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Great Lakes Article:

Thousands of raptors migrating south
By Steve Pollick
The Toledo Blade
Published September 12, 2006

The next 10 days or so may be all about hawks and other raptors, or birds of prey, if weather conditions are just right.

It is the peak season for the migratory passage of thousands of hawks, principally broad-winged hawks, around the northwest corner of Lake Erie.

On Sunday the passage of more than 4,600 raptors of 10 species were confirmed at hawk-watch stations in Lake Erie Metropark and Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, both along the lake about 15 miles northeast of Monroe, Mich., near the Detroit River mouth.

On Sept. 17, 1998, a record of nearly 517,000 hawks soared past two sites, and two years ago on Sept. 18, nearly 131,000 hawks and other raptors glided overhead. Such noteworthy passages have put the region on the ornithological map.

Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, trained observers organized under Southeastern Michigan Raptor Research maintain the lakeshore sites, scanning the skies along the mouth of a four-mile-wide migratory funnel. No fewer than 15 species of raptors may be represented during the fall migrations.

As the raptors head south from summer breeding grounds in eastern Canada, their flights confront Lake Erie on the south and Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair on the west.

Thermals, or swirling updrafts of sun-warmed air, that are favored by raptors do not form over water, so southwest-bound birds are funneled along the north shore of Lake Erie toward the Detroit River mouth, where they cross into southeast Michigan and disperse southward toward their wintering grounds.

Just across the river on the Canadian side lies another watch site, the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory near Amherstburg, Ont.

The ideal conditions form on the back side of a cold front, with clear skies and gentle to moderate northerly wind to help push the migration in mid to late September for broadwings and later into fall for other species.

SMRR has been keeping watch-records since 1983, but researchers have considered their records complete, with standardized watch-sites, only since 1992. To review daily migration updates, visit the Web site,

The 17th annual HawkFest, a celebration of raptors and the autumn passages, is set for next weekend, Sept. 16-17, at Lake Erie Metroparks, on the grounds of its Marshland Museum. Daily hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Featured events include environmental presentations on hawks, a live raptor rehabilitation program, and programs on the flight of hawks and the recovery of bald eagles. Games and crafts for children also are planned, along with an optics display tent, exhibits, raffle, and prizes.

A Hawk Feast breakfast is set for Sunday at 9 a.m. Call the metropark for other details, 734-379-5020 extension 5736, or visit the SMRR Web site under "events."

At Holiday Beach Migration Observatory, another volunteer group also watches hawks and keeps records, which can be viewed at the observatory's Web site,

The HBMO's annual Festival of Hawks which covers three weekends, got under way over the weekend and continues next Saturday and Sunday and Sept. 23. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Next weekend, Sept. 16-17, the festival features broadwings and dragonflies, and on Sept. 23 the features are peregrine falcons and songbirds.

Daily events include nature displays and workshops, equipment displays, songbird banding demonstrations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., hawk-banding at 11 a.m., monarch-tagging Saturdays at 1 p.m. and hawk identification at 1:30 p.m., additional monarch tagging today and next Sunday at 2 p.m., and a dragonfly migration walk Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.

The observatory lies within the Holiday Beach Conservation Area, 40 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge at Detroit/Windsor. For details call 519-736-3772, or visit the HBMO Web site.

Reeling and Healing Inc., a nonprofit, Michigan-based organization that conducts fly-fishing retreats for women who have or are recovering from breast cancer, has scheduled a program for Sept. 24 through 26 at Rockwell Springs Trout Club at Castalia.

The retreat, staffed by professional facilitators and fishing instructors, aims to introduce women challenged by breast cancer with the healing powers of fly fishing. For details on enrolling in the retreat, contact the regional coordinator, Judy Walle, at 419-944-4809 or via e-mail at

A lottery drawing for young hunters and trappers ages 17 and under for opportunities on Steinen Wildlife Area, located on U.S. 6 in northwest Erie County, is set for Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.

The drawing is set for Osborn Park, Frost center, 3910 Perkins Ave., Huron. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. A valid hunting license must be in hand for applicants.

For other details contact Erie MetroParks at 419-625-7783.

The 10th annual Clean Your Streams Day is Saturday on the Maumee River and Bay, Swan Creek, and Ottawa River. Groups should call Matt Horvat at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, 241-9155.

The cleanup is coordinated by TMACOG and the Maumee River Remedial Action Program. Work hours will be 8:30 a.m. to noon, followed by a picnic. Individuals also may sign in at the following sites:

Swan Creek, Highland Park shelter house; Upper Ottawa River watershed, Olander Park shelter house, Sylvania Township; Middle Ottawa River watershed, Ottawa Park shelterhouse; Lower Ottawa River watershed, Washington Township fire station; Maumee River and Bay, Oregon Municipal Building.

Russell Lamp, collector of nests of stinging insects for the pharmaceutical industry, is seeking to collect yellowjacket nests into October. He will remove active ground nests for free. Call him at 419-836-3710.


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