Talons Over Mackinac
Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch Newsletter
Issue #6 - April 5, 2021
­YOU can win for the birds
You can help raptors by bidding right from home on an on-line auction benefiting Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  Choose among three dozen beautiful items as gifts, or for yourself.  The auction runs from April 10 to 30 at  Contact with any questions.  
Walking sticks handmade by Steve Baker, and inlaid with Petoskey stones were hot-selling items in past in-person auctions!
Invite to Register for Raptors Revealed, and Other Programs
You are welcome to join, for free on Zoom, the following programs offered by the new MSRW Raptors Revealed speakers’ series.  Tell your friends about them and Like them on Facebook.  All talks will be at 4 pm EDT and last approximately an hour.  Visit for background on speakers and program descriptions.  Register by clicking on the button below each speaker’s bio on the website, or at the links shown here.
At the final program on April 29, MSRW will present our Wind Under Wings award in a brief on-line ceremony.
Michigan State University Science Festival

Also in April, MSRW is represented by contractor Nick Alioto at the Michigan State University Science Festival in a free on-line series of programs including “Owls of Northern Michigan” and “Intro to Hawk ID.” On April 10, the Science Festival features Leah Rudge and Nick Alioto demonstrating live song bird banding.  View or register for these talks at
Spring Migration Studies Expanded
Past sightings by volunteers suggest that many raptors launch northeast from between Cheboygan and Mackinaw City, using Bois Blanc and other islands as stepping stones to cross Lake Huron. Thanks to a grant from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, this spring MSRW is conducting our first count from Mackinac Island. Stationed at Fort Holmes, Krista Botting from Ionia, Michigan works from March 25 to May 25. See her most recent blog at to learn how Krista uses crows to help her locate raptors.

For spring owl research, Nancy Drilling from South Dakota returns as the lead bander. Nancy worked for MSRW during last fall’s record year when 661 owls were caught.  She hopes to see many of them returning north.  Assistant bander is Megan Diamond from Minnesota.  They work every night from March 20 to May 10.
Nancy Drilling banding an owl in Fall, 2020
The Waterbird Count is being conducted by Adam Cupito from Loveland, Ohio, working from March 20 to May 15.  He will divide his time evenly between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. 

See for bios on all the contractors.
Special COVID-19 instructions to guests: Please respect our paid contractors, volunteers, and other guests by wearing your mask and staying at least six feet apart. 
Photo credit: Beverley Kirby
Science of Monarch Migration
MSRW was pleased that our fall counts of Monarch butterflies proved useful to Robert Haack, a retired entomologist from the USDA Forest Service  (  Bob wrote an article for the January 2021 issue of the Michigan Entomological Society (MES) Newsletter, entitled “Monitoring Monarch Migration at the Mackinac Straits.” Bob summarized the MSRW fall monarch research results at Point LaBarbe from 2018 through 2020 and included a comparison with another Upper Peninsula migration study site, Peninsula Point. Read the full article on pages 2-5 of the 2021 MES Newsletter, Volume 65, Issue Number 1 here. In the future, we hope for returns on the several hundred butterflies that MSRW volunteers have tagged. 
Photo credit: Jeff Dykehouse
Thanks to Raptor Partner Dar’s Gifts
Dar’s Gifts in Cheboygan is a Gold Crown Hallmark Store that also handles Kilwin’s Chocolates.  Dar’s has been an MSRW sponsor and Raptor Partner business supporter since 2017.
Success with Funding Transmitters
Thanks to the generosity of 52 donors, MSRW will buy at least eleven backpack GPS transmitters to place on selected robust Red-tailed Hawks.  These units provide precise location data and will support the graduate research of Nick Alioto, contractor of MSRW.  "I'm thrilled that so many people were willing to help this study,” exclaims Nick.   “These transmitters will show the birds’ exact wintering, migration, and nesting patterns.  I appreciate MSRW and everyone who gave toward this promising project.”
Duane Utech hands a check to current MSRW Chair Ed Pike, on behalf of him and his two sons.
Athena and Trace Pass Through Mackinac Straits
Last fall a Golden Eagle wearing a transmitter from the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group passed within sight of the MSRW hawk watch, and was likely seen and recorded by hawk counter Calvin Brennan.  We learned that this bird winters in southern Kentucky near the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest and summers near Churchill, Manitoba.  Members of Bernheim Forest voted to name her Athena.  This spring, the researchers alerted us that she left Kentucky March 6 and reached southern Michigan on March 8. 
Athena's track, as of 3/8/2021
Her progress slowed by bad weather, on March 11 she roosted near Dingman Marsh, in Cheboygan County.

On March 12, hawk counter Calvin Brennan and a volunteer photographer watched for Athena’s passage.  Near 8 am, she was up and kettling over Potter Road near the marsh, scribing slow circles in the sky.  One of the photos taken clearly shows the solar unit on her back that powers the transmitter. 
Photos by Jim Bricker
Meanwhile, another Golden Eagle wearing a transmitter was moving north.  This male is named Trace because he was first caught near Natchez Trace in southern Alabama.  He winters there or in Mississippi and summers in northern Quebec.  Over three days, we followed Trace's trace as he wandered northeast from Rapid City to near Rogers City.  He roosted near Dingman Marsh a couple nights after Athena.  Trace however, flew west.  He then doubled back from the dead end at Waugoshance Point at Wilderness State Park and crossed the Straits out of sight of the hawk watch, toward the west. 
Trace's track, as of 3/16/2021
Within two days, both eagles flew out of range of cell phone towers.  We eagerly await their return in the fall to learn the rest of their late spring and summer stories.
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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