Talons Over Mackinac
Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch Newsletter
November 30, 2020

Sharing Victories

MSRW Launches New Website

Thanks to a grant from Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch just updated our seven-year-old website!  Now you can much more easily find the birds that we see, the people that we work with, and the amazing stories of both on our News and Blogs page. Our Support page lists our MSRW Raptor Partners AND offers convenient ways to donate.

Our newest Raptor Partner is Great Lakes Ecosystems consulting firm, which focuses on wetland issues, including determinations, delineations, permitting, and mitigation. We thank them, all supporters, and you for sustaining our bird research and education.
Our new website

Fall 2020 Research on Hawks

During our official Fall count period, contractor Calvin Brennan counted 19,602 raptors, far more than during any of the previous three falls. Of the 18 species, Red-tailed Hawks were most numerous. For tallies on all species, click here to see our HMANA Fall data. This research, combined with information from other hawk counts, tracks long-term trends in raptor populations. Raptors serve as important indicators of ecosystem health. Monitoring their migration numbers and timing is an efficient and cost-effective method for assessing their population status and responses to environmental and human-caused factors.

Among the 65 Golden Eagles that Calvin tallied this Fall, was a female named Athena. We know her through her satellite transmitter, which was put on by researchers with the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group and the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest near Louisville, Kentucky. To learn about her amazing journeys north and south between Kentucky and Churchill, Manitoba, and how, when, and where they intersect with those of her mate Harper, click here to read Steve Baker’s informative blog post.

Fall Research on Waterbirds

The waterbird count, enabled along with other research thanks to Enbridge Foundation, also exceeded that of previous falls. In his End-of-Season blog post, counter Ben Stalheim reports highlights of one day with 6,600 Long-tailed Ducks and others with rafts of nearly 6,000 Redhead ducks. He also spotted rarities of Harlequin Duck and Parasitic Jaeger.  For tallies on all species, click here to see our Dunkadoo Fall data.

Fall 2020 Research on Owls

Biologists Nancy Drilling and Kandace Glanville captured a record-breaking 648 owls at Point LaBarbe, near St. Ignace. Of these, the 635 Northern Saw-whet Owls and 11 Long-eared Owls ‘flew right by’ their previous high fall counts. In part, that’s because a grant from TC Energy Foundation enabled a second banding site about a mile from the long-term site. Since different birds were caught at each site, we suspect that these owls migrate over a broad front around St. Ignace.

Of the Saw-whets, 24 were already banded, two by MSRW in earlier years, one from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, one from Hilliardton, Ontario and several from this year’s banding program at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. The highlight came on the final night. A female was caught that was banded in October 2017 in Falmouth, Maine. Since that researcher determined she had hatched in 2016, she is now 5 years old.

As Nancy Drilling explained in her blog titled "Why We Band Owls", owl banding sheds light on saw-whet migration – patterns and timing that no one understood until this work began in the early 2000s. “Not only does this data help us understand migration in Michigan, the MSRW banding stations are part of Project Owlnet, a continent-wide network of owl-banding stations. Banding not only elucidates migration routes, but also contributes to our knowledge of owl populations.”

MSRW’s research and outreach depend entirely on donations. Right now is a critical time for our research planning. In order to secure the best researchers during the spring season, MSRW must advertise available positions in December and January. If you can help financially at this time by donating as part of #GivingTuesday (which is December 1st this year), your gift would be put to good use.  On-line donors of $100 or more to MSRW will receive the Saw Whet Owl poster, showing faces of some of the birds caught and banded during one season.  

You would also help support a global effort that encourages people to give.  "GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world."  So join the movement and give - whether it’s some of your time volunteering, a donation, or the power of your voice in your local community, YOU are needed!  Please check out the Volunteer opportunities available at MSRW, to apply your existing skills or learn new ones to help a great cause. Thanks!

Have you ever ordered anything from Amazon?  Did you know you can support us 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  
Copyright © 2020 Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, All rights reserved.

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