Fall Bird Migration (September-October) Information
Visitor Info for Viewing the Fall Bird Migration at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve during COVID-19 Pandemic
We are excited for another fall bird migration season this year at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory! We are planning to be operational and visitors will be welcome. However, please keep in mind we are a nonprofit organization operating our bird migration research and education efforts with very limited staff and resources.
Due to COVID-19 and funding limitations, we will not have the same level of programs and other visitor services offered this season. Our annual Hawk Weekend Festival event is also canceled this year. We have put safety precautions in place to ensure the health and well-being of our staff and visitors. We ask for your compliance and understanding with these safety measures in place, including designated visitor viewing areas. Guidelines may also change pending regulations mandated by local, state, federal authorities.
We ask all visitors to please adhere to the following guidelines:
- We expect all visitors to follow CDC social distancing guidelines and remain at least 6 feet away from non-family members.
- With limited safe migration viewing space on the roadsides and education program areas, we recommend masks. You can view the mask information from the Hawk Migration Association of North America HERE.
- The safety of our staff is a top priority. The bird migration count platform area is restricted to research staff only this season. Our education staff will be providing interpretation and answering questions about the migration daily September 1 – October 31 (9am-4pm, weather pending) from within a specified area clearly identified by cones. We ask that visitors remain outside of these marked areas at all times.
- If the visitor crowd size gets too dense, it may be necessary to close that area to further visitors or utilize other safe visitor viewing spaces. If this happens, a sign will be clearly posted instructing visitors to not enter and move to other safe migration viewing areas.
- A portable toilet is available on site for visitors to use. We recommend bringing your own personal hand sanitizer. Our merchandise trailer will not be operational for sales of food/drink or other items. We also will not be able to share optics or loan binoculars with visitors this fall. We recommend bringing your own chair, food, drink, optics, field guides, sunscreen, clothing layers, hat, sunglasses, or anything else you need to be comfortable during your time viewing the migration. Accessible parking will be designated for those that need it.
We look forward to your visit to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory this fall. By following these safety guidelines, we are confident that we’ll experience another safe and astounding fall bird migration this year! We will continue to monitor the recommendations and any government orders as the season progresses, so please check our website at hawkridge.org or Facebook page for potential updates. You can also contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 428-6209 with further questions.
The following information below is subject to COVID-19 changes as noted above.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Hawks begin migrating past Hawk Ridge in mid-August and continue through November. The “Big Days”, when we can get tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks flying over, generally occur from September 10-25.
October is great for viewing the migration, too, as we get good numbers of the “big” birds…Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Goshawks. Naturalists are on site from September 1 through the end of October. Click here to see the raptor count numbers.
Hawk watching, unlike most other wildlife activities, is best during the middle of the day. Generally, the raptors don’t start flying until 8am, and they taper off after 4pm. So plan your trip during the middle of the day: between 10am and 2pm is best.
Weather plays a huge factor in the quality of the flight–in fact, it’s MORE important than the date. Winds from the west or northwest are best for bringing us big numbers of birds. If you come up on a day with south or east winds, expect the flight to be slower.
NOTE: Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is open for public use year-round; however, the majority of East Skyline Parkway is closed/not maintained from December 1 – May 1. Hawk Ridge staff are only present at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve during the fall migration.
What Activities are Available?
Naturalist staff & volunteers are on site daily from 9am-4pm, September 1 – October 31.
The overlook staff is also on site to help with raptor identification, answer questions, and sell Hawk Ridge merchandise. Regularly scheduled public programs are also available throughout the season. If you are bringing a group, consider scheduling a group program.
Hiking Trails – CLICK HERE for map (please note road is closed December 1 – April 30)
We have a number of resources to help you better identify raptors in flight and learn about their natural history. Just print them off and bring them with you!
- Raptors in Flight ID sheet – for beginners; identify to raptor groups
- Raptors in Flight ID brochure – for the more experienced; identify to individual species
- Raptors at a Glance– natural history information on Hawk Ridge raptors
Regular bird guides are not much use in identifying raptors in flight, so here are some other resources WE USE & RECOMMEND:
- Sutton, Dunne & Sibley’s HAWKS IN FLIGHT: this contains a lot of text about identifying raptors in flight based mainly upon silhouettes and behavior. The really bad photos in the back are perfect for testing your skills–after all, do we get GREAT looks at all the birds moving through?
- Wheeler & Clark’s A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN RAPTORS: filled with excellent photography of raptors, not only in flight, but also perched. Includes information on identifying raptors not only to species, but also to age, morph, subspecies, race and sex.
- Liguori’s HAWKS FROM EVERY ANGLE: again, a lot of great photographs and text. This is a halfway point between the previous two books, focusing on flight, behavior & silhouettes through text and photographs.
What do we Need to Bring?
Binoculars are a must! At times the hawks are so far away, or are soaring so high that they are impossible to see with the naked eye. The overlook staff has binoculars to loan.
Dress for the weather! Weather is always more extreme at the Main Overlook on Hawk Ridge. Make sure to bring warm, windproof clothing. Of course, it does get sunny & hot on the Ridge, too, so bring some sunscreen & a hat with a brim in case of balmy weather (but don’t worry about this in late October!) Don’t forget a snack and beverage.
Bring a chair! We do not provide seating, although there are large rocks available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you plan to do any hiking on the Hawk Ridge trails, hiking boots are a good choice; at the very least, tennis shoes must be worn. The trails are very rugged.
The land at Hawk Ridge belongs to the City of Duluth and there is a leash law within the city limits. Although we love dogs, we do not encourage people to bring their dog to Hawk Ridge, especially on busy weekends.
If you need to bring your dog along, we ask that you keep your dog on a short leash (4′ maximum). Dogs that bark or are not friendly toward adults, kids or other dogs MUST NOT be brought to Hawk Ridge. Calm, friendly, quiet, well-behaved dogs are welcome.
Hawk Ridge provides plenty of opportunity for dogs to get into trouble–there are a lot of children, food, expensive scopes on tripods and birds in the hand. Please be vigilant. Also, come prepared to pick up after your dog.
Bringing a Group?
In order for your participants to get the most out of their visit, consider scheduling a group program. Our general program, the Hawk Ridge Primer, gives an overview of the history of Hawk Ridge, the migration, the research programs, how to identify raptors, our purpose–and possibly (hopefully) includes a bird in the hand!
If you choose not to schedule a group program, we recommend bringing along a knowledgeable guide to inform your group about Hawk Ridge, the migration and the birds. There may also be demonstrations with live, banded birds taking place during your visit.
Note that staff/volunteers are not available to speak to your group on spur of the moment, nor can they do such talks/programs for free. Hawk Ridge is self-supported. Help support Hawk Ridge AND get the most out of your visit by scheduling a group program!
Cost and Parking?
There is no charge to visit the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. If you enjoy your experience, we encourage you to become a member or contribute a donation to help support our organization. Hawk Ridge is a non-profit organization that is supported through memberships, donations, adoptions and merchandise sales.
The main overlook is located along Skyline Parkway, a city roadway in Duluth. Access is by car and parking is available along the roadway near the main overlook. Handicapped parking is available at the main overlook. Busses and other large vehicles can drive through the main overlook and turn around at a large parking area a little over a mile past the overlook. Complete directions can be found here.
What Amenities are Available?
There is no building at Hawk Ridge; everything is outdoors, and the main overlook is located on Skyline Parkway. Skyline Parkway is open from late spring through late fall, although the nature reserve is never closed and can be reached by hiking when the road is closed.
A portable toilet is also available during the fall season.
Click HERE for visiting Spring Count (March-May) on West Skyline Parkway
Image Credits: Debbie Waters