For the Birds Radio Program: Hawk Ridge Weekend 1988
(Recording of a Bald Eagle)
Last weekend was Hawk Ridge Weekend, bringing bird watchers to the Northland from as far away as Hawaii. Hundreds of birders escaped from the Twin Cities area on a temporary reprieve to thrill to the haunting sight of birds of wilderness gliding on thermals through the open sky. Although the winds were wrong for a big Broad-wing flight, lots of Red-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks and Ospreys courteously ignored the south and east winds to show off our little nature reserve to perfection. And along with the abundant sharpies, a crowd-pleasing Kestrel, Goshawk and three Cooper’s Hawks flew into the banding station nets so lots of people could get close looks before they were released.
All the people who come here from so far away to enjoy our natural pleasures make me realize how lucky I am to live here. We have so many riches in the Northland that we sometimes take it all for granted–like Crex Meadows, that lovely avian Mecca in Northwestern Wisconsin that attracts cranes, geese, and lots of nice warblers and sparrows. It’s a favorite stopover for people coming up from Illinois and southern Wisconsin. People who drove here from west of Grand Rapids talked enthusiastically about Pileated Woodpeckers swooping across the road, and Ruffed Grouse skulking along the highway. And of course everyone noticed our hawks. Broad-wings sitting on telephone poles along the highway, watching for a snake or frog to fuel their flight to Central America. Merlins, more abundant in St. Louis County now than anyone can remember, hunting and calling along Highway 61. Kestrels sitting on the wires in Northern Wisconsin farm country. Turkey Vultures gliding on thermals and updrafts from the Boundary Waters. And of course our supreme hawk, the Bald Eagle. It’s too early for the bulk of our eagle migration, but anyone’s blood is stirred by the sight of a majestic eagle perched atop a spruce tree against a crisp Northland sky–who needs migrants when our local eagles put on such a display?
I ate dinner Saturday night with our keynote speaker, Peter Dunne, a prolific writer and supreme birder from New Jersey. Hearing about Cape May stirred my blood–I’ve long dreamed of spending a fall migration in that incredible bird magnet. But when he talked about the clearcutting along most of the cape, the incredible development taking place there, the garbage floating onto the shores, I knew that the Northland is where I belong. Not that we are any higher-minded here than the people and industries in New Jersey. What is happening along the East Coast is happening here just the same, but so far on a mercifully smaller scale. Luxury condominiums on a sensitive shoreline are as great an outrage in Superior as they are on Cape May. Industrial waste is as disgusting flowing into the wetlands surrounding a Ready-mix plant as into New Jersey tidal flats. And shopping malls by any name built on wetlands have long-range, insidious effects, from the decimation of duck populations to the contamination of rivers and ground water. The very air we breathe in the Northland is growing more and more contaminated as our roads grow more and more congested. Development in any area is important for its people, but selling out the very resources that make us want to live here in the first place is insanity. When we hear from other people how beautiful our own little world is, I hope it motivates us to keep it that way always.
(Recording of a Bald Eagle)
This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”