View from Enger Tower photo by
Spring (West Skyline) Raptor Count
SPRING COUNT NUMBERS
The birds fly south in the fall, so they
must fly north in the spring, right? Yes! However, they are not
found at Hawk Ridge in the spring because of its location on the
NORTH side of Lake Superior. Instead, the SPRING COUNT takes place
further to the southwest, although still in Duluth.
skinny on the spring migration: The count starts toward mid-March
and continues DAILY through the end of May. Timing of species, as
you can imagine, is the reverse of what it is in the fall. The first
arrivals in the spring are the EAGLES, both bald & golden, and
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS. Not long after that the RED-TAILED HAWKS arrive.
BROAD-WINGED HAWKS and SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS begin showing up in
Here's the peak for each species (high
Eagles: around March 25 (Bald: 400-500/day;
Rough-legged Hawks: April 10-20 (up to
Red-tailed Hawks: April 10-20
Broad-winged Hawks: May 1-10
Sharp-shinned Hawks: April 10-20 (up to
Raptors flying north through our area in the
spring are a little more spread out...we don't have as great of a
natural funnel for northward migration as we do at Hawk Ridge for
the southward migration in the fall. In the spring, smaller birds
such as Sharp-shinned Hawks and American Kestrels tend to stay down
along the shore, out of range of our counters. The Northern Goshawk
route is a bit of a mystery for now--our highest number for goshawks
in one day during the spring is four.
What about weather? SOUTH or SOUTHWEST winds
are best for big numbers of northward migrating raptors. I am happy
to report the following: these are usually days with beautiful
weather! WEST winds are also good, and the counters report that
there are birds "on any wind". Birds are on a mission in the spring:
Get To Nesting Territories! This means they're not taking their
time waiting for perfect migrating weather. Numbers are, however,
greatly reduced in inclement weather such as fog, snow, rain, sleet,
Another spring advantage? GREAT looks! The
cold ground doesn't promote the development of huge thermals, so the
birds are generally much lower, riding updrafts along the ridge
instead. The ground doesn't warm up until late May, so until then
the birds will be quite low. Previous counters have reported Bald
Eagles within 40 feet of them, riding the updrafts along the ridges!
WHERE is the spring count? Good question!
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.
In S, SW, SE, N, NW or W winds: Enger Tower.
Directions: From Hwy 35, take the
Hwy 53 North exit (255A) in Duluth
and continue on Hwy 53 North / Piedmont Ave to the stoplight where
Piedmont Avenue splits off. Turn LEFT onto Piedmont Avenue, drive 1
block and turn LEFT onto 24th Ave West, then drive another block and
turn LEFT onto West Skyline Parkway. Continue past the Enger Golf
Course on West Skyline
Parkway to a pullout overlook just below Enger Tower
(marked with a sign, "Rice's Point). You'll
come to West 5th Street if you go too far. If
you don't see anyone at the overlook with binoculars, try the Thompson Hill
In NE or E winds: Thompson Hill.
Directions: From Hwy 35, take the Boundary Avenue
exit (249) and cross to the north side of the freeway. Turn RIGHT
onto West Skyline Parkway as if going to the
Thompson Hill Rest Stop. Drive past the first rest stop entrance to
the overlook directly below the rest stop. (You'll come to the
second rest stop entrance if you go too far.)
What ACTIVITIES are going on during the
spring count? Counting is the only activity taking place at the
spring watch site. Unless busy, the counter(s) will be able to point
out "viewable" birds. It can be a great time, especially for those
not new to hawkwatching. If you're a beginner, however,
recommend visiting Hawk Ridge during the fall to take advantage of
the services of the volunteers and naturalists.