Talons Over Mackinac
Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch Newsletter
Issue #7 - June 26, 2021
­Birds and People and How You Can Help
Just as birds need people to care about them, people need birds.  Birders understand our biological reliance on nature.  After all, maintaining a healthy ecosystem depends on understanding all of its components, including birds.  The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of our emotional and spiritual reliance on nature.  Visits to parks and natural areas soared in 2020 as people sought solace outdoors.  MSRW supporters “get” this, making the connection between our health and nature’s health. You can help ensure our's and nature’s future health by giving now to MSRW.  You would enable MSRW to continue the raptor migration research and outreach of MSRW.  

As we wrap up a successful Spring count, we look to you to support the coming Fall research and outreach. We again plan a hawk count at Point LaBarbe, west of St. Ignace, along with owl banding and a waterbird count.  Bring your friends and family to visit any of these watch sites, learn from our counters and volunteers, and marvel at nature’s wonders.  Attendance is always free and hawk count sites are easily accessible by car. The birds need you!  See the end of this Talons newsletter for how to double your donation and honor someone at the same time.  Click HERE to give now.  Whether it’s your first or fifth donation, we truly appreciate your participation. 
Spring 2021 Successes
­New Research - Hawk Tracking
Where do they go?  We all wonder about the secret lives of birds that pass overhead. This spring, contractor Nick Alioto from Sunderland, Ontario placed backpack transmitters on eleven Red-tailed Hawks in order to learn more about them. This map shows the seven adult birds who flew to northern Ontario and the four who stayed in the Upper Peninsula. Nick hasn't ‘heard’ from any of these birds for weeks, so these positions show the last cell phone tower that they were near.  Nick assumes they will transmit again once fall migration starts, revealing where they were all summer.  Over the coming few years, Nick will analyze their movement data to write his graduate thesis at Michigan State University. One Red-tail was named Patagium, which describes the diagnostic dark line of feathers bordering the ‘shoulder’ of the wing near the body.   MSRW thanks all its contributors who together enabled this research.
Last registered locations of eleven Red-Tailed Hawks with backpack transmitters
Nick Alioto with Patagium during research data gathering phase
­New Research - Hawks Counted at Mackinac Island
Contractor Krista Botting from Ionia, Michigan started MSRW’s first formal count at Fort Holmes, on Mackinac Island.  With generous funding from Mackinac Island Community Foundation and Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Krista tallied 12,984 raptors between March 23 and June 3, which is 19% of the number counted in Mackinaw City.  This data increases our understanding of total migration through the Straits.  MSRW appreciates a partial housing donation from Pontiac Lodge and equipment storage by Fort Holmes Mackinac State Historic Park.
Krista Botting at Fort Holmes
­Continuing Research - Hawks Counted at Mackinaw City
Calvin Brennan, contractor from Grayling, Michigan, returned to MSRW to tally eagle, hawk, and vulture numbers from March 5 through June 5.  He counted 67,919 birds, compared to 73,365 in 2020.  Aiding Calvin as volunteer assistant counters were Steve Baker, Russell Edmonds, and Ed Pike.  Along with them, we thank Bev and Jack Kirby, Sara Redding, and all of our contractors for welcoming guests at all the research sites. 

Visitors noted a new information and donation box, thanks to volunteer Don Martini, and new kiosk signage, thanks to volunteer Jeff Dykehouse.  These were funded by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) and your unrestricted donations to MSRW.
Volunteers Jack and Bev Kirby with hawk counter Calvin Brennan
New Info and Donation Box for Kiosk
­Continuing Research - Hawk Banding

For the second spring season, contractor Nick Alioto banded hawks for MSRW.  This spring he captured 228 birds of 8 species, four of which were already banded.  According to Nick's blog post, one Red-tailed Hawk had been captured in Sparta, Ontario on November 6, 1999, making it at least 22 years old. 

Photo credit: Jack Kirby
New Site for Renewed Research - Owl Banding
After having to cancel Spring owl banding at Cheboygan State Park in 2020 due to COVID-19, MSRW changed research sites this spring to Mill Creek Mackinac State Historic Park, with its full cooperation.  Nancy Drilling from South Dakota returned as the lead bander, with Megan Diamond from Minnesota as assistant bander.   They caught and processed 104 owls, of whom 10 were already banded at other Great Lakes sites.  Interestingly, none of the 647 Northern Saw-whet Owls banded for MSRW by Nancy in fall of 2020 near St. Ignace were among the recaptures.  Nancy describes the experience of their fascinating night-shift work in her blog post.
Nancy Drilling adjusting the net at the new Mill Creek site
Saw-whet Owl
Photo credit: Megan Diamond
Renewed Research - Waterbird Count
Adam Cupito from Loveland, Ohio was the MSRW spring waterbird counter, which had been canceled in 2020.  He was thrilled to see 74 Common Loons in one day and 920 Long-tailed Ducks one day during the peak of migration.
Photo credit: Patty O'Donnell
New Speaker Series “Raptors Revealed
MSRW launched on-line education thanks to facilitators Kathy Bricker, Josh Haas, Gayle Kirby, Leah R., and Scott Davis.  In all, 289 computers registered for our talks, representing at least that many people. 
  • Joys of Hawkwatching: Basics to Beyond by John Richardson, Hawk Count Director and Naturalist, Hawk Ridge, Duluth Minnesota.  
  • Hawks on the Wing: Identifying Hawks on the Wing by Josh Haas, Owner, Hawks on the Wing.  
  • Chasing Broad-wingeds from Pennsylvania to Peru:Broad-winged Hawk Migration Ecology by Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Director of Conservation Science, Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary, Pennsylvania.  

You can view the programs until August 30, 2021 on our website, here.  Scroll down below the speaker bios and click on the video you want to watch. 

  • NOTE: You can make the video play in full screen size by clicking on the square box in the bottom right corner of the video icon.  If you hover over it, it should say “full screen.”  Click there to make it big.  To make it go back small again, click on the plus sign icon in the bottom right corner of the video.  If you hover over it again, it should say “exit full screen”.

At the end of the final program, Sue Stewart of MSRW gave the annual Wind Under Wings award to Kieran Fleming, Executive Director of the Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC).   This award recognizes extraordinary contributions to MSRW related to the study or public education about birds of prey.  LTC’s mission “to protect the natural diversity and beauty of northern Michigan by preserving significant land and scenic areas” makes it a natural partner for MSRW.  LTC protects land needed by raptors as stop-over and feeding habitat throughout northern Michigan, including in Mackinaw City and along the Great Lakes shoreline.  LTC educates thousands of children through school programs and field trips and by sharing its All about Birds, Raptor, and other Discovery boxes.  LTC has generously provided MSRW with behind-the-scenes services such as use of its conference rooms for meetings and office assistance. Most importantly, LTC is an institutional friend and a great model of ‘how to do it right’ by conservation. The award this year was an American Kestrel image by artist Glen McCune of Yellow Dog Studio.


New On-line Silent Auction

The April on-line silent auction brought in $1,543 from 18 bidders on 33 items.  MSRW thanks volunteers Catherine Freebairn, Gayle Kirby, Tony Dunaske, Jim and Kathy Bricker, Dave Mayberry, and Leah R. for this success.  The top three Auction Item Donors were Ward & Eis, American Spoon Foods, and Birchwood Inn.  For other Auction Item Donors, visit our website.   

Great things to come

MSRW is excited to see the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians begin to develop the Migizi Aviary.  The aviary will house injured and non-releasable Bald Eagles in Harbor Springs on tribal land.  For more information, visit

Summer 2021 Tribute Challenge

During July, MSRW invites you to give in honor or in memory of a friend or family member.  All such gifts will be recognized on-line on our Tributes page.  On-line gifts received by July 30, up to $2,000 total, will be doubled by a match from one of MSRW's initial supporters who was impressed with progress this spring.  Please email with your tribute request.   

THANK YOU in advance for enabling the fall 2021 research and education.  Even if you choose not to honor someone in your life at this time, you would still show that you appreciate the birds and nature in your life. 

Thanks to Raptor Partner Keyhole Bar & Grill
We greatly appreciate all the businesses and organizations that help MSRW financially.  The Keyhole Bar & Grill generously renewed its Raptor Partner support for 2021 and is open for business all summer. Enjoy the view over the Straits of Mackinac along with your favorite foods.  You can also visit the Keyhole Bar & Grill on Facebook and see their awesome posts on everything relevant in the Straits area.
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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