But when it is mid-September in Minnesota the place to be for a birder to be is Hawk Ridge, a focal point of raptor migration at the western end of Lake Superior above the city of Duluth.
last Septembers numbers. Minnesota's ecology results in our having a wide variety of raptors as both residents and visitors who make their journey from wintering grounds to nesting grounds and back again every year. In a good year in Minnesota you could check off 9 species of hawks, 4 species of falcons, 12 species of owls along with eagles, vultures and kites - many right at Hawk Ridge.
The trick is to be able to ID these birds from a variety of angles and distances. Some species like Broad-winged Hawks soar on thermals high over the ridge in kettles that can number in the hundreds, while Sharp-shinned Hawks sometimes flash past you at little more than treetop height. I even got my lifer look at a Goshawk by looking DOWN from the observation area as it sailed past over the houses below.
How many times has a distant raptor been listed as "hawk?" on a daily checklist? Using the new raptor guide will help reduce the number of birds whose identifications are given up on. The plates in this new guide are bright and less cluttered than some of the plates in the first Crossley Guide.
A welcome addition to this new guide is more information in the form of range maps, natural history descriptions and details on behavior and voice that give birders a broader understanding of each of the species included in the guide. Spending time with this guide can't help but give a birder more confidence in their ability to ID raptors in the field. Like all of the best bird books, I expect mine to become thumb worn from all the hours of use in preparing for my next trip to "the ridge".
Make sure to check out Tuesdays blog posts from:
Greg Laden's Blog
Birdwatch Vancouver Sun
Good Birding and Keep Looking Up!