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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our first day at Hawk Ridge

Those of you who are into watching raptors and enjoy the fall migration, you know what the months of September and October mean each year. The skies will fill with flocks of birds heading south in search of warmer roosts with plentiful food. Where we live we are fortunate to be smack in the middle of the Mississippi flyway. Some of my best memories growing up were spent with my dad standing on the hillside along a slough waiting for a flock of ducks to pass by. As the years have passed, I really don't have the drive to hunt as I did but I still love to be out in the woods and prairies this time of year.

One of the special areas relatively close to home (a couple of hours) is the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, MN. The unique position of this ridge in relation to Lake Superior acts as a funnel for migrating birds to pass through a narrow passage. Seeing over 1000 raptors in a day is not uncommon. Melinda and I pre-scouted this area on our way home from camping a couple of weeks ago and I decided I needed to go back when the weather conditions were favorable. West to northwest winds push the birds towards the big lake and they will not cross it. They will stay over the land mass and ride the rising wind currents being forced upwards by the steep ridge running parallel to the lake. (For the weather weenies reading, yes this is a great area to also experience oragraphically enhanced lake effect snows in the winter also.) So after keeping close tabs on the weather models for a while, it looked like there was going to be a three day stint of westerly winds behind a cold front. The middle day, Wednesday October 15th, got the nod as the winds would be quite strong forcing the birds to the leeward side of the ridge (or so I thought). Cullen and I made the trip up leaving about 8am from home and after getting distracted by a mature bald eagle in Milaca and a couple of beautiful broadwings, we arrived at Hawk Ridge about 10:30. COLD!!! Just as we expected sowe donned the winter gear, grabbed the cams and headed up to a nice flat rocky overlook Melinda and I had found earlier. The dark skies and cold wind were not helping things as fas as seeing birds move but we had brought the laptop with and a quick check of the sat loop showed there would be a window of a couple of hours sun and good light. Bottom line is the clouds did break, the birds flew, and we had a great day. A lot of the birds stayed to the west and just out of camera range. We were using 2x converters on both the still and vid cams giving us about a 400mm focal length but you really need 800mm to do this right. Anyhow, the highlight was getting to see an Osprey and Cullen got to check out the banding station where the sharp shinned hawks were plentiful.


Paul said...

Congratulations Bill, I scored my first decent Red Tail shot last month but from a distance of about 30 yards or so. Very cool to see yours so close.

mnwxchaser said...

30 yards is plenty close! Is it online somewhere to see it?

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