A perfect storm for hawk-watching occurred Saturday over the northwest corner of Lake Erie as one of the region’s largest recorded one-day migratory passages as more than 190,000 hawks occurred above Lake Erie Metropark at Gibraltar, Mich., northeast of Monroe.
Trained watchers tallied 190,417 hawks on Saturday, of which 190,121 were broad-winged hawks.
The species typically makes a mass movement, though such high one-day concentrations are unusual. The peak period for movement of the greatest numbers of birds of prey, or raptors, generally occurs in mid-September. On Sept. 17, 1998, a record 517,000 hawks soared past two sites, and on Sept. 18, 2006, some 131,000 hawks and other raptors soared overhead.
The watch sites are along the shore 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.
Jeff Schultz, an official compiler for the Detroit River Hawk Watch, which staffs the metropark’s boat-launch area watch-site, said that Saturday began with unexpected overcast skies in the morning, but winds eventually blew away the cloud cover, leaving blue skies in the afternoon.
“The air was again cool and crisp, more suggestive of October than September,” he said in a message on the Hawk Watch Web site. “Winds were from the northeast at the start and then shifted east and finally southeast as the day wore on.
“A mind-blowing day of migration that featured many swirling swarms and long, streaming lines of broad-winged hawks,” as Schultz described it, was under way.
At about 10:30 a.m., multiple kettles of hawks numbering in the tens of thousands were seen circling above Canada.
“After that, for the rest of the day, there were few moments when there wasn’t a broad-winged hawk within view,” he said.
The largest flight occurred around 4 p.m, when well over 100,000 hawks in three long, broad lines were sighted high overhead. In addition to the spectacular broadwing flight, watchers recorded an notable single-day total of four Swainson’s hawks and the first two red-shouldered hawks of the season.
Along with the birds of prey, nine American golden-plovers were seen early in the morning, and a common nighthawk passed later in the day.
A southbound few Cape May, magnolia, and black-throated blue warblers also were noticed in the trees near the count site, and increasing numbers of chimney swifts were seen.
Autumn begins Friday, so no surprise there.
The passage could not have come at a better time for hawk-watching fans, for Saturday and Sunday were the dates for the 22nd Annual Hawkfest at the metropark.
“We hit it right on the button. We were able to catch the breakout day,” said Jerry Wykes, supervising interpreter at the metropark’s Marshlands Museum.
Different winds Sunday dropped hawk passage totals to a few hundred birds, which is not surprising for such variable migrations.
Another 40,000 or so broadwings were reported on Thursday on the south edge of Pointe Mouillee, and 10,393 and 23,480 broadwings were reported Thursday and Friday, respectively, at Holiday Beach Migration Observatory across the Detroit River at Amherstburg, Ont.
- Upcoming — Tuesday night, Friends of Side Cut Metropark, program from Jackson, Mich., “Journey of the Cranes,” documenting the comeback of the sandhill crane, 7 p.m., Lamb Center, Side Cut.
Wednesday, “Leave no child inside,” a program about reconnecting with nature, 5:30 to 8 p.m., Ward Pavilion, Wildwood Metropark; sponsored by the Toledo Chapter, American Association of University Women and Toledo Metroparks; features a lecture by Steve Pollick on Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, plus AAUW Campership winners with Sister Rosine Sobczak, Life Lab director, Lourdes University, a book table on environmental education by the People Called Women Bookstore, and a catered picnic; to register call Gail Conrad, 419-824-0917.
Saturday — Opening of four-month Ohio archery-deer hunting season.
Sunday, fourth annual “Cars for Critters” benefit car show, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 14000 West State Rt. 2, Oak Harbor; proceeds to benefit wildlife, habitat restoration, and wildlife rehabilitation; also includes Mona Rutger and volunteers from Back to the Wild, wildlife rehabilitation center in Castalia, with live eagles, hawks, owls, and other native wildlife; for details and to register call Eddy Pausch at the refuge, 419-898-0014.
Contact Steve Pollick at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.