Talons Over Mackinac
Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch Newsletter
Issue #8 - September 30, 2021
Fall 2021 Research Up and Flying
Hawk Count
From Aug. 20 until Nov. 10, Calvin Brennan from Grayling, Michigan has returned as fall Hawk Count contractor at Pointe LaBarbe near St. Ignace.  Highlights as of Sept. 27 include 4,600 birds, with Sharp-shinned Hawks, Turkey Vultures,  Bald Eagles, and Broad-winged Hawks in the highest numbers.  Only a few dozen Red-tailed Hawks have passed, with their numbers expected to increase in October.  Special raptors have been 21 Peregrine Falcons and 4 Cooper’s Hawks.  For in-depth daily reports and links to season totals, look on our HMANA HawkCount daily site report.
Calvin Brennan in his "Office"
Broad-winged Hawk Kettle
Photo credit: Steve Baker
­Waterbird Count
From Aug. 20 until Nov. 10, Ty Sharrow from Lehighton, Pennsylvania is counting waterbirds, alternating days between Graham Point near St. Ignace and McGulpin Point near Mackinaw City. He has tallied more than 300 Common Loons so far.  Ty explains that early morning shortly after sunrise is the best time to view migrating loons, grebes, and other waterbirds.  One never knows what will appear, though.  On the morning of Sept. 27 a Whimbrel met Ty on the beach at McGulpin Point.  Later the same day, a Magnificent Frigatebird flew by.  Frigatebirds breed in Florida, then in the fall wander over the mid-Atlantic Ocean.  There are less than ten sightings in the Great Lakes.  “This is a real migration concentration point so I am very pleased with the location,” says Sharrow,  “and the view of the bridge is amazing. I enjoy welcoming visitors to show them the birds and explain the work of MSRW.”  You can read Ty’s blog posts “Migration is Now”, and “Magnificent Frigatebird and Whimbrel” to share the excitement of a day watching the water.  Better yet, come visit in person.
Ty Sharrow with guest
Female Magnificent Frigatebird!
Photo credit:  Ty Sharrow
­Owl Research
Owl banding has started, also at Pointe LaBarbe.  Lead Owl Bander Jess Gwinn is from Indiana, while Assistant Owl Bander Michael Gordon grew up in Michigan and now lives in Idaho.  After the first seven nights of banding, even though three nights were cut short by rain, they processed and safely released 78 Northern Saw-whet Owls, including 33 on Sept. 27.  Four of the birds were already banded, including one banded last fall in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  In addition, an uninvited mammal flew into a net -- a flying squirrel.  Extracting this animal proved a minor adventure all its own!  Enjoy these and more stories in their blog posts (linked above) as Jess and Mike work from Sept. 20 until Nov. 10.
Owl banders Jess Gwinn and Michael Gordon
Come out and Meet Us!

Visit the hawk and waterbird research sites this fall by checking directions and gaining other guidance on our website, under  Visits to Owl Banding may be arranged with special permission, by writing

You can also read the fascinating backgrounds of all the paid fall research contractors on our website.  By supporting MSRW, you help these mostly young people develop their professional and academic careers, besides gaining the benefits of our bird research and public outreach.  

Monarch Butterflies

For the third year, MSRW counted and tagged butterflies.  Calvin Brennan has tallied 4,404 of these Super Generation monarchs destined to fly to Mexico to over-winter.  Of the 500 monarchs tagged last fall at Pointe LaBarbe, three were recovered at the El Rosario Butterfly Preserve in Central Mexico, 2,000 miles southwest of St. Ignace. Individuals of the 2021 Super Generation cohort that survive the winter begin the first stage of the migration back north in the spring, reaching northern Mexico or perhaps Texas before they lay eggs and die. It takes several generations of monarchs to reach the upper Great Lakes. 

From mid August through September, ten volunteers tagged 520 of these amazing insects at Pointe LaBarbe and sometimes saw them roost in large numbers at night.  Mike Grant shares: “One day the weather was awful and I was working solo.  It was all I could do to keep all the papers and my net from blowing away, plus it was spitting rain.  One butterfly was trying to stay out of the wind, hanging onto a red-osier dogwood leaf on the lee of the shrub.  I netted it, and then noted it was already tagged.  I wrote down the number and released it immediately.”  Monarch Watch, the group that provides the tags, said that number was sent to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Once data is reported at the end of the season, we will confirm that a butterfly from Thunder Bay flew at least 275 miles to St. Ignace.

Monarchs Roosting in a Cedar Tree
Photo credit:  Mike Grant
MSRW's Ed Pike and Steve Baker show guests how to determine the sex of a
Monarch Butterfly
Tracking Red-tailed Hawks
As of this writing, it is too early for the most northerly-nesting Red-tailed Hawks to migrate, so we all remain eager to hear about the summer whereabouts of eleven hawks wearing MSRW backpack transmitters.  Once they return within range, the data about their summer travels will download.  Researcher and Michigan State University graduate student Nick Alioto posted an update about two of the birds, Rowan and Patagium, that stayed near cell phone towers all summer.  See his blog post “Red-Tailed Hawk Summer Movements”,  and keep watching for new posts.  By Sept. 27, Rowan had reached the area of Sault Ste. Marie, heading south by following the same track it flew north this spring.
Photo credit: Nick Alioto
­Informing and Inspiring

For a limited time, the videos of all three Raptors Revealed talks from April 2021 are available on-line at

MSRW is pleased to again be featured in the Mackinaw Area Guide, a publication for visitors to Mackinaw City.  Please contact for a copy. 

A radio spot about the fall hawk count was produced by Jim Mishler with Michigan Recreation and Park Association.  Go to Sept. 21 at

A new analysis from the National Academy of Science, U.S.A. of global raptor populations points out the importance of protected areas for breeding and migration.  See Global patterns of raptor distribution and protected areas optimal selection to reduce the extinction crises 

Thanks to a grant from Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), the MSRW kiosk in Mackinaw City got a needed face-lift with improved educational information about migrating raptors.

Inviting Volunteers
In the AARP Bulletin June 2018, The Keys to Healthy Living: Friendship and Purpose by Jo Ann Jenkins says that:
    “Having a purpose in life is important to health as we get older and is a key factor in aging successfully.  A sense of purpose for many is more important than making money, and it’s associated with a wide range of better health outcomes including reduced risk of mortality, stroke, heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease.  People with a sense of purpose also get better sleep, have fewer nights of hospital admission and go to the doctor less often.  And they are more likely to take care of their health – to eat healthier, exercise more, avoid abusing drugs and alcohol, and seek out better preventive health services.”  

You can develop more sense of purpose by volunteering with MSRW!  Write to discuss options ranging from Facebook posting to committee assistance, or you can find more available options and fill out our Volunteer interest form on our website.  You do not need to live in northern Michigan for many roles, so long as you have computer skills.  Among the most dedicated volunteers are our MSRW Board members.  We thank outgoing Board member Melissa Hansen and welcome new Board member Cathy Freebairn.  

Inviting Contributors to have their Gifts Doubled!

Giving on-line through PayPal is so easy that more people are doing it every month.  The MSRW double-your-gift match introduced in our last newsletter is still available for the first people who give on-line, up to a total of $1,270.  Click here to have your contribution doubled.  Donations toward research and education may also be sent by check to MSRW, P.O. Box 465, Petoskey, MI 49770.
Honorary Gifts

The following people sent donations to MSRW that tribute a friend or remember a loved one. You can do this by noting the recognition on your check or emailing a note to

  • In Honor of Steve Baker: from Au Sable Valley Audubon
  • In Honor of Shannon Dolan: from Gayle Mroczkowski
  • In Honor of Glen and Jane Hampton: from JoEllen Rudolph
  • In Honor of Jack Holt: from Kathy and Jim Bricker
  • In Honor of Matthew T Pruitt Family: from Margaret O’Malley
  • In Honor of Esther Summers: from Hewett and Sue Brown
  • In Memory of Stanley and Muriel McRae: from Susan Affholter
Thanks to All of our 2021 Raptor Partners!
We appreciate all the businesses and organizations that support MSRW financially, including 
  • Audie’s Restaurant
  • AuSable Valley Audubon
  • Bearcub Outfitters
  • Chocolay Raptor Center
  • Dar’s Hallmark Gifts
  • Emily Enterprises / Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Great Lakes Ecosystems
  • Hawk Migration Association of North America
  • Key Hole Bar & Grill
  • Mackinaw Area Historical Society
  • Mayberry Gardens Landscaping
  • Petoskey Plastics
  • Petoskey Regional Audubon Society
  • Straits Area Federal Credit Union
  • Thunder Bay Audubon Society
  • U.P. State Credit Union
  • Wheeler Motors
  • W. W. Fairbairn & Sons, Inc.

In addition, the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation awarded a grant to MSRW volunteers to improve technical training in computer programs.  Thank you one and all!

Have you ever ordered anything from Amazon?  Did you know you can support MSRW while you’re there?  AmazonSmile is an easy and automatic way for you to support Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch while doing your everyday shopping. Follow this link to select MSRW as your AmazonSmile charitable organization, and a percentage of the purchase price of any product marked “eligible for AmazonSmile donation” will go toward us.
The mission of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch is to conduct research in the Straits of Mackinac area on migrating birds of prey, to support their conservation, and to inform and inspire people about them. 

MSRW is a non-profit organization that depends on your donation!  The group appreciates support from more than 350 individual and business contributors, and from area organizations, including the Mackinac Area Visitors Bureau and Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation.

To learn more or to donate, visit our newly updated website at:  We appreciate support from Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation that enabled this website transformation.
Copyright © 2021 Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, All rights reserved.

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