovic 2021

Counting and banding of raptors has occurred at Hawk Ridge during fall migration since 1972. On average about 60,000 raptors are counted migrating past Duluth and over 2,500 are banded each fall season. Since raptors move through migration corridors that are created by landscape features and weather patterns, we can monitor populations during migration that are otherwise inconspicuous during other parts of their full annual cycle. As a migratory species, knowledge of full annual cycle landscape usage is important for understanding population changes in order to inform conservation and management. 

SSHA E Pavlovic Research 3

One question that we still don’t know a lot about is where the raptors that are banded at Hawk Ridge are coming from geographically. We utilized hydrogen stable isotope analysis for three species of raptors regularly banded at Hawk Ridge to 1) estimate natal origins and 2) identify temporal migratory patterns in relation to natal origin. To learn more about Emily's findings with her graduate project research, join us this Friday at 10am in person at Univ. of MN Duluth (Rm 115 SSB) or virtually at Zoom link above. We'll share the video link and findings in next e-news as well! 

The Upper Midwest American Kestrel Project 

 & Limited Edition Kestrel Shirts!

by Halle Lambeau


American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) are a keystone species of grassland habitat in the United States. Unfortunately, these small, colorful falcons are experiencing population declines throughout North America. Nest box programs have been established to provide breeding locations in high-quality habitat for kestrels. This research will combine large amounts of data from our collaborators with nest boxes in Minnesota (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota DNR) and Wisconsin (Madison Audubon Society, Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research, Cedar Grove Raptor Banding Station). With data from 475 nest boxes, we want to learn more about the optimal diet, temperature, and landscape conditions for kestrels with the hope of learning more about how we can effectively conserve kestrel populations. We will be using techniques such as stable isotope analysis of feathers to assess diet of kestrel chicks, temperature loggers to record conditions in nest boxes, and banding kestrels to track return rates. 

Kestrel Project Shirt Fundraiser

Fundraising efforts are still underway for this project and one way you can help support is by purchasing a beautiful, limited edition American Kestrel shirt! Get yours HERE today (second and possibly final shirt campaign ends August 2nd)! This gorgeous t-shirt design was created by the incredible artist Emma Regnier (also Hawk Ridge research trainee 2020 & 2021!). Emma is a biologist and environmental educator currently working on a Golden Eagle project in Boise, Idaho!  


This project is led by Halle Lambeau, a Master’s student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, with the assistance of Frank Nicoletti and Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, as well as nest box programs by the great folks at Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, Madison Audubon, Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research, Beaver Creek Reserve, and Cedar Grove Ornithological Research Station. All proceeds from this campaign will go directly towards funding data analysis, as well as the costs of monitoring equipment and mileage for this large-scale project. Thank you to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union for important grant support and to all others helping make this project possible by purchasing a shirt, donating to the project, or sharing the campaign! 

Summer Education Update

By Margie Menzies, Education Director

Master Naturalists working on Hawk Ridge trail project by J Gibbs 3

Summer is flying by all too quickly in its usual fashion. It has been a busy and exciting one with a nice variety of education programs underway, as well as our summer MAPS songbird banding project. Hawk Ridge has been providing programming for visitors on the Viking Cruise Line Great Lakes Expeditions when they are in port at Duluth. It has been interesting to meet folks from all over and give them some insight to the wonders of migration at Hawk Ridge! I have also been busy teaching the first Hawk Ridge sponsored Master Naturalist class this summer. We’ve been having a great time with outdoor adventures and a number of participants are working on service projects to benefit Hawk Ridge trails and programming!! Hooray for this great enthusiastic group of Master Naturalists! Lastly, it's also summer camp season and Hawk Ridge has contributed to camp programs with both the Great Lakes Aquarium and Hartley Nature Center. 

Hawk Ridge Main Overlook 2019

Fall education programming is just around the corner, including an Owl Workshop weekend being planned October 15-16th (more information on our website coming soon!) Looking forward to another great fall migration season, while still enjoying all of the great summer education program adventures! Fall education, migration interpretation, and visitor services will begin on Thursday, September 1st and run daily 9am-4pm (weather pending) through October 31st! You can find information to plan your visit here and calendar of upcoming programs here at We hope to see you soon! 

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve Facilities Improvement Plan

A beautiful day at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve (photo by Gail Johnejack)

The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve Facilities Improvement Plan is moving forward! In June the City of Duluth Parks & Recreation Commission and City Council approved our final mini-master plan, which can be viewed online HERE! We look forward to implementing this plan to improve facilities at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve for road safety issues, accessibility, increased education program space, and enhanced visitor viewing. We appreciate the helpful feedback received and it's clear that there are many people who enjoy Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve as a beloved outdoor space in Duluth!

Thank You for Your Support!

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory thanks all of our supporters. We appreciate you! As a nonprofit organization, we are primarily funded by individual gifts to put our bird migration research and education programs in action. Below are some of the ways you can help us keep sharing the magic of the bird migration!

Support Hawk Ridge by Shopping!


Celebrate Diversity by E Regnier (2)Be sure to purchase one of our unique artist-designed Hawk Ridge shirts or tote bags online! Our featured artist is Emma Regnier, who completed both the Bird Banding & Bird Migration Count Research Traineeships at Hawk Ridge in 2020 & 2021. She created 2 new beautiful designs for our limited-edition shirts for 2021, including the popular "Celebrate Diversity" design pictured here!


If you like to shop on Amazon, we'd also super appreciate you adding Hawk Ridge as a charity you support via Amazon SmileHawk Ridge Bird Observatory receives a donation of 0.5% of eligible purchases!.


Banded bird release at Hawk Ridge by J Richardson

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!


Books with Portion of Proceeds coming to Hawk Ridge! 

Art on the Edge of the Boreal Forest: Alternative Futures for the trees, birds and insects 

Original art by ten Minnesota artists

Text by Lee Frelich, Ph.D. and Gerald Niemi, Ph.D. 

Art on the Edge of the Boreal Forest book coverA group of Minnesota botanical artists applied their skills and knowledge to create a visual archival record of Minnesota's threatened boreal forest. Dr. Frelich, director for the Center for Forest Ecology, and Dr. Niemi, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth (and former Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory Board Member & Research Chair), as well as Jane Albers, DNR Forest Health Specialist, contributed research on threatened boreal trees, plants, birds, and insects. This collection is important because the ecology of the boreal forest is undergoing slow and silent but significant change due to disturbances caused by fire, invasive insects and stressful climate conditions. Books for sale online from various sellers, including HERE


Hawks on High - Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season

By Phil Fitzpatrick with drawings by Penny Perry

Phil Fitzpatrick captures the magic of migration at Hawk Ridge and interesting bird bits beyond through his beautiful collection of poetry. Poems are brought to life through the artwork of Penny Perry. Books for sale online and at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve during the fall season September 1 - October 31. 

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.

Thank you again for your wonderful gift of support! Hope to connect with you this fall!  


Janelle Long
Executive Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
P.O. Box 3006
Duluth, MN 55803-3006
Call: 218-428-6209
501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization

Federal Tax ID 76-0746366