Dawn rises over the Straits of Mackinac. Slowly the birdsong begins to fill the air. Soon, from a tree limb in a nearby field, a perched Red-tailed Hawk takes flight. It soars, circling higher and higher above the field, using the updraft created by the warming air to lift it to staggering heights until it is finally lost in the clouds. More and more Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons soon join it in the sky, engaging in an aerial waltz that began in times long forgotten. A Common Loon cuts through the sky taking a direct route across the lakes. It has no fear of water; no need to climb to dizzying heights before slowly soaring over the straits. And all the time, the number birds circling in the air continues to grow. A boisterous trumpeting is heard in the distance. Soon a flock of fifty Sandhill Cranes comes into view, making their own way to the land beyond. And the number of raptors in the air continues to grow. They reach a number almost uncountable, before finally and without warning, one by one they begin to leave the dance. They glide off into the distance, desperate for the land on the other side of the perilous water. Some may loose courage and return, many find their way across, but some may find the distance too great. Soon the departed birds are replaced in the kettle with others awaiting their own chance to navigate their way to the breeding grounds. The dance continues hour after hour until the light begins to fade.
As the sun sets, the Hawks, Eagles and Falcons who have not found their chance to depart, settle back into perches to await another chance tomorrow. But now silent hunters begins leaving their own perches deep in the forests. They fly over the tree tops, making their own way to the straits. Unlike the earlier birds, these nocturnal creatures have no benefit of rising thermals to ease their passage across. But still, the urge to get to the breeding grounds compels them strongly. Suddenly, one of these hunters, a Northern Saw-whet Owl, hears the call of its own kind and dives back into the forest where mist nets are waiting for it. Once trapped, its health will be examined and it will be fitted a unique leg band before being released to continue its march onward, over the treacherous waters.
This is spring migration! Come soar with the Eagles! Come fly with Owls! Come witness the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch!