Category Archives: Events

Monarch Butterfly tagging

This fall (2019) MSRW is conducting preliminary research, tagging Monarch Butterflies migrating through the Mackinac Straits.  Bert Ebbers (MSRW Board member) is heading the project and purchased the equipment and tags. Bert is investigating the habitat used by Monarchs on Point LaBarbe.  As well as learning the techniques utilized in capturing and tagging Monarchs, and the data to be collected.  This project will lead to the determination of the habitat use, migration period and movement of Monarchs through the Straits.

August 31, the first day of the project, was a good Monarch migration day at Point LaBarbe – we tagged 52 monarchs.  This was a group effort, 5 people with nets (Bert, Steve Baker, Ed Pike, Jack Kirby, John and Mary Fix), 2 people (Bert and Ed Pike) tagging.  At least a 1000 got away untouched.  Monarchs were crossing the Straits or getting ready to cross, so mostly flying fast with migration on their minds.  Only a few stopped to feed on flowers which allowed easier capture.

Sept. 1 was an even better day; the experience from the previous day allowed more Monarchs to be captured and tagged.  Large numbers of Monarchs were in migration across Point LaBarbe.  A total of 73 were tagged over a 3.5 hour period in the morning.  The first half of the morning was with Bert conducting the capture and tagging alone, with help from 3 others (Ed Pike, John and Mary Fix) later in the morning.

We are planning to continue the tagging effort on several more weekends, depending on the weather and numbers of Monarchs migrating.

Releasing Monach after weighing
Monarch with tag
Monarch tags and data sheet
Placing tag on Monarch

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

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

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 for blogs, event dates, and support options.

Owl Banding and Star Event: Saturday 4/15 in Mackinaw City

MSRW will host the Owl Banding and Star evening event on Saturday, April 15 at Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City.  Limited space is available.  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.  To learn more and register, email

Owl Prowl: Saturday 3/11

Straits Area Audubon Society, Tara Buehler & Ed Pike to host Owl Prowl!

Saturday March 11, 2017 at 5:45pm at the Pigeon River Country State Forest Field Office on Twin Lakes Rd in Vanderbilt, MI

Families… come join us as we listen for owl calls on a night before a full moon! We’ll have refreshments available and kids’ activities (such as: dissecting an owl pellet and making a craft item) starting at 5:45 p.m. The main event for all ages will start an hour later at 6:45 p.m. We will be outside for about an hour walking a trail and listening for owls (weather dependent) so dress appropriately! Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Limited to 30 people. RSVP by contacting Tara Buehler at or calling (989-983-4101)

Directions: to office from I-75 (GPS directions often do not lead you there)

  • Coming from the North on I-75, turn left (east) onto Mill St. and head over the overpass
  • Coming from the South on I-75, turn right (east) onto Mill St.
  • Go 0.5 miles and turn left (east) onto E Main St. (at the yellow flashing light). After 0.5 miles E Main St. will turn into E Sturgeon Valley Rd., continue onward)
  • Go 11 miles on E Sturgeon Valley Rd. to the intersection of Twin Lakes Rd.
  • Turn left (north) onto Twin Lakes Rd.
  • Continue for 1 mile, the office will be on the left

This event could not be held without the help from Ed Pike with the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, the Pigeon River Country Association, Headwaters Land Conservancy, Michigan DNR, and Huron Pines AmeriCorps. Thank you!

Straits Area Audubon Society:

Free Guided Waterbird Field Trip

Hello, all.

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Ed Pike will be leading an introduction to waterbirds at McGulpin Point in Mackinaw City. This is a free event and all are welcome.

This field trip will help people observe and identify waterbirds that migrate through the Straits of Mackinac. Come to McGulpin Point on Saturday, September 10 at 7:30am. Participants will watch for waterbirds, including Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, and White-winged Scoter as well as other species. They will see how the count is conducted, what kinds of birds have been seen so far, and what birds are expected. The trip will last one to two hours, depending on the weather and number of birds. This field trip is good for beginners through expert birders. The field trip is stationary so people may leave at any time even though the count goes on all day. The trip is offered jointly by Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and Petoskey Regional Audubon Society.

Directions: From Mackinaw City, travel west on Central Avenue about 2 miles, turn north on Headlands Road. Park in the lot across the road from McGulpin Lighthouse. Remember the shoreline of the Straits is often windier and colder than areas nearby. Dress for the weather and bring an extra layer. Loaner binoculars and a spotting scope will be provided at this field trip. No pre-registration is necessary. If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Datlen at