Press Release, Spring Research Begins, March 2018

MSRW Spring Research Starts

The fifth year of raptor research has officially begun for the Mackinaw Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW). MSRW hires professional hawk watchers, owl banders, and waterbird counters to conduct research on migration numbers in the Mackinac Straits area.

The geography of Michigan makes the Straits a critical bird migration pathway, where thousands of birds converge during spring and fall migration to cross at the narrowest part of the Great Lakes. Every year since 2012, MSRW hawk counters have counted from 12,345 -50,399 raptors during spring migration. Researchers here have recorded the highest number of migrating Golden Eagles east of the Mississippi and the most Red-tailed Hawks in one day.

“It has been a somewhat slow and snowy start to the MSRW hawk watch season. Winds have been unfavorable and slowed down movement, but there are still raptors funneling through. I have counted 102 raptors since March 3,” says professional Raptor Counter Kevin Georg. He has returned from Pennsylvania for his 5th spring season as MSRW raptor counter. Georg commented that March and April are especially good times to come to the hawk watch site and see Golden Eagles. Weather permitting, the Hawk Watch site on Central Avenue in Mackinaw City is free and open to the public every day from 11 AM – 5 PM. Look for the Hawk Watch sign.

The nightly MSRW owl banding surveys started Wednesday, March 13th. Ed Pike, MSRW chair, commented, “It was a smooth start to the 2018 spring owl surveys.” Pike is overseeing two new MSRW hired owl banders and training them in the research protocol used at this site. Matthew Hanneman from Wisconsin is Lead Owl Bander, while Connor Vara from New York is Assistant Owl Bander.

The spring Waterbird survey begins Tuesday, March 20th at McGulpin Point outside Mackinaw City. MSRW has hired Adam Bradley of Nevada as counter, working every day. The waterbird count also is free and open to the public, from sunrise – 2:00 PM. In spring 2017, 39,386 total waterbirds of 34 different species were counted.

MSRW hosts the third annual Mackinaw Raptor Fest on April 6th-8th, 2018. “Anyone interested in birds will love this event. We have excellent speakers and field trips planned. Our raptor
counting site is right next door and we will have extra staff on hand to help people see and
identify the amazing birds of prey migrating through the Mackinac Straits area,” said Melissa
Hansen, a member of the MSRW Raptor Fest planning committee. Tickets are available for the
whole conference or just the banquet and live raptor program with Glen McCune.

Additional Owl Banding and Star programs are available on Friday, April 13th and Saturday April
14th at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, located three miles west of downtown
Mackinaw City. The suggested donation is $15 per person or $25 per family. This is an especially
popular field trip, and the additional program allows local people another chance to participate.
Registration for both the extra owl weekend and the Mackinaw Raptor Fest is open until March
24th, although spaces are filling quickly. To register or learn more,
visit www.mackinawraptorfest.org.

The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch conducts scientific studies of hawks, owls, and waterbirds
migrating through this region of northern Michigan, educates the public about them, and aids in conserving and protecting the resting and feeding stop-over habitat for birds of prey in the
Straits of Mackinac region. To learn more, visit the MSRW Facebook, Instagram pages
or www.mackinacraptorwatch.org for blogs, event dates, and support options.