Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crossley at "The Ridge"

    Minnesota is a birding destination year round whether you want to see grassland birds on our western prairie,
   waterfowl moving up the Mississippi in the early spring,
   warblers nesting in the Boundary Waters,
   or those winter specialties like Boreal Owls in the Sax-Zim Bog on cold, January mornings.

   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.
   A typical fall migration season at the ridge might see 100,000+ raptors pass by on their way south.  Check out 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.

    The new Crossley ID Guide to Raptors is going to be an invaluable tool for learning to ID the raptors that show up at Hawk Ridge as well as any other place in North America.
   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.
   The various views of raptors set in typical habitats are as close to what you experience in the field as I have seen in any field guide or raptor ID book.
   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


If you'd like to download some free sample plates from Richard Crossley's new guide just click here.

Good Birding and Keep Looking Up!

1 comment:

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

We can always use more guides!
Good information.
Cheers from Cottage Country!