Author Archives: Josh Haas

Press Release, Birds Set Spring Records, June 2018

http://wearecanaries.com/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://wearecanaries.com/?portfolio=when-the-body-says-no-exploring-the-stress-disease-connection-by-gabor-mate-m-d click for more BIRDS SET RECORDS THIS SPRING

The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) hawk count set two records this year in tallying migrating birds in the Straits. The large tally is attributed to a delayed migration from bouts of poor flying conditions that stalled migration for many days.

On May 22, counter Kevin Georg from Johnston, Pennsylvania tallied 17,022 Broad-winged Hawks, more than half the total seen in 2015, which boasted the highest numbers of the ten years of counting. The month before, on April 19, Georg recorded 5,360 Red-tailed Hawks, the most seen on a single spring day from all the hawk counts across North America.

“While Red-tails are the most common hawk in the country, watching that many circle overhead was mind-boggling,” explained Georg. “Already this year, I have counted 12,800 of this species. Since the immature birds are just beginning to migrate, I feel confident about passing the previous maximum count of Red-tails set at this site of 14,105. I expect to a new site record for Broad-wings as well.”

For the fifth year, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) contracted with biologists and specialists from around the country to study north-bound migration of selected species in the Straits area. The spring Hawk watch and Waterbird count are conducted in Mackinaw City, while Owl research takes place in Cheboygan.

The Hawk Watch lasts until June 5 and is free to the public. The geography of Michigan funnels hawks to the Straits for the shortest crossing to the north, since it takes less energy for the birds to fly over land than over Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. Visitors will find the hawk watchers and an informational kiosk with a tribute to major donors off Central Avenue behind the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex. On weekends, thanks to a grant from the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Hawk Watch Greeter Megan Sorensen from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan welcomes guests with hawk identification sheets and loaner binoculars.

On May 15, MSRW ended the 26th year of owl research near Cheboygan

Biologists Matthew Hanneman from Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Connor Vara from the Adirondack region of New York captured, banded, and released 178 Northern Saw-whet Owls, one Long-eared Owl, and two Barred Owls. The age and sex information they collected on each bird helps conservationists understand population dynamics.

The third spring of waterbird research, conducted by contractor Adam Bradley from Reno, Nevada, also concluded May 15. His work took on extra potential significance after the spring spill of hundreds of gallons of dielectric fluid in the Straits of Mackinac near the Bridge. Bradley recorded unusually prolonged preening by deep-diving Red-breasted Mergansers on April 5, the only time he observed this during spring migration. The birds, reliant on functional wings, run their bill along feathers to clean them and re-align the matching barbs and hooks that operate like velcro. Bradley, an expert observer who spent eight hours on the waterfront every day, alerted response agency representatives to this behavior so they could investigate further whether it was related to the spill.

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, or www.mackinacraptorwatch.org for maps, blogs, event dates, support options, and link to photos of Mackinac Raptor Fest, the primary educational event held the first weekend of every April.

Press Release, Golden Eagle Banquet Keynote, April 2015

Invitation to Golden Eagle Banquet Keynote Speech by Mark Martell on April 8 and Owl Banding and Stars on April 15

Greetings! Spring migration is well underway now, after some rough weather with lots of precipitation. So far, the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch has tallied 145 Bald Eagles, 125 Golden Eagles, 59 Rough-legged Hawks, and 584 Red-tailed Hawks along with some Red-shouldered Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins, and Turkey Vultures. In his first week, the Waterbird Counter, Josh Jaeger, has recorded Long-tailed Ducks and White-winged Scoters as well as Mergansers, Scaup, Buffleheads, and more. Among the ten owls already captured at Cheboygan State Park’s research site was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl previously banded in central Indiana in 2014.

The Mackinaw Raptor Fest on April 7 to 9 is quickly approaching its attendance limit, with more than 150 people attending both daytime sessions and the banquet. It promises to be a memorable weekend.

Limited space is still available, especially for the banquet on Saturday, April 8. To inquire, please email Kathy Bricker at kathyhomeaccount@gmail.com before Tuesday night, April 4. The cost for just the banquet is $30 and may be paid on site by people who are not attending the Fest. The doors at St. Anthony’s Church in Mackinaw City open at 4:45 pm, where you will have the chance to buy some raptor-themed apparel and submit the winning bid on a couple dozen excellent Silent Auction items. Dinner will begin at 5:15 pm. See www.mackinawraptorfest.org for the Merchandise description and photographs.

We also have a few openings left for the April 15 Owl Banding and Star evening event at Headlands Dark Sky Park, the only chance in 2017 for this experience. We will target Northern Saw-whet Owls, with other species possible as well. Capturing owls on any particular night is hoped for but not guaranteed. However, this should be prime time for owl migration. Learning about owls will alternate with indoor and outdoor sessions with stars, by Kathy Bricker. To inquire or register, email Kathy Bricker. To support the owl research, a donation to MSRW of $15 per person is requested.

The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch reports that spring migration has gained steam after a stretch of unfavorable rainy weather for flying. Three types of bird research have launched. Ed Pike, Chair, explains that now that the ice has moved out of the Straits near McGulpin Point, Mackinaw City, the contracted Waterbird Counter Josh Jaeger works from sunrise to early afternoon. Jaeger has seen the first Long-tailed Ducks and White-winged Scoters of the year, as well as Mergansers, Scaup, Buffleheads, and a few Redheads still lingering from the winter.
According to Pike, another team of researchers is beginning to work on night-time migrants. “Arthur Sanchez and Nick Alioto have captured, measured, and banded ten Northern Saw-whet Owls at Cheboygan State Park, including one foreign re-cap. Another biologist had banded this bird in central Indiana in 2014.” Pike explains that bird banding is a time-tested, safe, and moderately low-cost method of learning such information on age and movements of birds.

The public is welcome to visit Mackinaw City’s Waterbird site from dawn to 2 p.m., and the Hawk Watch from 10 to 4 p.m., to learn about the birds and their research. So far, counters have tallied 145 Bald Eagles, 125 Golden Eagles, 59 Rough-legged Hawks, and 584 Red-tailed Hawks. Other raptors seen include Red-shouldered Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins, and Turkey Vultures. Up to 20 species of daytime raptors may pass through the Straits, which holds records for the numbers of Red-tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles.

“Golden Eagles excite many people more than other species, so this year we chose to feature them at the Mackinaw Raptor Fest.” says Kathy Bricker, Secretary of MSRW. “We have space still available at the keynote presentation and the banquet, so offer the public as well as Fest registrants the chance to hear Mark Martell talk about his research on these cousins of Bald Eagles.”

For twelve years, Martell directed Bird Conservation at Audubon Minnesota where he studied both Golden and Bald Eagles. He became an expert on the eastern population of Golden Eagles, using radio telemetry to track their movements.

Golden Eagles occur in more places than any other species of eagle. Common in western U.S. and the national bird of Mexico, they also live in Europe and have been named the official national animal of Albania, Germany, Austria, and Kazakhstan. Golden Eagles prey mostly on small mammals like rabbits, which they can see from a mile away. Unlike the fish-eating Bald Eagles that often dive into the water for their prey, Goldens have feathers covering their legs. Like other large raptors, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss, wind turbines, and poisoning by lead shot.

To inquire about the Golden Eagle program and banquet on Saturday, April 8, email kathyhomeaccount@gmail.com before Tuesday night, April 4. The cost for the banquet is $30
and may be paid on site by people who are not attending the Fest. The doors at St. Anthony’s Church in Mackinaw City open at 4:45 pm, with dinner catered by Audie’s served at 5:15 pm.
Bricker continues: “Of additional interest, we have a few openings for the Owl Banding and Star evening event on Saturday, April 15 at Headlands Dark Sky Park. We will target Northern Saw-whet Owls. Learning about owls will alternate with sessions on Making Friends Among Stars.” This event will be held regardless of the weather. To support the owl research, a donation to MSRW of $15 per person is requested. Registration is required through email kathyhomeaccount@gmail.com.

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.

Press Release, Registration Open for Raptor Fest, January 2018

Registration Open for Mackinaw Raptor Fest

The nonprofit group Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch has opened registration for the popular Mackinaw Raptor Fest. Held April 6th-8th in Mackinaw City, this weekend of activities promotes public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds in the Straits region. The Fest attracts 150 to 200 people to the Straits of Mackinac to experience its unique bird migration.
Available events include opportunities to view hawks, owls, and waterbirds with qualified interpreters, a meet-and-greet reception, classroom-style presentations by regional experts, a live raptor program, a hawk identification film, birding field trips, and a banquet catered by Audie’s of Mackinaw City.

According to Fest Chair Kathy Bricker, “This year for the first time we will focus on owls. We offer different programs each Fest so people can return every year and learn new things.” Bricker said wildlife artist and falconer Glen McCune will share one of his live hawks in a special session before the Fest banquet on Saturday. Local residents may purchase a standalone ticket for this evening. “Seeing these birds in person amazes even people who are not bird watchers,” says Bricker.

The 2018 Raptor Fest keynote speaker is Gene Jacobs, owner of Raptor Services consulting firm and Director of Linwood Springs Research Station in Wisconsin. Jacobs will present Snowy Owl Winter Habitat Use based on his research using solar-powered transmitters that record owl locations. During break-out sessions, Jacobs will describe his studies on Merlins and Red-Shouldered Hawks and reveal information gained over years of banding Northern Saw-whet Owls.

In the morning plenary session of April 7th, Josh Haas, of Hawks on the Wing, will present a video to teach raptor identification. Haas will offer optional sessions on Bird Photography for Beginners and the Special Challenges of Photographing Hawks on the Wing. Other break-out sessions feature excellent speakers on Boreal Owls, the science and magic of migration, waterbird migration over Lake Superior, and American Kestrels.

On the evenings of April 6th and 7th, Owl Banding and Constellation Discovery will take place at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City. Registrants will have a chance to
see migrating owls being caught, examined, and released from banding nets, as well as to learn
about the spring constellations.

On Sunday April 8th, Steve Baker and Leonard Graf will take people to observe a courtship lek of Sharp-tailed Grouse. This field trip will allow attendees to witness the courtship ritual of these grouse, including dancing and calls. Leader Darrell Lawson offers a late winter birding in the Upper Peninsula with possible sightings of Snowy Owls, Northern Shrikes, Rough-legged Hawks, and other winter migrants and residents throughout Mackinac County.

Raptor Fest 2018 includes free hawk count viewing daily for both registrants and the general
public from 10 am to 4 pm. At the 2017 Raptor Fest, 1,366 raptors of 12 different species were
observed, including 1,104 Red-tailed Hawks, 24 Bald Eagles, 15 Rough-legged Hawks and 165
Turkey Vultures. The free waterbird count is open from sunrise to 2 pm.

The full conference with Friday night reception, banquet and live raptor show costs $65. There
are partial conference options available including: Friday night reception and conference only,
for $30; or Live Raptor Show and Banquet only, for $40. Field trips cost $15. Limited
scholarship funds are available for interested students.

Bricker adds, “To meet local demand for the popular experience with owls at Headlands, MSRW
has added the nights of April 13th and 14th. Registration is required for this extra event, since
space is limited.”

Registration for both the extra owl weekend and the April 6 to 8 Mackinaw Raptor Fest is open
now. 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.

Press Release, Live Birds of Prey Program, May 2017

Live Birds of Prey Wings of Wonder presentation at North Central Michigan College

Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch will host Empire-based wildlife rehabilitator Rebecca Lessard and several live birds of prey Saturday, May 6 in the library conference room of North Central Michigan College. Sessions with Lessard, director and founder of Wings of Wonder, will take place at 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.

Wings of Wonder is a wild bird rescue organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of birds of prey as well as rehabilitating injured or sick birds. Attendees will learn about adaptations that make birds of prey unique, as well as environmental issues that impact them. Sessions will feature live birds in addition to a hands-on display of raptor-related artifacts such as wings, feathers, feet, and pellets. Lessard will answer audience questions and have Wings of Wonder merchandise for sale.

Attendees are encouraged to bring cameras to this excellent opportunity to learn about and meet some of Wings of Wonder’s educational ambassador birds. This is a free event made possible by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

Press Release, Bird of Prey Support, April 2017

Foundation supports education about birds of prey

Last weekend at the Mackinaw Raptor Fest in Mackinaw City, the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch presented its Wind Under Wings Award for significant contributions to the study and public education about hawks and owls.  This year, the award went posthumously to Stanley and Muriel McRae and was accepted by the McRaes’ niece, Susan Hayes Affholter.

“Stanley McRae was known as the hawk man of Mackinaw City,” explained his friend and neighbor Richard Riker in a message to MSRW.  “When he was alive, whoever saw the hawks first would call others.”

Affholter told how her uncle was a big man, in heart as well as in size.  “He did everything he could for the people of Mackinaw City.  In the 1990s, he started a Hawk Fest to encourage visitors during the springtime.  He and Aunt Muriel would have been very excited to see how this idea has taken off now with thousands of guests who come to watch the eagles and hawks.”

At the Mackinaw Raptor Fest, attended by 170 people, MSRW also recognized the vital role of the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation in educational outreach.  This year the Foundation is funding a Raptor Naturalist position to help visitors better understand the birds and their migration.  Frances Whalen, a biology graduate from Western Michigan University from Kalamazoo, Michigan will be on duty during weekends starting April 15 at the Mackinaw City Hawk Watch near the Recreation Center.

Whalen says: “I’m excited to share some of the amazing features of birds of prey and their lives.”  She will show guests the skins and feathers of several different kinds of hawks as well as helping them view the birds overhead with loaner binoculars.  “If they don’t already know it, people will come to appreciate why the Straits area is such an awesome and unique place to observe spring migration of all kinds of birds.”

Whalen will work alongside the researcher who is studying the birds, Jason Newton.  She will also describe the importance of the waterbird count being conducted at McGulpin Point.  Biologist Joshua Jaeger works there daily to tally the species, numbers, and movements of all types of loons, grebes, and ducks.

The MSRW research in Mackinaw City over the past three years has proven that the Straits of Mackinac ranks among the top migration funnels in the country for hawks, owls, and waterbirds.  The studies are enabled through donations, mostly from individuals.  To learn more about supporting this, to read recent News posts, and to view a video about the hawk watch, visit www.mackinacraptorwatch.org.

Press Release, Spring Research, February 2017

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.”

Press Release, Raptor Fest, January 2017

Raptor Fest Registration Open!

Registration just opened for the second Mackinaw Raptor Fest, according to Kathy Bricker, Secretary of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  She welcomes people to come learn more about birds and their twice-a-year migration at this event April 7 to 9 at the Mackinaw City Public School.

The Mackinaw Raptor Fest provides an entertaining and educational showcase to promote public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds and the significance of Mackinaw City and the Straits of Mackinac during migration.  It promotes positive public attitudes towards raptors and waterbirds and their importance to the environment.  It aims to become an internationally renowned annual festival that will generate ongoing ecotourism revenue for the Mackinaw City/Cheboygan/Petoskey/Harbor Springs area, new sponsorship for research on raptors and waterbirds, and net proceeds to further that research.

“Last year,” Bricker explains, “many more people wanted to attend than we could accommodate.  So we have moved the banquet and keynote speech to a larger venue.”  Bricker believes the Fest may draw up to 180 people from around Michigan and nearby states.  Already, 60 volunteers have offered to help with advance preparations, sign-in, site set-up, food service, outdoor guidance to birders and photographers, and other needs.

 The keynote banquet speaker on Saturday April 8 will be researcher Mark Martell.  From Duluth, Minnesota, Martell will regale people with stories about Golden Eagles, close relatives of the more widely-known Bald Eagle.   In 2015 Martell, the foremost researcher of eastern Golden Eagles, praised MSRW for recording more Golden Eagles than any other hawk count site east of the Mississippi River.  MSRW counted 374 in 2015 and 349 in 2016.

Daytime plenary sessions at the Mackinaw Raptor Fest will teach people how to identify hawks in flight, with instructional film excerpts, and will introduce participants in person to live birds of prey.  Break-out session topics include Raptor Migration in the Midwest, Peregrine Falcons in Michigan, Use of Hawk Migration Data, Bird Photography, Owl Migration in the Straits, Loon Research, and the documentary film Uncommon Loon by Jeff Lange of Petoskey.

“April 7 to 9 promises to combine the fun of birding and learning about birds with camaraderie and great food.”  Bricker invites people to learn more and register at www.mackinawraptorfest.org.

“It gets even better,” Bricker adds. “Besides the Mackinaw Raptor Fest, MSRW will improve other outreach about hawks and owls in 2017, thanks to the generosity of the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation.  The PHSACF has pledged $7,000 for special programming and publicity to build on the enthusiastic public reaction to our avian resources.  Birds comprise the feathered component of the natural inheritance under our generation’s care, and are every bit as vulnerable as they look.  Their future depends directly on our appreciation and actions.”

In 2016, MSRW recorded over 1,500 guest visits to the hawk, owl, and waterbird research sites, while several hundred more people attended programs and field trips.  Support from PHSACF will help ensure that such people, including youth, come away with a greater awareness and understanding of birds.  The Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau also gave generously toward the 2017 educational work of MSRW, recognizing the potential of birds to attract visitors to northern lower Michigan.  Additional Fest Sponsors are joining in 2017.

MSRW Chair Ed 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 this research to monitor changes over time.  We also have tapped into the fastest-growing pastime in the U.S.: birdwatching.  Bird research, education, and conservation dovetail perfectly, because people must experience and understand natural resources in order to value and protect them.”  To directly support the research or education work, MSRW accepts tax-deductible donations via the website or by check.

Registration is now open for the Mackinaw Raptor Fest, April 7 to 9, held at the Mackinaw City Public School.  This entertaining and educational showcase promotes public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds and the significance of Mackinaw City and the Straits of Mackinac during migration.

The keynote speaker is researcher Mark Martell from Duluth, Minnesota.  Martell, the foremost researcher of eastern Golden Eagles, will discuss that species and his radio-telemetry work.

Plenary sessions are identification of hawks in flight using film, and live birds of prey.

Break-out session topics include Raptor Migration in the Midwest, Peregrine Falcons in Michigan, Use of Hawk Migration Data, Bird Photography, Owl Migration in the Straits by Ed Pike, Loon Research, and the documentary film Uncommon Loon by Jeff Lange of Petoskey.

Register at www.mackinawraptorfest.org.  Hope you can come!

Press Release, Fall Count Results, October 2016

MSRW Fall Counts Complete

On the heels of a record spring of research and public education, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) announced that its fall studies are also successful.  Until November 10, contracted biologists are counting migrating waterbirds and catching and banding owls as they head south for the winter.

Jason Newton from Aurora, Illinois works from dawn to mid-afternoon, intently scanning the cold waters of Lake Michigan from the vantage of McGulpin Point near Mackinaw City.  “The most interesting part of the job is the discovery of new information about how waterbirds utilize the Straits.  Thousands of Long-tailed Ducks stop here during spring migration.  This fall, I have seen thousands of Redheads (a species of duck) lingering here.”  The Redheads are so rare that the Michigan Audubon Society declared the Straits as an Important Bird Area, worthy of a high level of environmental protection.

Nearly 30 species of waterbirds can be seen using the Straits, making it a popular destination for birders from around Michigan and nearby states.  Said Newton, “We have all three species of Scoter, a deep-water duck never seen on inland lakes.  Plus all three species of Mergansers and two different types of Loons, Swans, and Grebes.  Each day here is exciting, because you never know what will show up.”  Newton has recorded jaegers, kittiwakes, Great Egrets, Bonaparte’s Gulls and other rarities, making the Straits a mecca for birders.

Kim Edgington from Port Angeles, Washington pulls the night shift, capturing, measuring, and releasing owls from sundown to sun-up at a research site near St. Ignace.  In the News blog of October 18 at www.mackinacraptorwatch.org, Kim said “After a night off due to bad weather, we had a fantastic night, 56 birds.  As soon as nets were open we were drowning in Northern Saw-whet Owls.  There were 16 birds in the first net run, which is very unusual.”   Since September 20, she has caught and studied more than 445 owls.  In this fifth year of fall owl research, the previous high number of birds was 328.

Banding is the most cost-effective way for biologists and conservationists to learn about the birds’ movements and age and sex.  Explained Kim, “For instance, on October 13, I caught a bird that already had been tagged by someone else.  Its large size and feather growth marked it as an older female.  When I submitted the band number, she turned out to have been banded in Duluth, Minnesota in October 2014.  It’s interesting and useful to know that owls don’t always fly the same way south every year.”

Protecting forested habitat and reducing light pollution aids owls and other wildlife.  MSRW recently supported a grant proposal to allow the Little Traverse Conservancy to protect a key parcel of wild land along the Lake Huron shoreline southeast of Mackinaw City.

For the public to experience birds first-hand, Ed Pike, MSRW Chair, announced two upcoming field trips.   “We want to share the thrill and beauty of observing these long-distance migrants.”

On Saturday, October 29 from 6:30 pm to as late as people would like to stay, the owl research station near St. Ignace will be open.  Target species are Northern Saw-whet Owl and Long-eared Owl.

Migrating waterfowl will be viewed on Saturday, November 5. meeting at 8:30 am.  To see the most birds, people will join a carpool and travel to different sites around the Straits, starting at the waterbird research site in Mackinaw City.    The trip will last most of the day.  Target species are several species each of loons and scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Redheads.

Both trips cost $15 per person and are free to contributors.  To learn more and register, contact leader Ed Pike,  231-758-3319 (afternoons), or edandanne6750@gmail.com

MACKINAC STRAITS RAPTOR WATCH invites anyone who enjoys birds to experience owls first-hand on Saturday, October 29 from 6:30 pm to as late as you would like to stay.  You will visit the owl research station near St. Ignace, where 330 owls have been studied and banded so far this fall.  Target species are Northern Saw-whet Owl and Long-eared Owl.  The trip costs $15 per person and is free to contributors.  To learn more and register,  contact leader Ed Pike,  231-758-3319 (afternoons), or edandanne6750@gmail.com

MACKINAC STRAITS RAPTOR WATCH invites anyone who enjoys birds to view migrating waterfowl on Saturday, November 5. meeting at 8:30 am.  To see the most birds, you will join a carpool and travel to different sites around the Straits, starting at the waterbird research site in Mackinaw City.    The trip will last most of the day.  Target species are several species each of loons and scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Redheads.  This fall, the contracted biologist who counts the migrants has recorded nearly 30 waterbird species.  The trip costs $15 per person and is free to contributors.  To learn more and register, contact  Ed Pike,  231-758-3319 (afternoons), or edandanne6750@gmail.com.

Press Release, Spring Count Results, August 2016

Raptor Group Takes Flight and Plans Next Phase

The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch today announced plans for new research starting soon in Mackinaw City and released its final spring 2016 report.  Besides core work with hawks and owls, the three-year-old group has added a survey of waterbirds migrating through the Straits of Mackinac.  This will run from August 20 through November 10.  In addition, owl research will be conducted from September 20 through November 10 near St. Ignace.

Chair Ed Pike said “We welcome the public to come and see loons, grebes, ducks, and other waterbirds in migration.  The observation site is McGulpin Point, two miles west of Mackinaw City near the McGulpin Point Lighthouse.  Bring binoculars and a spotting scope if possible, as some of the birds fly at quite a distance.”  During the first spring survey of waterbirds this year, paid counter Jason Newton tallied more than 10,000 waterbirds of 38 species, including two species of Loons and three species each of Scoters, Mergansers, and Grebes.  He confirmed that both Redheads and Long-tailed Ducks stay for long periods of time in the Straits, apparently resting and feeding there.  Newton’s highlight was a Black-legged Kittiwake spied at close range on April 12.  Pike explained that gathering accurate base-line data on the use of the Straits by waterbirds is vital to understanding the biological importance of the area.  “This was significant as the first spring count, especially since it tallied 570 Common Loons, a bird of concern to conservationists due to its generally declining numbers in Michigan.

Pike continued, “Our sixth spring Hawk Count in Mackinaw City also was successful, with a total of 47,090 daytime raptors of 18 species.  This is roughly the same number as last spring.  The highlight came April 13 when we set a record among dozens other hawk counts in the country.  Professional counter Kevin Georg tallied 4,966 Red-tailed Hawks that day, following a stretch of wintry weather that held up migration.”  Site records include Turkey and Black Vultures, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Red-shouldered Hawks,  Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, and the first-ever Gyrfalcon.  The Straits continues to hold the record for the most golden eagles seen east of the Mississippi.

Other important research findings came from the owl survey done at Cheboygan State Park where professional banders caught 76 Northern Saw-whet Owls and 6 Long-eared Owls.  Five of the Saw-whets already wore bands, placed on them by biologists at Whitefish Point; St. Ignace (banded by MSRW fall 2015); Silver Islet (Ontario), Indiana, and Cheboygan State Park.  Pike is proud of this bird: “I banded this female in spring 2011.  We now know that she has lived at least 6 years and is using the same migration route.  We hope to see her again, as they can live about 9 years.”

More guests visited MSRW events than ever before.  After Secretary Kathy Bricker entered the guest list data, she found 1,326 recorded outdoor guests from five countries, 13 states, and 139 Michigan cities.  Eleven indoor talks by volunteers were attended by another 333 guests.  Bricker added “The first Mackinaw Raptor Fest, funded largely by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, drew 81 fully-paid registrants.  We were thrilled that 281 others enjoyed free portions of the weekend, including a program with live hawks and owls.”  People may see photos, learn early plans for the April 7 to 9, 2017 Mackinaw Raptor Fest, and watch the fall research results come in at www.mackinacraptorwatch.org.