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Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
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2006 raptor counters Sue (left) and Corrie "enjoying" a late October snow squall. 

Staff: Fall 2013

Executive Director Janelle Long
Banding Director Frank Nicoletti
Count Director Karl Bardon
Counter Cory Ritter
Raptor Bander Chris Neri
Raptor Bander Nova Mackentley
Owl Bander Annmarie Geniusz
Education Director Gail Johnejack
Naturalist/Songbird Bander Matti Erpestad
Naturalist/Songbird Bander Margie Menzies
Owl Program Naturalist Sarah Glesner
Count Interpreter Erik Bruhnke
Substitute Naturalist Kaitlin Erpestad
Substitute Naturalist Kati Kristenson
Substitute Naturalist Beth Miller
Substitute Naturalist Brian Scott
Substitute Naturalist Jenni Stafford
Substitute Naturalist David Stieler
Operations Director Jessica Chatterton
Volunteer Coordinator Katie Swanson

The Hawk Ridge staff consists of employees, volunteers and contractors.


Janelle Long grew up in Greenfield, WI where her childhood days were filled with explorations of any nearby forest, field, or pond.  The connections she made with nature had a lifelong impact on her career interests.  She attended the University of WI - Stevens Point to complete degrees in Wildlife Management and Biology with a minor in Conservation Biology.  A whole new world in the outdoors was revealed to her through the hands-on courses, field trips, and enthusiastic professors.  She vividly remembers the excitement she felt seeing her first Sandhill Crane and Pileated Woodpecker.  From that point on, she was hooked on birds and couldn't wait to see and learn more.  Janelle spent three summers helping out with Ph.D. bird research projects at Great Smoky Mountain Nat'l Park in TN, the grasslands of southwestern WI, and the Shawnee Nat'l Forest in IL. Her passion and concern for birds and the environment were heightened as she witnessed population declines due to habitat loss, cowbird parasitism, predation, etc.   

This led her to the next phase in her career in the field of environmental education.  Janelle's journey began by spending a year teaching at four Audubon Centers in NM, CT, VT, and ME.  In 2003 she began a graduate naturalist program at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Minnesota.  From Wolf Ridge she continued her graduate work and completed her M.Ed. in Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2005.  Janelle worked for two years for the Bureau of Land Management as the Education Coordinator at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area on the Oregon coast.  She continues to dedicate her time and share her interests for bird conservation and environmental education as the executive director.  She hopes to promote stewardship for Hawk Ridge and help others establish their special lifelong connection to nature. 

Jessica Chatterton was born in Idaho but grew up in Duluth just below Hawk Ridge. After spending 10 years in Minneapolis her love of Lake Superior and the northern forests prompted her return to Duluth in 2006. She received her BS in Biology and Chemistry from UMD in 2010 where her main focus was on plant biology. After working as a lab tech in the Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics Lab at UMD for 5 years she moved on to a position as a field technician for the Natural Resources Research Institute conducting amphibian and bird surveys where she currently works seasonally in the spring and summer. She first came to Hawk Ridge as a volunteer in 2011 and enjoyed it so much that she progressed to Naturalist the next year, and is currently the Operations Director. She also volunteers her time in the Hawk Ridge office year round as well as helping with Spring Owl Monitoring and counting Nighthawks in the fall.

Frank Nicoletti grew up in New York State along the Hudson River where he started watching raptors at the age of 11. His passion for raptors and other birds fueled him to work at various locations including Cape May and Sandy Hook NJ, Braddock Bay NY and in Israel. From 1984 until 1996 he traveled throughout the country and conducted various raptor related projects which included nesting surveys, tracking winter raptors and migration work. He arrived in Duluth in 1991 to count raptors and to witness the invasion of the Northern Goshawk and he conducted the count until 2005. After moving to Duluth permanently in the fall of 1996, he conducted the first spring count of raptors migrating north in Minnesota along the West Skyline Parkway of Duluth. Frank continues to study raptors and has been concentrating on boreal forest owls and managing raptor banding sites. He has published a number of papers on birds and has helped with many authors working on books and articles.

He lives just north of Duluth with his wife, Kate and dog Chester. Frank’s excited to take on the fall migration as our new director of banding.

Although Karl Bardon has traveled around the country doing various field projects with birds, his favorite jobs are those spent counting birds. The road to Hawk Ridge has included such diverse projects as radio-tracking eiders in the Arctic, studying trans-Gulf migration from an oil-platform off Louisiana, and nest searching for Tapaculos in the temperate rainforests of Chile. When it comes to counting birds, Karl’s specialty has been waterbirds, having spent many seasons as the waterbird counter at Whitefish Point, Michigan, and Cape May, New Jersey.  But after witnessing the awesome migration through Veracruz, Mexico as an official hawk counter in 2006, he has decided raptors are pretty cool, too.  Karl is back for his fourth season as a raptor counter and also the passerine counter!

Cory Ritter was born and raised in southern Wisconsin, and he earned his bachelor's degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Since graduating in 2008, Cory has worked a variety of field jobs ranging from conducting point count and territory mapping surveys to passerine banding and, of course, hawk counting. Cory has counted hawks in Pennsylvania and at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Michigan, and he is returning for his third season here at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Chris Neri grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and got his start in raptor banding by working with owls at Cape May, New Jersey. He banded hawks and owls in the Goshute Mountains of Nevada, where he started the Flammulated Owl research program. He has banded hawks in the Manzanos Mountains of New Mexico with his partner, Nova Mackentley. Chris and Nova are the spring and summer owl banders at their home in Whitefish Point, Michigan. He is returning for his second season at Hawk Ridge.

Nova Mackentley is from upstate New York, and graduated from Oberlin College where she majored in Biology and Dance. Hawk Ridge was one of her first field jobs, working as the owl bander in 2003 and 2004. She moved on to Whitefish Point as an owl bander, where she met her partner Chris Neri. Nova has worked at Cape May Bird Observatory and in the Manzanos Mountains of New Mexico as a hawk bander, and also worked radio-collaring ocelots in Texas for 3 seasons. During the spring and summer seasons, Nova and Chris continue their owl banding research at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory.


Annmarie Geniusz grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She graduated from University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, summa cum laude with a B.A. in Geology and Studio Art. She has been a volunteer bander and banding assistant to Frank Nicoletti at Hawk Ridge for three years. She helps band passerines, diurnal raptors, and owls. She received certification as an assistant bander at Braddock Bay Bird Observatory in New York state. Her love of the outdoors comes from childhood summers spent camping, fishing, and chasing frogs in northern Wisconsin. Her love of birds began at Hawk Ridge, visiting the Overlook. She is married to Hawk Ridge Volunteer Stephen Bockhold and has four adorable cats. Annmarie is super excited to be working as Hawk Ridge’s Owl Bander this fall!

Kati Kristenson developed a deep love of the outdoors while growing up in Grand Marais, MN. It was there that she learned to love canoeing, hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, sparking, camping, blueberry picking, and exploring in general. However, it was not until she became a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN that her love of birds began. It was there that she learned how to band song birds and work with educational raptors. Kati became intrigued with Hawk Ridge after a visit to Hawk Ridge with Wolf Ridge naturalists during her first year at Wolf Ridge. Seeing a wild raptor up close in one of the naturalist’s hands and watching it be released back to the wild got her hooked on wild raptor education. After working at Wolf Ridge for a couple years Kati moved to Duluth to work on her masters of environmental education at UMD. While living in Duluth, Kati hopes to spend as much time working and volunteering at Hawk Ridge as she can in order to teach and learn more about the amazing lives of song birds and raptors. This fall you will see her at the Hawk Ridge Overlook as a substitute naturalist and volunteer.

Gail Johnejack grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin and has lived and worked in many places. Her exploration of nature began early - during backyard bird watching, family camping trips, and from her mother’s passion for environmental education with children. Following a degree in Hydrology, she worked for the US Forest Service for 13 years as a hydrologist and botanist. After a break for two children, she taught preschool at a nature center where she hiked, danced, explored and created with young children. Here she found her love of sharing nature with others. During four years in Alaska with her family, she worked in the schools and developed and taught youth gardening through Parks and Recreation. She moved to Duluth to go back to school and earned a Certificate in Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota – Duluth in 2011. Volunteering and working as a naturalist got her started at Hawk Ridge and she is now in her second year as Education Director. In this role, she coordinates and teaches education programs during the fall migration, develops and provides educational opportunities for students of all ages at other times of the year, and gives presentations to various groups. Working with raptors and people at Hawk Ridge is, for Gail, “Livin’ the Dream.”

Sarah Glesner has lived in Duluth her entire life, most of that time spent looking up at Hawk Ridge. Her love of the outdoors and of birds began at an early age when her mother would take her outside to watch kettles of hawks over their home. This love of animals transformed into a desire to educate. As a result, Sarah spent two years volunteering at the Lake Superior Zoo as a docent, then working as the Junior Docent Coordinator and now as their Volunteer Coordinator. During her time at the zoo, she was able to handle some wonderful little birds. After staring into their beady little eyes, she decided it was true love! This is Sarah's fourth year up at the ridge as staff; she was a count interpreter in 2007, became a naturalist in 2008 and she is thrilled to be part of the team as a naturalist/count interpreter again this fall.
Margie Menzies: One part educator, two parts naturalist, and two parts bird nerd! Who says slow and steady wins the race? After years in the formal classroom, this educator has abandoned the indoors for the great outdoor classroom. Margie is the naturalist at Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center up the North Shore in Schroeder, MN during the summer.  There where she provides programs, camps, and bird banding; returning to Duluth for mail, laundry and grocery shopping! During the rest of the year she is a freelance naturalist and education consultant working on a variety of projects. She has also worked at Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. She has a BA from Bethel University, and a MA from University of St. Thomas. Providing naturalist programming for the general public furnishes many colorful and meaningful experiences with every day on the job. She loves birds, learning, and sharing the natural world with people of all ages. This is her second season at Hawk Ridge as a Naturalist.

Erik Bruhnke has had a love for birds since he was a child. Graduating from Northland College with a Natural Resources degree back in 2008, Erik has traveled the country doing a wide variety of bird surveys. His field experiences (all bird surveys) have taken him throughout many of the northern states; including North Dakota, South Dakota, the mountains & coastal regions of Oregon, and bushwhacking throughout northern Minnesota & northern Wisconsin.

Erik has taught people about raptor identification and migration throughout the past five fall seasons at Hawk Ridge as the count interpreter, and assists the raptor count during the spring migration. He is returning for his sixth fall season at Hawk Ridge. Erik has taught field ornithology multiple times at Northland College. He is a board member of the Duluth Audubon Society, and has led field trips & spoken at many nationally-recognized birding festivals. His bird photography has won wildlife photo competitions both locally and nationally. Erik’s passion to educate others about birds has led him to create his own business of leading birding trips, called Naturally Avian. His biggest aspiration with Naturally Avian is to inspire conservation and environmental awareness through his birding tours, wildlife photography and public presentations. He is a Board Member of the Duluth Audubon Society, where he coordinates weekly birding trips offered to the public and helps spread the word about birds.

Beth Miller grew up in Duluth about two miles from the Ridge as the hawk flies, or about three miles as the bike rides. She has visited Hawk Ridge since about 1973, riding over on bikes with friends during junior and senior high school. (Never skipping class to do this, of course.) Inspired by the "old" John Denver song "The Eagle and The Hawk," she caught the raptor bug in the early 1970's as a result of these early visits to the Ridge. She has been passionate (or obsessed) about raptors ever since.

Beth has volunteered at the Ridge since the volunteer program began in 2002, and joined the staff in 2006. She got her B.A.S. in Education from UMD too many years ago to mention, and her M.Ed in Educational Media/Technology from St. Scholastica in 1993. She moonlights as a fourth grade science teacher in one of Duluth's public schools, teaching science to fourth graders for the last 16 years. She teaches her students that migrating hawks are a perfectly good reason to drop everything, grab some binoculars and got outside to check out the flight. Students have been known to summon her from her from the teachers' lounge if they spot a good hawk flight during lunch recess, because spotting a good hawk flight is worth extra credit in science.

Brian Scott has progressed from visitor to Hawk Ridge for the first time in August 2011, to volunteer in the fall of 2012, to naturalist substitute for the fall of 2013. Brian’s hometown is Chesterton, IN and he graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN with a BA in biology. His first environmental education experience was at the Dunes Learning Center, located in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. He has also taught environmental education at the N.E.E.D. Collaborative, which is located in the Cape Cod National Seashore in Truro, MA. Brian is looking forward to another amazing fall of learning about raptors and viewing raptor migration from Hawk Ridge!

Katie Swanson grew up in Rochester, MN and moved up to Duluth in the summer of 2007. She attended school at UMD and completed her bachelor’s degree in Outdoor and Environmental Education. She started her involvement with Hawk Ridge as a volunteer, while attending school as well. After volunteering, she developed a deep passion for bringing education about these amazing creatures to the visitors of Hawk Ridge. She continued to work with Hawk Ridge as a naturalist and completed the position of administrative intern for one season while working on an internship to finish her degree. She continues to work as a naturalist and has also taken on the role of volunteer coordinator. Through working with birds and Hawk Ridge, she wants to continue to develop her knowledge about the natural world and spread the passion that she has to volunteers, staff and visitors at the ridge.

David Stieler: I am originally from Albert Lea, MN, where I spent my childhood playing amongst the corn and soybean fields that are so prevalent in southern Minnesota. It was a large change when I first moved up to Duluth to go to college and get my undergraduate degrees in Biology and English. But now, after having spent seven years on the North Shore, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I am currently a graduate student at UMD completing an Environmental Education degree.

Working with birds of prey has been a theme in the past years of my life, starting with volunteering at the Rocky Mountain Raptor program and progressing through working with education birds at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, and now with wild birds at Hawk Ridge.

Jenni Stafford grew up in Peoria, IL. She graduated from Bemidji State with a degree in biology. Her love of raptors began when she was able to see Barred Owls in her backyard as a young child. She later worked with educational raptors at Wildlife Prairie Park in Illinois where she got to learn about the birds first hand. This will be her first year at Hawk Ridge.

Kaitlin Erpestad: Hawk Ridge has been one of my haunts ever since I was a little girl. I grew up in Duluth running and biking through the area and enjoying the view. Now, it's a pleasure to be up at the overlook in a different context learning and enjoying the birds together with the birding community. After college at St. Olaf I spent three years living and teaching in Finland, Europe. In 2006 I moved to Finland, MN, to teach, learn, and play at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center with my husband, Matti. Some of the learning opportunities included bird banding and identification and how to handle the education raptors. I jump at any chance to handle and learn about birds, little and big, and to be out in the fresh air learning and teaching.

Matti Erpestad: Looking towards Lake Superior from the overlook at Hawk Ridge I see Lakeside School, where I spent my childhood playing endlessly on the playground.  After high school in Duluth I ended up in Saint Paul at Macalester College studying Hispanic Studies and Political Science, but during my summers I worked in the North Woods leading canoe trips in the Boundary Waters.  After college, my home moved further north and much further east to Joensuu in North Karelia, Finland. Throughout those four years I acquainted myself with the woods studying plants, animals, rocks, stars, mushrooms, and Finnish wilderness skills and ways of hiking and camping at an outdoor school. In 2009 I moved from Finland to Finland, MN with my wife Kaitlin to reacquaint myself with my new home with two years as a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. There I worked with education raptors and fell in love with bird banding.  I am now returning to Duluth after ten years to complete the Master of Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and you will surely find me at the overlook sharing my love of birds both large and small with whoever comes to listen.