Monthly Archives: August 2019

Hawk Count-August 26th Through 29th

Raptors: There’ve been two poor days and two good days. The good days have been completely dominated by Bald Eagles. August 27th tallied 33 Bald Eagles for the day, including 21 birds in a period of one hour. Today, August 29th, tallied 44 Bald Eagles, including 29 birds in one hour. Interestingly, these two days both had their Bald Eagle daily peak occur between 10 AM and 11 AM. Last season, 74% of all Bald Eagles tallied occurred between the hours of 11 AM and 2 PM. However, the next biggest hour for Bald Eagles last year (the 4th best hour) occurred between 10 AM and 11 AM (and contained 13% of all Bald Eagles recorded). Additionally, the hour between 10 AM and 11 AM contained the highest number of Bald Eagles in a one-hour span last season, with 43 birds (tallied on September 22nd). It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out the rest of this season and if the hours between 11 AM and 2 PM once again become the 3 best hours for Bald Eagles. It was the case for the first two notable Bald Eagle days this season (August 20th and August 25th).

Other than Bald Eagles, not much has been moving through. Northern Harriers have been seen most days, and the 5 birds tallied today may be one of the top 5 days this season.

Bald Eagles have been then highlight thus far
Northern Harriers had their best day of the season so far, with 5 birds recorded

Non-raptors: Not much to speak of. Around half a dozen Common Loons have flown over most days. 30 Barn Swallows on the 26th was the most this season. A Hooded Merganser was on the lake a few days, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been crossing the lake daily, albeit in rather small numbers.

Common Loons are daily

Monarchs: Monarchs continue to pass through in very small numbers, with a peak of 33 on the 26th, during the period. Today only tallied 14. The way the Monarchs have been recently, it’s hard to believe that a year ago today tallied 5,484 Monarchs ( However, there is still hope that good numbers may be coming in the near future.

Best of the next 5 days:

Raptors-It’s quite hard to predict which will be the next best day in the near future. Tomorrow is calling for strong west-northwest winds which could result in the best day so far this season, or be mostly a bust. After that, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday have rather similar forecasts, with light, mostly southerly winds. Every day we get closer to Tuesday has increased the chance for rain and/or thunderstorms that day, so that day can be ruled out. It does seem like the next 4 days will have similar results to the last 3 days of August last year ( There should be an increase in the number of Turkey Vultures, Osprey, Northern Harriers, Sharpies, Broad-wingeds, and Kestrels. There should be at least one more good day of Bald Eagles during this period as well.

Monarchs-Likewise, it’s hard to predict what the Monarchs will do, but the next 5-8 days should set the tone for how the rest of the season will play out for them. The two best days last year occurred during light, mostly northerly winds. In fact, there was even a rain until 11 AM on the peak Monarch day last year. Tomorrow has a northerly component to the wind, but it’s much stronger. 100+ Monarchs/day were moving last year during this time of year on light, southerly winds, which is what will mostly be the case Saturday through Monday. Longer forecasts are all showing Wednesday and Thursday to be when the next cold front/northerly winds occur. If these forecasts hold true, then we will know by the end of Thursday (September 5th) if Monarchs will be moving through in numbers similar to last year.

Hawk Count-August 21st Through 25th

Porcupine on the morning of the 22nd

Raptors: Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures have been steady and in fairly good, early season numbers. Everything else, not so much. The northerly winds predicted for 3 days straight didn’t occur for more than a few hours in a row, nor were they nearly as strong as predicted. The first Northern Harrier and Red-shouldered Hawk of the season headed out over the lake on the 21st and the first migrant American Kestrel was seen on the 24th. Including non-migrants, 8 raptor species have been present most days. The first push of Turkey Vultures occurred on the 23rd, with 27 birds recorded. On the 22nd, 31 Bald Eagles were in view at one time at one point in the day. Unfortunately, most of these stayed to the northwest on this day. Today, however, Bald Eagles had a nice pulse of migration. Twenty-four Bald Eagles flew south in 35 minutes (12:00-12:35) and ended the day with a total of 31 birds. Similar to last year in August/September, (and this post 4-10 Bald Eagles were ‘kettled up’ in the northwest and then streamed across the straits in groups of 3-5 birds. 1-2 local Peregrine Falcons have been present on a few days.

Peregrine Falcons

Non-raptors: Not much has been moving through in any kind of numbers, but there has been decent diversity. A Hooded Merganser was on the lake for most of the day on the 23rd. A Sora briefly flew up out of a ditch on the same day and two Sandhill Cranes have been daily since this day as well. Shorebirds of interest the last few days include Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs. Common Loons have been flying over most days. A couple of Alder and Least Flycatchers have been calling in the mornings. Two Marsh Wrens were present the morning of the 23rd. A House Finch flew east over the point this morning. A few Bobolinks and Indigo Buntings have been streaming over some days. Warblers have been disappointing so far in terms of numbers and daily diversity. Most interesting has been an Ovenbird and two Northern Waterthrushes.

Monarchs: Monarchs have been slow the last 3 days. However, 123 and 202 were recorded on the 22nd and 21st respectively, during count hours.

Best of the next 5 days: Strong southerly winds are predicted Monday-Thursday which is likely to result in few birds and Monarchs moving. If the forecast holds true, Friday will be the best day of the next 5. There are currently conflicting forecasts, but one forecast has moderate to strong west-northwest winds.

Thank You Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation

Pictured Left to Right: Rich Couse (MSRW), Sue Stewart (MSRW), Kassia Perpich (PHSACF), Sarah Ford (PHSACF), Kathy Bricker (MSRW), Melissa Hansen (MSRW), Ed Pike (MSRW).  

This past April the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation (PHSACF) awarded MSRW a $10,000 grant which was partly enabled by the Erickson Family Fund and the Ann K. Irish Charitable Fund. Also, the Marana Webber Tost Charitable Fund and Fund for the Community added another $1,000 to that amount. It has been inspiring to have such generous support from the local community and moves us in so many ways towards being able to accomplish our goals: Sharing the miracle of bird migration at the Straits through research and education. PHSACF is staffed by some of the most caring and motivated people I have ever met and wish to give them a heartfelt thank you!

Richard Couse, Executive Director MSRW

Hawk Count-Opening Day at Pointe LaBarbe-August 20th

It was an excellent opener for the season, despite the mostly southwest winds. This year, we are starting 5 days earlier and ending 4 days earlier. In other words, the season will be from August 20th to November 10th, at the same location as last fall, Pointe LaBarbe. Last August, in just one week of counting, 339 raptors comprised of 12 species were tallied. Three consecutive days of 75 or more raptors, including one day with 10 raptor species, certainly exceeded expectations for so early in the season. Additionally, 4 species had (or tied) their seasonal high counts on August 29th alone (Osprey-3, Northern Harrier-10, Cooper’s Hawk-3, and Broad-winged Hawk-63).

Raptors: It was rather incredible to reach double-digit raptor species (10) on the first day of the count. However, just 6 of these species were actual migrants, with the other 4 species behaving like local birds. Bald Eagles were the definite highlight of the day, with 23 migrants recorded. The first good day for Bald Eagles last year wasn’t until August 31st, with 44 birds recorded, so it’s great to already be ahead of pace of last year’s excellent Bald Eagle total.

Other migrant raptors recorded today included: Turkey Vulture-2, Osprey-1, Sharp-shinned Hawk-3, Broad-winged Hawk-1, and Red-tailed Hawk-3. Other raptors seen today included Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Merlin.

Non-raptors: The clear highlight came yesterday, the 19th, in the form of a female Orchard Oriole. This is a rather rare bird in the Upper Peninsula, particularly in the fall, and will be one of the highlights of the season. Other highlights the past two days include Common Loon-2, Red-necked Grebe25, Pectoral Sandpiper-1, Solitary Sandpiper-4, Lesser Yellowlegs-2, Great Egret-1, Bank Swallow-3, Cliff Swallow-6, Gray Catbird-1, Brown Thrasher-1, Purple Finch-2, and moderate numbers of warblers.

Orchard Oriole
Orchard Oriole

Monarchs: Only 2 were detected yesterday and just 9 today

Best of the next 5 days: The next three days are as good as one could hope for this early in the season-three days in a row of northerly winds. It’s hard to say which day is likely to be the best but it seems like Thursday, then Friday, and then Wednesday may be the order. Any, or all, of these days could see 75+ raptors as well as a dramatic increase in the number of Monarchs migrating past.