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:
Migrate down from the Arctic
Find the largest freshwater lake in the world
Migrate with the wind down the shore
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
Dive and eat mouse
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.
I could have also titled this post: 500 Pics + 2 Videos + 1 Dawn Bike Ride = 1 Peregrine Falcon! In short, it was a fantastic time ten minutes after sunrise yesterday. While cycling along Scenic 61 at dawn I first heard a hawk’s fierce killing call, followed by a flash of movement in the corner of my field of view. I decided to get off my bicycle to investigate, and quickly found a peregrine falcon finishing up a morning song bird snack!
I was able to scramble down the steep bank to the shoreline rocks where I slowly inched my way towards the peregrine. As my angle to the bird put me directly in the morning’s low direct sun, I must have been invisible. Stopping only 20 yards away from the falcon I enjoyed watching the raptor as I clicked away with my camera. Realizing this might be a once in a lifetime experience, I tried to perfectly time the crashing waves on the rocks with the peregrine falcon in the foreground. To state it mildly, this was not your typical shorebird!
Upon getting home I chuckled to myself when I discovered I had taken 500 photographs and 2 vidoes. Isn’t burst mode a beautiful thing?! Here is one of my favorite images and a video. This experience just reinforces my next previous post … Birding by Bicycle .
The lupine have been blooming for two weeks inland from Lake Superior, but down on the shore the cool waters delay blossoms. Thus, this morning I drive up the shore to a favorite location where I knew the sun would align with the lupine at sunrise. Only for a few days near the Summer equinox does the sun rise directly in line with the shore. I liked the effect!
After my flower power session I moved on to Hawk Ridge. A few weeks ago I have photographed a classic ore boat arriving at Canal Park. I have been watching the shipping schedule and waiting for an early morning arrival. When I took my other ore boat arrival photo, I did not have a tripod. This time, I did it “right” and photographed the Cason J. Callaway as it arrived at Duluth.
Finally, while taking the above photograph, an Indigo Bunting serenaded me. This is said bird!
I’ll end this blog post with a pic taken of my own home. I arrived home at 6:30 am (been out since 4:45 am) as the sun finally dappled into my own yard!
The frozen Northland is frozen no more. In fact, summer is now just around the corner. In addition to birds, tourists are returning to the area! The NorthShore Scenic Railroad finished the restoration of Historic Steam Engine #28 (Duluth and Northeastern Railroad). While on a bike ride this afternoon up the NorthShore I chanced upon the steam engine out for a Sunday drive. While my ride was a workout, I always carry a camera with me. I adjusted my route and mileage and enjoyed a few miles of biking along #28! In a sure sign of Summer, I found some early blooming lupine … truly a Kodak Photo Moment when combined with the steam engine!
I also took a three videos. In the first video you get to hear the whistle. In the second one gets a close-up of the drive wheels, and in the final video the lupine appear. Ah … summer!