black vulture was seen at Hawk Ridge in Duluth. Only eight have been seen in Minnesota, but it’s a species moving northward. Last year, about 40,000 common nighthawks (not raptors) passed over Hawk Ridge. 

Nighthawks look skinny in flight and a white stripe on each wing makes it appear as if their wings have windows. Hawk Ridge gets about 18,000 human visitors each fall. 

Raptors migrate from as far the Arctic to wintering areas as distant as South America. Reluctant to cross a large body of water, they funnel down the north shore of Lake Superior, riding thermals and updrafts created by the shore’s topography. Hawks begin migrating past Hawk Ridge in mid-August and continue through November. 

Tens of thousands of broad-winged hawks fly over Hawk Ridge during September 10-25. October is good for viewing the migration of eagles, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks and northern goshawks. 


“My old hummingbird feeder has no red on it. How can I attract hummingbirds to it?” Attach a red ribbon or place red geraniums near it.

A Morristown resident asked about the old saying, “You can catch a bird by putting salt on its tail.” Maybe someone thought salting a bird’s tail startled it so it might be caught. A neighbor boy thought salt contained magical powers that cast spells over birds. His sister told us the salt interfered with the bird’s ability to fly. There is no truth to be found in any of those beliefs. If you find yourself close enough to salt a bird’s tail, you wouldn’t need salt to catch it.

 “Do purple martins eat many mosquitoes?” They could, but so could I. Neither of us eat many. Martins forage where and when mosquitoes aren’t. They prefer feeding dragonflies and damselflies to their chicks. The larger insects are more filling.

 “What is the most common bird in the US?” It’s likely the domestic chicken. 

Things to look for

1. Migrating monarch butterflies, shorebirds and confusing fall warblers.

2. Red colors on maples, sumac, Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Leaves of three, let it be-warns us of poison ivy. Virginia creeper is five-leafed ivy.

3. Yellow colors on basswood, cottonwood and green ash.

4. Jerusalem artichokes, asters and Canada goldenrod bloom.

5. Giant puffballs emerge.

6. Milkweed pods open and their seeds are shed. 

Al Batt is a syndicated columnist. For questions or comments about this article, contact Al at


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