Each fall, migrating raptors deliver a memorable show as they pass along the North Shore near Duluth.
The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is expecting more than 80,000 raptors this fall, in a migration that has already begun.
Other migratory birds will join the wide variety of passing raptors, the latter including sharp-shinned hawks, merlins, broad-winged hawks, northern harriers, and red-tailed hawks.
The migration will continue through November.
Naturalists and volunteers at the nature reserve will offer interpretive programs between 9 a.m.-4 p.m., beginning Saturday through Oct. 31.
The programs, including live bird demonstrations and free binoculars rental, will be offered at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve Main Overlook.
More information is available at www.hawkridge.org, or by calling 218-428-6209.
The Monday night crash landing of thousands of eared grebes in and near Cedar City, Utah, is being blamed on mistaken identity by the birds of a Walmart parking lot for a lake.
The birds were migrating during a storm when they apparently became confused and were forced to land.
About 1,500 grebes died and another 3,500 were rescued by state wildlife officials and volunteers, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune.
The dead birds were disposed of in a landfill. Uninjured birds that were rescued were released into a lake about 60 miles from where they landed.
The eared grebe is the most abundant grebe in the world, staging in fall on Mono Lake in California and the Great Salt Lake, where it doubles its weight in advance for a nonstop flight to the southwest U.S. and Mexico, where it winters.
Here's a range map for the eared grebe from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Hunters should know the difference between snow geese and trumpeter and tundra swans. The DNR illustration above shows the relative size difference between the two — swans are much larger — and the fact that snow geese have black wing tips.
The issue arises because four immature trumpeter swans were shot at Brown's Lake near Warroad during the weekend of Sept. 18-19, which was the grouse opener and also the weekend of youth waterfowl day.
According to the DNR, the dead swans were left at Brown's Lake, about four miles southeast of Norris Camp, headquarters of the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area.
The trumpeter is a threatened species and shooting one can be charged as a gross misdemeanor, with fines up to $3,000 and possibe loss of hunting equipment and privileges.
SWANS vs. SNOWGEESE
Trumpeter Swan (threatened species)
Tundra Swan (protected species)
All white plumage
(Both species similar)
Length: 4 ft.
Wingspan: 7 ft.
Weight: 20-30 lbs.
Snow Goose (legal game species)
White with black wing tips
Length: 1 ½ ft.
Wingspan: 3 ½ ft.
Minnesota has more than 3,000 adult swans and at least 800 young swans, called cygnets. The birds can be found anywhere in the state.
Anyone with information about the shooting should call the Turn in Poachers (TIP) Hotline at 800-652-9093 or DNR enforcement at 218-783-2521.
Mississippi Flyway biologists and managers from 14 states are meeting this week in Alabama to develop duck and goose hunting regulation proposals to submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the fall seasons.
Importantly, the officials in Alabama are also reviewing an environmental impact statement developed by the service to review and justify waterfowl hunting. This is the first EIS on the subject in about 18 years, and the document is widely considered to be important to the continuation of waterfowling — though no threat to the sport from anti-hunters or others is imminent.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., continues to lead the charge among members of Congress to ensure that possible adverse effects to waterfowl and other birds of the oil blowout in the Gulf aren't forgotten, either by BP or the federal government.
An excerpt from her speech on the Senate floor appears below.
It's likely, oil blowout or not, that Minnesota duck hunters this fall will again see a 60 day season, with a six bird limit. This might surprise some waterfowlers here, who in recent decades haven't seen many birds in their hands — or even in the sky.
But the pond count this spring and summer, together with the number of breeding ducks counted by state and federal surveyors, suggests that a ''liberal'' hunting season again will be approved.
The Minnesota duck opener has been set for Oct. 2.
Here is the excerpt from Sen. Klobuchar's speech:
"I have focused on addressing this disaster because I believe we owe it to the taxpayers and because this disaster has devastated the resources that belong to all Americans.
"Now as we face the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history, we can’t lose sight of a piece of it that I don’t think has gotten enough attention: the fate of our migratory bird population.
"At first it was a single pelican drenched in oil, hobbling on a beach.
"At first, no one focused on the unsettling proposition that millions of birds that live in the gulf every fall and winter will be faced with toxic shorelines. But as the oil laps up on the shores, we have to face this unacceptable but real problem now.
"For most Minnesotans, we know that summer has arrived when we hear the loon calls near our 10,000 lakes. Minnesota is home to a half million ducks and the largest population of loons in the continental United States.
"Hunting and wildlife watching is part of our heritage but it’s also an important part of our economy. Waterfowl hunting contributes almost $50 million economic activity in Minnesota every year. And Minnesota has the third highest birding participation rate of all states at 33% or about 1.5 million people.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is heading up the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, which will come up with an estimate of restoration costs that will be sent to BP for them to pay to help clean up shorelines, estuaries, and marshes.
"Additionally, the new escrow account that has been created will help ensure that the claims process for individuals and businesses runs smoothly and efficiently and it will also help ensure that claims by governments (state, local, and tribal) that are submitted to BP will not be delayed by a slow claims process.
"But while the Unified National Incident Command is doing all it can to stop the leak, it’s important that we simultaneously do all we can to protect the habitat of birds and ducks in the Gulf that support our hunting and birding economy in Minnesota.
"In just a few weeks, millions of birds will begin to migrate south from Canada, the Great Plains, and parts of the Midwest. They will fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to the Gulf Coast, where they spend their winters.
"Unfortunately, Mr. President, this year when they get to the Gulf, they could find beaches like this one--- a beach covered in tar balls, instead of beach balls.
"That’s why a bipartisan group of Senators joined me in sending a letter to Secretary Salazar to ensure that proper attention and coordination is also made with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and conservation organizations who are working to protect the habitat of migratory birds.
"I am pleased that just this week, the National Incident Command announced the launch of a new website—RestoreTheGulf.gov—dedicated to providing the American people with clear and accessible information and resources related to the BP oil spill response and recovery.
"It is important that as we focus on stopping this terrible leak, we also prepare for the serious and imminent threats to the birds and wildlife that play a critical role in the regional gulf economies and also the more distant regional economies like Minnesota’s.
"Mr. President, in just a few weeks, we must be ready for the mass influx of ducks and birds in the gulf region.
"If we fail to prepare, countless of unsuspecting birds, like this will not return to Minnesota and our ecosystems and economies will feel the impact.
"Thank you Mr. President.''
The Natural Resources Conservation Service's announcement that it will spend at least $20 million to create new resting and feeding areas for ducks and other birds in eight Southern states is welcome news.
The unprecedented effort is intended to — with some luck — partially, at least, offset the pending threat to migrating waterfowl and other birds posed by the oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the new land will be flooded rice fields. Some also will be abandoned catfish ponds. The upshot is the USDA will prioritize the best spots available in the most strategic counties of the eight states, and pay farmers and landowners who own the lands to provide shallow water cover where otherwise there would be none this late summer and fall.
All of which is good. Contracts with the landowners will in most cases be multi-year — up to five years — and ducks particularly can use all the help they can get, wherever they can get it.
And who knows? Perhaps some of this temporary habitat will become permanent.
Of course, already some hunters up and down the Mississippi Flyway are crying foul. They say the newly flooded, and taxpayer funded, duck-friendly areas will be hunted by the landowners only, with all others kept out.
Perhaps some landowners might even lease the areas to other hunters, thus double-dipping, gaining from the government on one hand and waterfowlers in need of hunting spots on the other.
Well, OK, so be it. That's the price we pay if we want habitat on the ground.
In fact, it's always been that way. When Ducks Unlimited (which is also establishing new habitat in the Gulf region) or Pheasants Forever or the state or federal government enters into habitat or conservation agreements with landowners, they usually don't restrict use of the property, or access to it.
How could they? No one — or very few — would sign up for such a program.
So, some people will get a better deal than others, regarding hunting access to the new government-funded habitat development plan.
So it goes.
The hope is that regardless of who individually benefits, ducks and other waterfowl benefit more.