Visitors Flock to See Fall Migration at Duluth’s Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk Weekend Festival is Happening Friday, Sept. 17 - Sunday, Sept. 19

DULUTH, Minn. – Each fall, millions of birds flock south, migrating to warmer climates for the winter months.

Happening now, the natural phenomenon is attracting repeat visitors, and new watchers to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory for the great fall migration.

“Would you like to see 10,000 hawks in one day come right over your head?”

If you ask the average outdoor enthusiast, chances are they’ll say yes.

“It’s a beautiful spot, and one of the best places in the country to look at migrating raptors especially Northern Goshawks,” said Russ Edmonds, visiting from Brimley, Michigan.

This is his 26th year of visiting Hawk Ridge during the fall migration.

“There are very few migration sites that get as many birds like this,” said Edmonds.

Touting natural beauty and a prime geographic landscape, Edmonds remains in awe when it comes to the turnout year after year.

“You just sit on a rock, point your binoculars up and they come right after another,” said Edmonds.

“We’re seeing lots of birds moving through right now, a great diversity of species. We had a really nice push of broad-winged hawks which are the most commonly counted raptor here,” said Janelle Long, executive director of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

In the past week, 9,000 raptors were counted in one day alone.

“It’s an open space for everybody to be able to come to celebrate and learn about the birds as their migrating past,” said Long.

The geographic layout of the North Shore, helping push the birds on their way south.

“The birds don’t necessarily want to cross over it, it’s also cold so the air sinks over the water. What happens is the birds are utilizing this nice ridgeline along the shore as they’re starting their migration south,” said Long. “That will help them form nice big kettles and they can migrate efficiently for long distances.”

Long says the migration will continue through Halloween. Larger species tend to pass through when the temp starts to drop.

“You never know what you’re going to get on any given day,” said Long.

For Long, it’s the connection between Mother Nature and visitors from all over the world that give her passion for the job.

“We count and band more Northern Goshawks than any other hawk watch in North America,” said Long.

For the visitors, it’s a chance to migrate themselves and witness things not seen in other parts of the world.

“One of the coolest things to see here is the various Dark Morph birds. The Red-Tail or even Broad-Wings that have a dark body as opposed to a light body,” said Edmonds.

The information collected from counting and banding helps aid researchers in learning more about the science of our ever-changing ecosystem.

“I often see people who pull-in off the road, they have no idea what we’re all doing up here. After they spend a half-hour, they’re back next weekend,” said Edmonds.

Hawk Weekend Festival is happening this Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Sept. 19. There will be field trips, hikes, programs, and activities for visitors of all ages.

Staff is available daily through October 31st from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help answer questions at Hawk Ridge.

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