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.