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.
The first measurable snow of the season expected later today. Thus, it was appropriate that I found a small flock of five snow geese in Two Harbors, Minnesota! (white and dark morphs next to the Lighthouse).
If you want to look for these geese … in addition to the spot where I located them, check out the golf course, Burlington Bay, and the RV municipal campground. The geese tend to move around a bit to these spots and a few others.
Photo conditions were a challenge … already a cold drizzle coming in off Lake Superior.
Anyone who has followed my blog for a while should understand I love this land, and its people. For me, northeastern Minnesota is God’s Country! In fact, two days ago I was elected board chair of Destination Duluth. This 501c organization exists to encourage people, businesses and organizations to move to Duluth. If you like my images, you must visit Destination Duluth’s Facebook page (no account required), or install our IOS / Android app. Both resources have the work of phenomenal Northland photographers, and in the case of the app, many other items which will help you enjoy our area … better yet, no ads or sales pitches.
Although the birding has been a bit slow over the past week, the ability to enjoy this land, its wilderness, and beauty have been frequent. Two nights ago was the 41st anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot song). Each year on the anniversary, Splitrock Lighthouse’s beacon is lit in honor of the 29 men who lost their lives.
After enjoying a late night photographing the lighthouse, I was still up early the next two days. Yesterday Mr. Timberwolf was nice enough to pose for me at sunrise. One may distinguish a wolf from a coyote by its rounded ears, and the fact that it’s just plain bigger.
This morning while putting out my feeders on Old Vermilion Trail for the winter season, I enjoyed seeing many grouse. While not a scientific study, I am convinced the numbers of grouse are way up and we are near the high of their cycle. The numbers of lynx, bobcat and foxes should also now increase due to increased numbers of prey! If you wish to visit my winter feeders on Old Vermilion Trail (a nice dirt road just north of Duluth), follow this link for a more detailed description and map! Do you think grouse are well camouflaged?!
Finally an image of four freighters anchored out in Lake Superior. The time was about 45 minutes before sunrise this morning. Once again, I love this land and its peoples!