Talons Over Mackinac, September 1 2020

Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch Newsletter
September 1, 2020

Note from the Editor: Welcome to the second issue of ‘Talons Over Mackinac,’ the free on-line newsletter of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  Feel free to share this with friends. 


 Fall Migration Research is Underway


On August 20, the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch launched two components of its fall research; a count of waterbirds migrating through the Straits of Mackinac, and a count of the raptors that pass overhead.

Previous MSRW waterbird counts from 2015 to 2018 showed that the Straits are heavily used by Red-necked Grebes, Long-tailed Ducks, and Redheads during Fall migration. The first birds to come through are Red-necked Grebes in the middle of August, while the Redheads, Long-tailed Ducks and White-winged Scoters are late migrants.  Long-tailed Ducks begin to pass through the area in mid-October and are still coming through when the November weather turns cold.  Common Loons fly through the Straits for most of the fall, with few stopovers.  Migrating waterbirds move in the early morning, then find a place to feed and rest later in the day.  For some socially-distanced fun, take your binoculars to McGulpin Point in Mackinaw City or Graham Point in Saint Ignace, from 7 am to 9 am and see several species of waterbirds.

Biologist Ben Stalheim, from Bellingham, Washington
is our professional waterbird counter this year.

Identifying waterbirds can be tricky, because the birds usually fly at a distance.  Biologist Ben Stalheim, from Bellingham, Washington is our professional counter this year. He graduated from Humboldt State University in northern California in wildlife and evolutionary biology.

Since waterbirds are just beginning to migrate, Ben has had time to check out other northern Michigan bird life, and waxes poetic about the bright colors of the eastern warblers: Northern Parulas, Canada Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Nashville Warblers. “Being a west coast kid, all of the diversity and beautiful warblers that light up the trees in this area have been my favorites.”

Check out Ben’s periodic blogs and photos that he posts  https://www.mackinacraptorwatch.org/news/ on our website. During the fall, Ben promises us some lessons, quizzes, identification aids, and other fun tidbits to accompany the weekly breakdowns.You can follow the daily waterbird count on Dunkadoo:  https://dunkadoo.org/explore/mackinac-straits-raptor-watch/waterbirds-fall-2020.
The hawk count has also begun. Our counter this year is Calvin Brennan, from Grayling.  He will observe and tally raptors and monarch butterflies from August 20 to November 10, working at Point LaBarbe in St. Ignace.  Look for the next ‘Talons Over Mackinac’ for his story.  In the meantime, watch the daily count data for bald eagles and other species at HMANA’s Migration Database  http://hawkcount.org/month_summary.php?rsite=799.

Socially Distanced MSRW Hawk Watchers
Jack and Bev Kirby, and Ed Pike

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