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If you're planning a late trip to see raptors from Hawk Ridge in Duluth add an hour for a show of beautiful bird paintings by a man who formerly was the official counter of hawks on the ridge.

Karl Bardon, 56, known for his keen eye at distant identification of hawks and other birds, has transferred that skill to canvas.

His precision depicting birds is enhanced by his ability to hint at backgrounds and landscapes, the birds always foremost.

His show at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth is entitled "A Life of Birds II."

Bardon has been watching birds closely since he was a teen when birding with his father in North Oaks, the St. Paul suburb. His close attention has continued as a bird census counter in many migration locations.

He was at Hawk Ridge for 11 years. He has counted raptors during migration in Virginia, New York, Florida and Mexico. He has counted waterbirds in Michigan, and seabirds at Point Pinos in California.

"My summers are usually spent doing bird point counts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I've done four seasons of bird field work in Alaska," he said. (Point counts are important to bird conservation.)

He began field work while in college in the late 1980s. This was about the time he was working on his University of Minnesota degree in studio arts. He moved to Duluth in 2007 to work at Hawk Ridge.

Karl Bardon birding in India. Bardon flew to Panama City early this month to count migrating raptors for the Audubon Society of Panama. Overhead will be hundreds of thousands of North American raptors migrating to South America for the winter. The majority of the birds will be broad-winged hawks. “On my first day counting I saw over 50,000 broad-wings,” Bardon reported. In 2014 the count of all raptor species topped 2 million birds. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, Duluth, will take birders to Panama Oct. 29-Nov. 4 to watch the migration flights.
Karl Bardon birding in India. Bardon flew to Panama City early this month to count migrating raptors for the Audubon Society of Panama. Overhead will be hundreds of thousands of North American raptors migrating to South America for the winter. The majority...

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He paints with acrylics from his own photos, his field work providing many opportunities. "I have tens of thousands of bird and landscape photos," he told me in visits by phone and e-mail.

"The bird is usually the starting point for me," he said. "I use background to help convey what I am trying to say about the bird. Every bird is beautiful in its own way.

"There is also often a particular mood I am trying to express. In that way the background often ends up being a little more abstract or impressionistic," he said.

"I'm very interested in showing how birds are an integral part of their environment, and I love to find repeated patterns between the bird and the background, movement of the bird or particular patterns in plumage and shape," he said.

"I was always into birds but got really serious at age 15, and have birded nearly every day since," Bardon said.

His current show at the Duluth aquarium is his second there, and runs through Jan. 10. He has shown at Lizzard's Art Gallery in Duluth, at the Jaques Gallery in Aitkin, and at the Vancouver Art Space in Washington state. His work can be seen at karlbardon.com. Originals and giclee prints are for sale.

His next field assignment will be this October and November in Panama.

Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at woodduck38@gmail.com.