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Friday, October 24, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 9/15/2009

Annual migration offers glimpse of raptors

It is a big week for birds this week with a major birding symposium at Lakeside and hawk migration festivals near Rockwood, Mich., north of Monroe, and at Holiday Beach, Ont., on the east side of the lower Detroit River.

And importantly, if the weather cooperates, the mass migratory passage of thousands of hawks around the northwest corner of Lake Erie can be expected to occur sometime this week. The migration, principally of broad-winged hawks, is an internationally recognized natural phenomenon.

The timing varies widely from year to year, but know that on Sept. 17, 1998, a record 517,000 hawks soared past two sites, and three years ago on Sept. 18, 2006, some 131,000 hawks and other raptors, or birds of prey, soared overhead.

The watch sites are waterside at Lake Erie Metropark and Pointe Mouillee State Game Area about 15 miles northeast of Monroe, near the mouth of the Detroit River.

Annually between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, trained observers maintain the sites, scanning the skies along the mouth of a four-mile-wide migratory funnel.

No fewer than 15 species of raptors might be represented during the fall migrations. These birds include such families as hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and vultures.

One of the early highlights this year has been an unusually high number of sharp-shinned hawks, which in the first days comprised more than half of the migration tally.

The reasons for these noteworthy passages are based on geography and weather.

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., now in its 36th season.

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.

The annual observation has been renamed the Detroit River Hawk Watch and its management has been turned over by the founding organization, Southeastern Michigan Raptor Research, to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and its friends associate, the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance. Daily updates are available by visiting hawkcount.org, and clicking on the area sites.

The 20th annual HawkFest, a celebration of raptors and the autumn passages, is set for Saturday and Sunday at Lake Erie Metropark's Marshland Museum grounds. 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, exhibits, raffle, and prizes.

A Hawks Feast breakfast is set for 9 a.m. Sunday. Call the metropark for other details, 734-379-5020 extension 5736.

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

The HBMO's annual Festival of Hawks covers three weekends and got under way last weekend, but the main events are set for Saturday and Sunday. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Daily events include nature displays and workshops, equipment displays, songbird banding demonstrations, hawks-banding, monarch-tagging, and hawks identification, and dragonfly migration walks. Daily times and event details are available on the HBMO Web site.

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.

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From Thursday through Sunday, the Midwest Birding Symposium is set for the community of Lakeside, off State Rt. 163 east of Port Clinton.

This premier birding event is expected to attract a capacity crowd of up to 1,000 birders from around the continent to the shores of Lake Erie.

The symposium will feature presentations by North America's leading experts, an extensive vendor area with nature products and information, and birding at the area's top birding spots.

Among the speakers slated for this world-class event are Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander, nationally syndicated humorist Al Batt, National Public Radio commentator Julie Zickefoose, Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott Weidensaul, Roger Tory Peterson Award winner Kenn Kaufman, Bird Watcher's Digest editor Bill Thompson III, and author-illustrator David Allen Sibley, who will debut his new book, The Sibley Guide to Trees.

The symposium is organized and hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest, the Ohio Ornithological Society, and the Lakeside Association.

Visit midwestbirding.org to register and for the latest programming and schedule updates, or call 800-879-2473, extension 314, for more information.

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Russell Lamp, who specializes in collecting stinging insects for use by the pharmaceutical industry in making vaccines, said he is continuing to collect at no charge any large and easily accessible nests of bald-faced hornets in the area. Call him at 419-836-3710.

Contact Steve Pollick at:spollick@theblade.comor 419-724-6068.



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