For the Birds Radio Program: Ode to the Lakewood Pumping Station

Original Air Date: Oct. 7, 1987

Spending time doing “Dawn Dickey Duty” at the Lakewood Pumping Station set Laura on a poetic bent. (3:46)

Duration: 3′45″


(Recording of a Blue Jay)

Fall migration over Duluth has been a mixed bag this year. We haven’t had too many good days for Broad-winged Hawks—a rainy spell between September 16 and 20 sent most of them south along a different route. Between September 17 and 19, only 35 hawks were seen in total at Hawk Ridge. Fortunately, things improved on Sept. 20, when 1,125 hawks were counted. Two peregrines flew past on the 23rd, and that night 34 Saw-whet Owls were banded at the Hawk Ridge Banding Station. Parasitic Jaegars turned up in Duluth this season, along with whimbrels, red knots, a possible Mew Gull, and Minnesota’s earliest record ever of Bohemian Waxwings.

This year’s Blue Jay migration has to be one of the best on record. Two weeks ago Parker Backstrom counted 6,000 from the Lakewood Pumping Station, up the shore aways from the ridge. There have been several days when the Blue Jay count at the pumping station has been greater than 1,000. Duluth Audubon has been maintaining a systematic count at the pumping station all season–this count is usually referred to as “Dawn Dickey Duty.” I counted exactly 5,300 Broadwings on Sept. 13 at the pumping station, and the climax came last Wednesday, when Mike Hendrickson counted 26,100 dickey birds, including 10,247 robins, 10,500 warblers, and 1800 Blue Jays.

The pumping station is holding its own against Hawk Ridge in Dickey birds if not in hawks, and so it seems fitting that we pay tribute to the pumphouse with this little poem:

Ode to the Lakewood Pumping Station

Where can we gawk
At thousands of hawks
Till we reel in quantification?
If we’re not at the Ridge,
Then we’re sitting on the ledge
Of the Lakewood Pumping Station.

All the time water flows
Right under our toes
Bubbling chlorine and fluoridation.
But our thoughts are on high
As hawks fill the sky
O’er the Lakewood Pumping Station.

The lake dappled trees
And a brisk autumn breeze
Lift non-birders’ hearts in elation.
But the earth disappears
As an Osprey nears
At the Lakewood Pumping Station.

We hear a bluebird’s late song
And yellow-rumps “tch” along
To a longspur syncopation.
The chlorine smell wafts steady
While a Merlin perches, ready,
At the Lakewood Pumping Station.

My dog chews on sticks;
Palm Warblers rest on bricks
‘Lighting just out of reach at my station.
They bob tails lazily
As sky shimmers hazily
At the Lakewood Pumping Station.

A sharpie shows mettle
Dive-bombing a kettle.
Jays sneak by in trepidation.
The broad-wings stream out
On their Pan-American route
From the Lakewood Pumping Station.

The best are the days
Of a thousand Blue Jays
And broadwings without hesitation.
And we grow even merrier
Sighting eagles and harriers
At the Lakewood Pumping Station.

Each hour or so
Our weather radio
Drones the scientific quantification
Of air pressure and humidity,
Temp, wind, and visibility
At the Lakewood Pumping Station.

If the wind is northwest,
Hawk watching is best,
And our hearts swell with expectation
Of a peregrine ripping
Past broadwings and zipping
O’er the Lakewood Pumping Station.

But if wind’s from the east,
Hawk flights are the least,
And bird-counting takes a vacation.
We watch cars on the road,
And then write an ode
To the Lakewood Pumping Station.

(Recording of a Blue Jay)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”