On Feb 23 with the storm moving out and another moving in from the south, I thought some raptors might start moving if it cleared in early afternoon. About 12:30 it got brighter and the clouds began to break up a little. Arrived at Mackinaw at 1:30 with a few small patches of blue starting to show. Saw 3 Rough-legged Hawks move through and then some grey moved in from the N.W. with light drizzle and a few snow flakes. That moved out and a Turkey Vulture moved up and cruised back and forth for a while and then probably went back south (smart bird). Steve Baker showed up about 2:45 in time to see the T.V. before it disappeared. I could see brighter skies to the N.W.; by 3:30 blue could be seen on the horizen to the N.W. With no raptors seen for the last 45 minutes I called it a day.
With continued spring like weather Steve Baker and I checked out Mackinaw City area thinking some raptors might follow the front that went through. After the clouds moved out, fog lifted and the sun started shining to the south I headed for Mackinaw. On arrival at 1 pm the area was fogged in; just before 2 pm the fog started clearing out and the sun began to shine. Two Hawks (probably Rough-legged) were seen but disappeared into the fog before giving an opportunity to ID them. Then it finished clearing and in the next 45 minutes 5 light phase and 1 dark phase Rough-legged Hawks moved up and went across the Straits. Then no raptors were seen till we quite at 3:30 pm.
Still really great seeing the Rough-legged moving, beautiful birds.
With the spring like temperatures Steve Baker and I thought it would be a good time to check for Raptors migrating across the Mackinac Straits. We did observations from the south side of the Recreation Center.
On Sat. Feb. 18 we observed from 1115 hrs to 1300 hrs; it was sunny with temp. about 39 degrees, west to southwest winds 15 to 20 mph. No Raptors were observed.
On Sunday Feb. 19 observations occurred from 1130 hrs to 1430 hrs with sunny skies, winds 5 to 10 mph from the west-northwest and 42 degrees. We observed 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 adult Bald Eagles and 1 adult Golden Eagle migrate north across the Straits. Several other Bald Eagles and 2 Red-tails were seen but did not cross the Straits. Slow but a nice start to the season.
With continued mild weather and moderate west to northwest winds there should be more Raptors moving north.
Kevin will be jealous.
Counts and Research to Begin Soon
After doing winter chores on his farm with cattle, goats, and chickens, Ed Pike reflects on the animals that interest him the most as Chair of the non-profit organization Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW). A tinge of jealousy comes through when he muses: “Far south of here, in warm Georgia or Costa Rica, birds of prey like Broad-winged Hawks and Ospreys are building strength so they can migrate north in two months.”
Pike is already preparing for their return. The first step was re-hiring Kevin Georg of Johnstown, Pennsylvania to conduct the seventh annual Hawk Count in Mackinaw City. The count begins on Sunday, March 5, with free public viewing behind the Recreation Complex off West Central Avenue. The best viewing times for Golden Eagles tend to be the first few weeks of March, after which Red-tailed Hawks and other species begin to pass. The hawk watch will go from 10 am to 4 pm every day. Guests are welcome to check www.mackinacraptorwatch.org and come anytime.
MSRW also will conduct spring owl research near Cheboygan, starting on March 20. Biologists Arthur Sanchez, Jr. from Arcata, California and Nick Alioto from Sunderland, Ontario have been contracted for this work. Pike is especially interested in what they discover, since the 560 owls banded near the Straits last fall was twice that of any other year. “Most juvenile owls of all species die during their first winter, so we are eager to see if high recruitment from the 2016 breeding season translates to more owls returning north in 2017.”
Lastly, Pike has hired a waterbird counter, Josh Jaeger from San Diego, California to be on duty at McGulpin Point in Mackinaw City before dawn every day starting on March 20 to identify and record the numbers of grebes, loons, and ducks.
Says Pike, “MSRW has been fortunate to recruit talented young field biologists who combine excellent training with commitment and eagerness to work in Northern Michigan’s rugged outdoor conditions. In return, we are helping them to gain experience and launch their careers in the profession.”
Kathy Bricker, Secretary of MSRW, welcomes spring for a related reason. She says, “Along with doing research, MSRW shares these magnificent birds with hundreds of guests, teaching people about bird migration and why geography has made the Straits so vital to birds and birders. Both the Sunrise Coast and the upcoming Sunset Coast Birding Trails include Mackinaw City, for good reason.” Nowhere else are hawks so readily seen within easy access to restaurants, hotels, and other amenities. “If it’s cold, people can even stay inside their heated cars.” Bricker reports that limited space is still available at the Mackinaw Raptor Fest on April 8 where people will see and learn more about Golden Eagles and other raptors.
Pike sums up, “Since MSRW was created in 2014, we have proven that the Straits of Mackinac ranks among the top migration funnels in the country for birds of prey. It’s vital to continue to monitor changes over time. To directly support the research or education work, people may make tax-deductible donations via our website or by check, or may order sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats, at www.mackinacraptorwatch.org.”