Field Biology

Bethany Hawkwatch

Bethany's location overlooking the Minnesota River Valley affords excellent viewing opportunities for migrating birds. Over 175 bird species have been recorded on campus and raptors like eagles, falcons, hawks, and vultures migrate along the river corridor. Since 2004, when data was first collected, over 13,000 raptors have been observed passing over the Bethany campus during their fall migration. The Bethany Hawkwatch averages over 1,300 raptors each season between August 15 and December 15.

In 2010, the Bethany Hawkwatch joined Hawkcount which is a clearing house for data from across the country. That data can then be used for determining the health of raptor populations across North America. Check out the Bethany Hawkwatch website or download the 2015 Bethany Hawkwatch Report

Image Gallery: Bethany students visit the North Shore to band and release birds

Bird Watching Trip

Professor Chad Heins’ Avian Ecology class had the opportunity in February to visit northern Minnesota, including an evening spent birdwatching in Duluth, Minnesota and a day and a half exploring the world-famous Sax-Zim Bog northwest of Duluth. 

Friday night’s search for owls in the Duluth-Superior Harbor yielded four Snowy Owls, including a young female unsuccessfully pursuing a Common Goldeneye right past their van. They would encounter three more of these northern visitors from the tundra the next day in the bog where the owls sat in the open for the students to gawk at, often at close range.

Saturday morning’s low temperature hovered around -20°F in the Sax-Zim Bog as the students began their search for northern forest birds and boreal species that reach the southern limit of their range (Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Black-billed Magpie, etc.). In the morning, students were treated to views of a Northern Hawk Owl hunting from the top of a Black Spruce, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks visiting birdfeeders, and a cooperative Northern Saw-whet Owl sunning itself on the outer branches of a pine tree. When temperatures rose above zero into the teens in the afternoon, the group donned snowshoes and tramped through a section of bog looking for Black-backed Woodpeckers, Snowshoe Hares, and Ruffed Grouse. They ended the day by feeding Black-capped Chickadees out of their hands and catching a glimpse of a Great Gray Owl hunting voles in the last light of the day. 

Experience and opportunity: Two things you will find in the biology major at Bethany Lutheran College. 

Image Gallery