Category Archives: Hawk Count 2016

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, 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

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

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

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

lots of tails to tail

2761 Red-tailed hawks which pretty much sums up the day! Had  2 more Golden  Eagles  with 15 Bald Eagles, with 7 of being immatures .With 320 Sharp-shinned hawks and 41 Broad-winged Hawks ,first of the year! Also 392 Sandhill Cranes and a lot of  Tree Swallows and 1 Barn Swallow. And 1 more Black Vulture!

Press Release, Spring Red-tailed Hawk Record, April 2016

Hawk Watch breaks world record

HawkWatch International announced that a world record in hawk migration was recently
broken by the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. On April 13, more Red-tailed Hawks were seen
in a single day than at any time anywhere in the world. Said HawkWatch International,
“Congratulations to Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch on setting the single-day Red-tailed Hawk
count record with an amazing 4,966 individual migrants!!! This breaks the previous record of
4,591 set at Derby Hill, New York on April 11, 1995.”

Explained Kevin Georg, contracted hawk counter for MSRW, “The cold, snowy weather we
had in Mackinaw City in early April apparently held the migrating hawks downstate. When a
day of good weather finally came, the hawks headed north en masse, and many flew over the
hawk counting site near the Recreation Center.” MSRW already held the nation’s record for the
highest number of Red-tailed Hawks seen during a spring count period. So far in 2016, 12,123
have been tallied, 3,000 birds more than the previous record set in 2015. Concludes Georg,
“There’s no telling how high we will go this year. Seeing all these Red-tails is exciting for me,
right up there with our record number of golden eagles.”

Enjoying the non-stop hawk spectacle that day were several members of Straits Area Audubon
Society, including Cheboygan photographer Bruce Seeger. “So many birds were circling in the
air at once, it was magic. Besides red-tails with their normal brown and white plumage with a
bright red tail, I captured pictures of both an albino and a very dark-colored morph. This was a
day none of us will ever forget.”

Already, the hawk watch has recorded species seldom seen here. Eight Black Vultures, nine
Peregrine Falcons, one Gyrfalcon, and one Swainson’s hawk have passed over. Broad-winged
Hawks have just begun to head north and are expected to continue through early June.
Thousands of hawks choose to fly above Mackinaw City enroute to their nesting grounds, since
this is the narrowest place to cross the Straits of Mackinac. Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch
tracks the migration numbers and species; studies the movements of loons, grebes, ducks, and
other waterbirds in the Straits; and researches owl migration near Cheboygan. Guided field
trips occasionally are held, and the public is invited to visit the study sites in Mackinaw City
anytime in the coming several weeks. Visit www.mackinacraptorwatch or call 231-758-3319
for more information.

holey moley

After several days of bad weather it finally open up in a big way here with 39 Bald Eagles with 30 young eagles 5 Golden Eagles 1 Peregrine  and 12 Rough-legged hawks. 4966 Red-tailed Hawks flew by today with 2 albino type and 4 dark morphs!!!!!!

2 short

Winds started out of the  SE switching to the NE back to the E. Blue skies with high cirrus. 36 Bald Eagles and 10 Golden Eagles with 2 being immatures  one adult Peregrine with 2 dark morph Rough-legged hawks.Nice flight of Turkey Vultures  with 282 thought I recognize one TV from Corpus! 998 Red-tailed hawks came by with a stunning albino-leucistic one that flew right overhead!

Merlin on a pole

Started at rec center until wind switch from the south to due east while at the rec center a Merlin came in after the flock of robins in the baseball field having no success came to rest on the telephone pole along the road giving great views .Arriving at Darrows  because of the wind change had 1 Golden Eagle and 3 Bald Eagles plus a nice push of 90 Redtails ahead of the rain closed the watch at 1330 hawk time.