The 400 Bird Quest - Hawk Ridge Skip Day

Count Update: 389 / 400

For years, my bird mentor and lifelong friend, Big Tom Nelson, and I have taken a day off work in October to bird Hawk Ridge in east Duluth, MN. We have always called it skip day, as if we were still in high school. Now Tom’s son, Matt, is a high schooler and has joined us in recent years. This year on October 19th, our son Jeff (30) was in town to run the Wild Duluth 50K race and joined us as well. What a delight to have these fine young men join us on the Ridge.

By the way, I cannot stop myself from boasting a bit here. The Wild Duluth 50K is a 32 mile foot race up and down the hills from Jay Cooke State Park to downtown Duluth. Much of the route is on the Superior Hiking Trail. It is longer than a marathon and a grueling route. In 5 hours and 45 minutes, Jeff placed 14th of the 207 runners that finished! As for me, I was unable to finish the race, as I elected not to even start.

Hawk Ridge is a special place. September through November birds migrating south, especially raptors, preferring not to cross Lake Superior and are funneled down the coast. This concentrates the birds and offers good viewing opportunities from the high ridge. As many as 10,000 hawks have been seen here on a single day. Hawk Ridge is one of a handful of the best places in North America to see hawks in the fall. Even for non-birders, it’s a great view of Lake Superior and makes an interesting midday fall outing. Grab your binoculars and check it out:

I had encountered most of the Minnesota raptors earlier this year. But one uncommon raptor, Northern Goshawk, had eluded me to date. Sure enough Hawk Ridge came through. We admired good looks at many passing Sharp-shinned Hawks. Several Bald Eagles and even a Golden Eagle came through. As I had hoped, a couple or Goshawks (#388) also glided by. Also got an unexpected bonus bird. My first 2018 Northern Shrike (#389) flew by. They summer far to the north but come down to bask in the “Minnesota warmth” all winter.