A falcon in the city can make a pedestrian stop cold on a busy sidewalk, head back, face to sky, to watch the raptor soar over the buildings of downtown. A hawk in the forest can silence hikers, who watch as it dive-bombs a fish, or screams from the branch of a dead birch tree.
And hundreds, thousands of hawks streaming up Lake Superior during the autumn migration -- well, that might be the most spectacular sight of all.
In their latest collaboration, "Hawk Ridge: Minnesota's Birds of Prey," Duluth nature writer Laura Erickson and Grand Marais, Minn., artist Betsy Bowen capture the essence of these magnificent birds. Their book, published by the University of Minnesota Press, follows last year's "Twelve Owls."
"Hawk Ridge" is neither a field guide (too big) nor a coffee-table book (too small), but an elegant and lovely introduction to eagles, hawks, vultures and other raptors.
It contains surprising facts: Vultures are graceful? Those ugly, pin-headed birds that are associated with carrion and doom?
A golden eagle can kill an antelope?
A merlin once stole the catch from another hawk? And then a honey buzzard stole it from the merlin? And then a peregrine falcon stole it from the buzzard? Oh, come on.
Erickson's text focuses on the raptors that are seen and counted each year at Hawk Ridge, that cliff in Duluth where thousands of birders gather every autumn to watch the hawk migration. Bowen contributed vivid acrylic paintings of each bird and pen-and-ink sketches, including flight silhouettes.
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302