Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Bluffs 1973

Mississippi Bluffs above Potosi, WI

I was fortunate enough to be part of a study on Raptors migrating along the Mississippi flyway. I spent time with a budding ornithologist and biology fanatic and I learned more from him then any classroom. It was a real gift. We spent hours on the bluffs scanning the skies for Redtails, Broadwings, Roughlegs and any other hawks, falcons, or eagles that might happen along. I learned to distinguish between the V shaped wings and rocky flight of a vulture and the straight and level of an Eagle, both large birds. The study did wonders for my vision as well – we had a running game to see who could spot and identify a migrating bird first, it got to the point that I could even see some of the monarch butterflies migrating, though I had to use the binoculars on those. Broadwings apparently eat the Monarchs as sort of an in-flight snack on their way South.

Raptors are the sports cars of the bird world. We always referred to other birds as “Dickie Birds” barely worth notice and scorned those who did, although with Christmas counts you couldn’t be quite so egalitarian and had to break down and ID the little guys too. We stayed at a friend’s house in Poynette and set up a mist net to trap small winter residents and came up with chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows and finches. One Chickadee pecked my thumb mercilessly as I tried to free it from the mist net. I also learned that the bird’s distress call (they were none to happy being enmeshed in the net) is Omni directional – it sound as though the call is all around all around you. That keeps any predators from locating the bird. No harm came to the little guys; they were measured, banded, and sent on their way.

The ultimate in Migration watching had to be Hawk Ridge in Duluth Minnesota where “kettles” of hawks boiled across the sky. There could be several different species all sharing the same rising air current or kettle. I saw my first Merlin as well as Harriers, and falcons. Just being up on Hawk Ridge in the Fall is a treat, the colors are fantastic and the view breath taking.

Time passes as is its wont and I probably couldn’t tell a hawk from an owl at this point (that’s not entirely accurate) but I have some fond memories of those times and the beauty of the Mississippi bluffs is etched deeply and irrevocably in my mind

6 Comments:

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

very beautiful narration...birds of a feather ha :)

Keshi.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger MARYBETH said...

Hi,
Come over and see the Amazing visitors who have graced our big old tree in the California desert!
Namaste,
MB

 
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