Windy Weather Yields Smaller Bird Count During Spring Migration

Spring Bird Counters Set Up Near Enger Tower and Thompson Hill Depending on Wind Conditions

DULUTH, Minn. – Coronavirus has pretty much put a halt to humans traveling across the nation, but it’s not stopping birds and other wildlife from soaring back into the Northland for the summer season.

“We have to be here regardless of the weather,” said John Richardson, a spring migration counter with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth.

A windy, cold day in May wasn’t stopping Richardson from pulling out his trusty binoculars recently.

“Birds migrate with a few different things. Some use stars, some use magnetic fields, some are using weather. Some of it just depends on food,” said Richardson.

The Duluthian is doing his part to help keep count of large apex predators of the bird world.

“We also get to see the eagles in early spring well because there’s no heat in the air yet so those eagles are coming low, right up to the edge here to try and get a little bit of lift,” said Richardson.

The spring count commences March 1 and will run through the end of May.

“Seven months out of the year we’re counting hawk migration,” said Richardson.

By now, many birds are soaring through the Northland to say hello, despite windy, cold conditions.

“It’s the winds that decide where we’re going to be,” said Richardson.

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory uses two counting locations in the spring compared to just one in the fall.

If the winds are out of the east, counters set up at Thompson Hill along West Skyline Parkway in Duluth.

If the wind is coming out of the west, Enger Tower seems to be the hot spot to witness the annual environmental event.

“We’ve had a persistent push of pesky north and east winds that have really pushed a lot of the birds to the west and around so we’ve missed quite a few,” said Richardson.

Due to windy conditions, the count is down for watchers this year. But Richardson says it doesn’t mean birds aren’t passing through.

“Bald eagle numbers keep going up,” said Richardson.

For the avid aviary enthusiasts, migration count is critical to keep up on.

“It’s really important to track this migration because these birds are at the top of the food chain. These are the apex predators of the bird world,” said Richardson.

Before 1991, counters only documented roughly 100 eagles soaring through the region.

Flash forward to 2020, and more than 8,000 pass by the Northland each year.

“We can tell what’s going on in nature by the number of the top predators,” said Richardson.

Northlanders are welcome to help count the spring migration, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers are asking folks to keep socially distant if you’re interested in helping out.

Click here to learn more about Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

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