Spring Birding Program Series: March – May 2018

Spring in Minnesota can feel like a never ending story of snow, ice, and mud. But underneath the world where things seem to move at a snail’s pace, birds are reassuring us that spring is really coming and there is plenty of motion in the bird world to help you cope! During spring migration all sorts of birds move through this area on route to their summer breeding grounds, and different birds come at different points in the spring- so there is a continuous flow of movement to explore. Understanding who lives where is one of the secrets to knowing the birds!

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is offering an exciting birding program series this spring, which we invite you to. This series will take place in 4 varied weeks throughout March-May to highlight the peak times during spring migration and interesting habitat/viewing hotspots. Each program has an active 2-hour Wednesday evening class to learn background information about specific habitats and their characteristic birds, as well as spring migration, nesting/breeding, etc. The class will be followed by a weekend field trip session (either Sat. or Sun.) to habitat/hotspot to explore the birds present and the location itself, which has everything to do with determining who might be there! You can sign up for one of the 4 individual programs or the whole series. We hope you can join us for some or all!

Cost for full program series (3 classes/4 field trips):
Students: $25, Hawk Ridge Members or Master Naturalists: $60, Non-members: $100


Cost for individual program (includes Wed. night class & Sat. or Sun. field trip):
Students: $10, Hawk Ridge Members or Master Naturalists: $25, Non-members $35

REGISTER NOW FOR FULL SERIES (4 classes/4 field trips)

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Sat. March 17th Field Trip (10 am-1 or 2 pm, Meet at Canal Park Maritime Museum Parking Lot)
Come for bird adventures in the general harbor area to put your knowledge from the class to action! In this field trip, we will take a detailed look on how to sort through who might be here and how you tell. We will search for winter resident gulls and sort them out from our arriving summer residents. In addition to gulls, we will search for a number of duck species- both winter residents and spring arrivals. We’ll travel to a number of different locations around the harbor and explore the area taking a closer look at whatever else happens to turn up. There are lots of possibilities at that point in the season.


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Wed. April 11th Class (6-8 pm Duluth, MN location TBD)
Hawk Ridge has been monitoring the fall bird migration since the 1950’s, but did you know that the West Skyline Hawk Count ranks as one of the top sites in the US for numbers and diversity of raptors during the spring migration. Have you ever wondered about differences in spring migration versus fall? Do birds use the same route in the spring that they used in the fall? Do adult birds and immature birds travel at the same time? Can you age and sex a bird in flight? How does weather impact migration patterns – is there raptor fallout? These are some of the topics we’ll explore in the class portion.

Sun. April 15th Field Trip (1-4 pm, Meet at Enger Tower)
The Hawk Ridge Spring Count is back in action full-time for 2018 with Frank Nicoletti leading the count. We will visit one of the two count sites with the wind direction determining our ultimate destination for best viewing the spring raptor migration. The sites are located along West Skyline Parkway – we are likely to be at either the pull-off below the Thompson Hill rest area or below Enger Tower.


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Wed. April 25th Class (6-8 pm Duluth, MN location TBD)
Did you know that about one third of North America’s birds use wetlands for nesting, feeding, or shelter? Late April in Minnesota is still early spring, but a fair number of our breeding birds will have arrived by this time and many will be hard at work establishing territories and building nests in wetlands and or open fields. What gives these birds the ability to get and earlier start? We’ll take a look at who these early birds are, learn some identification skills by sight and sound, and learn about strategies for nest building lower to the ground.

Sat. April 28th Field Trip (7:30-10 am at Mud Lake Area *directions will be provided at class session)
Plan for walking a trail that is mostly inactive railroad track to search for sparrows, wrens, and other feathered friends of fields and wetlands.


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Wed. May 16th Class (6-8 pm Duluth, MN location TBD)
The woodlands of Minnesota are breeding grounds for an amazing assortment of birds including many elusive species of warblers. An amazing number of species of these birds fit into the category of neo-tropical migrant, which means they spend more time in the tropics than they do here. What are the advantages of making hazardous migrations to breed so far from their wintering grounds? What does a northern Minnesota woodland have to offer that isn’t available in the tropics? We’ll explore the woodland habitat, introduce the amazing diversity of birds found there, learn some identification skills by sight and sound, and investigate many of the 31 species of warblers that the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas says breed here!

Sat. May 19th Field Trip (7:30-10 am at Indian Point *meet at Western Waterfront Trail parking lot on Pulaski St.)
It will still be migration season for many of these neotropical migrants, so lots of species are possible, including some that are just passing through on their way further north. The warblers will be dressed in their spring finest and leaves may still be small, making the search a little easier! How many can we find?


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MARGIE MENZIES joined the Hawk Ridge staff in 2011 and is currently the Hawk Ridge Program Director. Margie spent years in the formal classroom and has abandoned the indoors for the great outdoor classroom. During the summer, Margie is the naturalist and resident bird bander and general bird nerd at Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center up the North Shore in Schroeder. She works as a freelance naturalist and education consultant for a variety of organizations, such as Hartley Nature Center, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, and has also worked at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. She has a BA from Bethel University, and a MA from University of St.Thomas. She loves birds, learning, and sharing the natural world with people of all ages.

This program is in partnership with:

Image Credits: Laura Erickson