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A book of poems about the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth, Minnesota with pen-and-ink drawings by local artist Penny Perry.
A book of poems about the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth, Minnesota with pen-and-ink drawings by local artist Penny Perry.
79 backers pledged $12,639 to help bring this project to life.

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Hawks on High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season 

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is about ten minutes from my home in Duluth, Minnesota, and I have been working on this book since September, 2017 when I visited Hawk Ridge for the first time. It was a stirring and magical experience. It made an indelible impression on me as it has done for thousands of visitors over the decades, many of whom return year after year from all over North America.

Releasing a raptor at Hawk Ridge never gets old! This sharp-shinned hawk has just been banded at the Hawk Ridge banding station and introduced to the morning's visitors. I am just about to release him. I was drawn to sharpies early on in the writing process because of their unique leg bone, the tarsometatarsus which you can learn more about in the poem by that name when you read my book.
Releasing a raptor at Hawk Ridge never gets old! This sharp-shinned hawk has just been banded at the Hawk Ridge banding station and introduced to the morning's visitors. I am just about to release him. I was drawn to sharpies early on in the writing process because of their unique leg bone, the tarsometatarsus which you can learn more about in the poem by that name when you read my book.

I was soon inspired to write about my experience. I wrote this first poem "Peregrine Over Hawk Ridge" in mid-October last season after catching a glimpse of the bird rocketing past a crowd of birders and disappearing down the ridge:

 In the video above, Jan Green, co-founder of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, mentions that the poem "Hawk Eye" is one of her favorites. Here's a shot I took of another sharp-shinned hawk that got me thinking about the sharp eyes of raptors: 

This is what is known as a "hatch-year" sharpie as its eyes have not turned red yet, and its breast is vertically streaked. Look at those eyes! Then remember them when you read "Hawk Eye" in my book!
This is what is known as a "hatch-year" sharpie as its eyes have not turned red yet, and its breast is vertically streaked. Look at those eyes! Then remember them when you read "Hawk Eye" in my book!

Here is one stanza from that poem: 

The poems began coming to me almost daily, and I decided to collect them in a book about the magic of a Hawk Ridge season. The Hawk Ridge staff has helped me willingly and steadily. Here I am with several of them on Halloween, the last day of the 2017 season. I had just released a newly banded rough-legged hawk! Can you tell by my smile?

Thank you SO much,  Clinton Nienhaus, Hannah Toutonghi, John Richardson, Janelle Long, Margie Menzies, and Bristol Underwood! You are all hawk whisperers!
Thank you SO much, Clinton Nienhaus, Hannah Toutonghi, John Richardson, Janelle Long, Margie Menzies, and Bristol Underwood! You are all hawk whisperers!

Duluth artist Penny Perry is collaborating with me on this book. Her artwork reflects her expertise in both drawing and birding! Here, she is working on the bald eagle that will be used as one of the premiums.

The drawing is of one of her favorite raptors, an osprey. It, too, will be used as a premium.
The drawing is of one of her favorite raptors, an osprey. It, too, will be used as a premium.

These birds are treasured even by non birding folks who come up just to see what the buzz is all about. My poems capture the small everyday miracles of migratory raptors and a few of their passerine "sidekicks" like a catbird here or a Lapland Longspur there. I want to get the reader as close as possible to these birds, their features, their long journeys, sometimes even their history.

This Northern Harrier, one of the rarer visitors at Hawk Ridge, was the inspiration for the poem "Harrier Brown" in the book.
This Northern Harrier, one of the rarer visitors at Hawk Ridge, was the inspiration for the poem "Harrier Brown" in the book.

There are visitors at Hawk Ridge from all over North America who make every day at Hawk Ridge a new day.

Travelers, families, local school groups, life listers, long-time local birders, inquisitive first-timers, the media, even passers by walking their dogs or out for a bike ride . . . my poems work to give you access points to the widest possible variety of the everyday miracles that occur at Hawk Ridge while acknowledging implicitly that there is no way to adequately capture them all.

Here are a few of the many jobs the Hawk Ridge staff members do during a typical day: 

Fall Count Director John Richardson has just transferred a sharpie to a nervous but delighted visitor. Freedom is just a toss away!
Fall Count Director John Richardson has just transferred a sharpie to a nervous but delighted visitor. Freedom is just a toss away!
Instruction takes many forms at Hawk Ridge. Education Manager Margie Menzies shows visitors how a sharp-shinned hawk's wings are built for maneuvering among trees and prepares a volunteer from the crowd for releasing the bird.
Instruction takes many forms at Hawk Ridge. Education Manager Margie Menzies shows visitors how a sharp-shinned hawk's wings are built for maneuvering among trees and prepares a volunteer from the crowd for releasing the bird.
Naturalist Andy Witchger shows this youngster how to imitate The Statue of Liberty just before releasing an adult sharp-shinned hawk.
Naturalist Andy Witchger shows this youngster how to imitate The Statue of Liberty just before releasing an adult sharp-shinned hawk.
Hawk Ridge Education Manager Clinton Nienhaus shows visitors the unique features of a hatch-year dark morph red-tailed hawk.
Hawk Ridge Education Manager Clinton Nienhaus shows visitors the unique features of a hatch-year dark morph red-tailed hawk.
Volunteer Counter Steve Kolbe teaches Advanced Hawk Watching in the Hawk Ridge Outdoor Classroom. Steve is a nighthawk expert.
Volunteer Counter Steve Kolbe teaches Advanced Hawk Watching in the Hawk Ridge Outdoor Classroom. Steve is a nighthawk expert.
The A-Team! Counters Stephen Nelson, Hannah Toutonghi, and John Richardson check each other's counts on a kettle of broad-winged hawks out over Lake Superior.
The A-Team! Counters Stephen Nelson, Hannah Toutonghi, and John Richardson check each other's counts on a kettle of broad-winged hawks out over Lake Superior.

I found a very competent and reputable publisher for my book, Mike Savage of Savage Press in Brule, Wisconsin. Mike has been supportive and approachable from the beginning. He has been publishing for more than twenty years, and his ideas and thoughtful problem-solving have been instrumental and inspiring to me.

My budget for Hawks on High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season:

$8,000 publishing

$2,500 promotion

$2,000 printing & framing of Penny's drawings for a book release exhibit 

I plan to release the book in mid-September next year and promote it first at Hawk Ridge during the hawk-watching season. Later that fall, I will travel to greater Minnesota and a few other hawk watching sites around the country.

Risks and challenges

Writing good poetry is always a challenge. Evoking, or as I say "capturing," the magic of such a unique place with its unique and highly seasonal activity adds to the challenge. Doing justice in the poems to the seventeen species of raptors plus more than a few passerine birds that the Hawk Ridge staff keeps track of, now THERE'S a REAL challenge! But it's a challenge I have embraced, a challenge I am ready for, a challenge the meeting of which I feel will open eyes, hearts and minds more fully to the special qualities and nuances of the Hawk Ridge experience.

I am nearly finished, but there are still a few species of hawks I have yet to write about, namely the wonderful golden eagle and the mysterious northern goshawk. Weather is always a question mark, and this fall, the weather has been less cooperative: cold, rainy, with too many southerly winds which deter the hawks from migrating. It isn't easy to stand up at Hawk Ridge in 35-mile-an-hour winds with snow, rain, or fog, but it is part of what the raptors have to deal with, and I do include references to our weather in the poems. I hasten to add, however, that no matter what the conditions are, I never return from a visit to Hawk Ridge without several new ideas for poems. Never!

I hope you'll support this book project. By doing so, you will be supporting Hawk Ridge's mission, its staff and visitors, and the raptors that continue their miraculous migration overhead, as they have for ages, here in Duluth and across North America. Thank you!

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    signed copy & thanks

    One copy of the book signed both by the author and the artist and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book

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    1 signed book, postcards & thanks

    One copy of the book signed by both the author and the artist, two raptor postcards, and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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    1 book, t-shirt, post card pack & thanks

    One copy of the book signed by both the author and the artist, a t-shirt featuring one of the drawings in the book, a post card pack, and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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    2 books, t-shirt, post cards & thanks

    One 8 x 10 print of one of the drawings from the book, two copies of the book signed by both the author and the artist, a tee shirt featuring one of the drawings in the book, a post card pack, and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    3 prints; 2 books, shirt, cards & thanks

    Three small framed individual prints of raptor heads (bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon), two copies of the book signed both by the author and the artist, a Hawk Ridge t-shirt featuring one of the drawings in the book, a post card pack, and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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    Eagle, bks, shirt, cards, m'ship, thanks

    Unframed bald eagle print; 3 copies of the book signed both by the author and the artist; a Hawk Ridge tee shirt featuring one of the drawings in the book, and a year's membership to the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, a post card pack, and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Eagle, bks, shirt, m'ship, cards, thanks

    Limited-edition print of Penny Perry's bald eagle framed by the artist herself; three copies of the book signed both by the author and the artist; a Hawk Ridge tee shirt featuring one of the drawings in the book, an individual membership to the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, a post card pack and an acknowledgment on the Thank You page at the back of the book.

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- (30 days)