Headwind Deflection Hunting

37F … clouds and occasional slushy snow … 15 mph winds out of the NE.

In short, yesterday afternoon’s weather did little to encourage me to take my daily bike ride up the shore of Lake Superior! However, being addicted to exercise and grumbling all the way, I walked down the outside stairs to the garage and mounted my bike.

Man alive, boy am I thrilled I took my ride! In an hour’s cycling I saw well over 30 Rough-Legged Hawks, including this individual which was doing what I have named “Headwind Deflection Hunting”. This kind of hunting goes like this:

  1. Migrate down from the Arctic
  2. Find the largest freshwater lake in the world
  3. Migrate with the wind down the shore
  4. Occasionally turn into the wind, and use the headwind pushed up off the 20 foot cliff to hover in place w/o expending any effort
  5. Dive and eat mouse
  6. Resume migration

It is amazing how many hawks I saw hunting in this manner. What a treat to get off my bike (of course I had my camera … need you ask), and watch this bird hunt for five minutes.

A few days earlier up in Two Harbors, Minnesota I observed ring-billed gulls hunting food in a similar manner. By flying into a stiff wind, and stalling out next to a berry covered bush, the gulls were able to eat the fruit. One enterprising individual even managed to crash land on purpose in the shrub. Gull’s webbed feet are not made for tree or shrub perching. I did not even know gulls ate berries off trees.

Both examples show why one should try to be truly observant while birding. During bad weather conditions I learned how birds adapt. In each case I suspect I was watching adult birds. Juveniles would need to be taught how to use a strong wind.

Finally, here is one more early winter photograph. Normally a few snow geese migrate through our area, pushed off their more westerly migration paths over to Lake Superior. This fall, one may easily find a few snow geese interspersed with almost every flock of Canada Geese.

Blue Morph and White Snow Geese

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