This time of year, on the right kind of day, several thousand hawks could pass over Hawk Ridge in East Duluth. I was up there this morning and a scant six sharp-shinned hawks had been through. That’s because hawks are more apt to be cruising over Hawk Ridge on days with westerly winds, northwest being best.
These cool, cloudy, east-wind days generate little raptor traffic over the ridge.
When the northwest wind blows, hawks are pushed toward the North Shore of Lake Superior on their southbound migrations. But they don’t like to fly over large bodies of water, so they follow the shoreline until they reach Duluth. Once around the tip of Lake Superior, they continue moving south to their wintering areas.
Also, on warm, sunny days, thermals rise up the hillside in Duluth. Hawks ride those thermals until the birds are tiny pepper-specks in the sky. Then they peel out of the thermals and glide south. The more they can glide, the more energy they can save during the migration.
It looks as if the next few days may be cool and cloudy. Be watching for the first fair-weather day with westerly winds after all this cloudy weather. Those are the days when thousands of hawks decide to move, and many of them will pass over Hawk Ridge.
To get to the main overlook, drive about one mile east of Glenwood Street on Skyline Parkway. As always, hawk-watching is free at Hawk Ridge, and volunteers will be on hand to help point out what’s happening in the sky. Take a pair of binoculars if you have them.