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BEST PLACE TO BIRD-WATCH Minneapolis 2003 - Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Much as we like bird peeping, it is, frankly, a little frustrating at times. Take. Unless you've got top-grade binoculars and a degree in ornithology, it is like looking at the constellations--in general, you are just dumbly pretending to identify that which you really cannot. This is not a problem if you check out the annual raptor migration above Duluth. No serious ornithologist would put it this way, but this really is bird-watching for the nearsighted, with big, hard-to-mistake birds coming through in such huge numbers that anyone with a decent field guide will be able to identify them. From late August to early November, dozens of species of raptors--including osprey, golden eagles, turkey vultures, and peregrine falcons--pass overhead. In effect, they are funneled into this small patch of sky by the prevailing winds to the west and the barrier of Lake Superior to the east. Back in the bad old days, the local gunners took advantage of the mass concentration as an opportunity to sharpen their shooting skills. In one of Minnesota's most impressive natural spectacles, tens of thousands of broad-winged hawks blacken the skies over a one- or two-day period in mid-September. Given that the migration often overlaps with the north shore's peak fall colors, it is no wonder that Duluth has become a birding mecca.

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