Broadwings Beginning To Build At Hawk Ridge

This broad-winged hawk, captured and banded at Hawk Ridge in 2006, is ready to be released. (News Tribune file)

The hawk count is building at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth, where 800 raptors were counted on Wednesday. The main overlook at Hawk Ridge is about one mile east of Glenwood Street on Skyline Parkway.

The count of broad-winged hawks hit 242 Wednesday. The number of broadwings typically peaks in mid-September, and each fall this species represents the bulk of migrants counted at Hawk Ridge. A total of 456 sharp-shinned hawks also passed over the ridge Wednesday.

Counters are also noting songbirds that pass over Hawk Ridge, and more than 4,500 of these flew over the ridge Wednesday, including 3,646 blue jays. The migration is on.

Broadwings often use thermals of warm air rising along Hawk Ridge to gain altitude before continuing southward. Here’s what count interpreter Eric Bruhnke had to say about kettles in his post today: “Kettles…are flocks of migrating raptors. When you see a distant kettle of raptors, the distant dark specks viewed are spiraling higher and higher in the sky. When the raptors reach the top of the thermals (where the thermals begin to dissipate into the cooler, upper air), they begin to stream away from the peak of the thermal and form straight lines of birds that stream southward. Side note… thermals are warm rising columns of air, created when the sun heats up the ground. Once the raptors hit another thermal, they begin to spiral upward again in another thermal, and it is through these series of ‘escalators’ and downward ‘elevators’ that raptors make these magnificent migrations happen! How cool is that?”