Wings of Wonder

2016 Photos


2016 Fest


Photo Courtesty Davd Kunze Photography


Visit Mackinac Raptor Watch Website

     Every year thousands of hawks, eagles, vultures, and owls follow the contours of Lakes Michigan and Huron, ending up at the Straits of Mackinac where they must cross a 5-mile expanse of water. To save energy, the birds use rising air drafts to lift them high in the air, and then they glide across the Straits.

     The Mackinaw Straits Raptor Watch inventories these birds as well as waterfowl as they migrate and promotes their observation to the public. To see our work, along with photos and migrating numbers, visit our website at

      Hawk Interpreters will be on hand all day to help you spot and identify the birds and share stories about them. There is no charge for this activity.

Lead funding for the Mackinaw Raptor Fest 2016 was generously provided

by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

Bald Eagle

Turkey Vulture

Rough-legged Hawk

Golden Eagle

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Gary Appold receives Wind Under Wings Award on behalf of Emmet County from Ed Pike, Chair of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.

Emmet County awarded for 'unflagging support' in helping in Mackinaw Raptor Fest, public raptor migration count take flight

At the Mackinaw Raptor Fest closing ceremony April 2, Emmet County was awarded the first-ever Wind Under Wings Award, in recognition of the assistance by numerous county staff who helped launch the inaugural event, and for supporting a public raptor migration watch in Mackinaw City.

In front of 110 people, Gary Appold, Assistant County Administrator and Human Resources Director, accepted the award of a framed adult bald eagle from Ed Pike, chair of the non-profit group, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. The photograph was donated by professional photographer, Lynn Walters-Fraze of J-A-M Productions International, Alanson.

When I first broached the idea of a hawk watch in the Straits area in 2004, people were daunted by the amount of work and funding that it would entail,” said Pike. “Thanks to help from many colleagues and the proof from three years of preliminary counts that this is a vital hawk migration corridor, we launched the full research and public outreach work in 2014. This weekend, birders came to Emmet and Cheboygan Counties from throughout Michigan as well as Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin. Along with contributors of funds, topping the list that made it possible is the unflagging support and encouragement of Emmet County, which has been there at every turn.”

That support from the county began back in 2010 with owl research demonstrations at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, combined with an educational night sky experience. In July of 2013 when Pike and others began meeting about a new public festival during the spring shoulder season, Emmet County sent representatives who provided “wise guidance and advice,” Pike noted.

Emmet County and its commissioners exemplify what it means to be forward-thinking and community-caring. Through our formative years and even after MSRW started, Emmet County has helped in so many ways behind the scenes, it's hard to enumerate them.

From owls, Emmet County's help spread to hawks. “The professionalism of their staff and encouragement of their commissioners has figuratively given us wings. Emmet County has helped with housing and computer service for some of the biologists. They have assisted with audiovisual equipment setup, publication design, media outreach, and publicity on their website. I am delighted to present them with the first Wind Under Wings Award.”  The first Mackinaw Raptor Fest, held April 1 and 2 in Mackinaw City, was funded in large part by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.


Emmet County’s Appold said the county is pleased to partner with such an important group as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and to support their work in raising awareness about protecting sensitive regional environments and habitats.

It's vital to Emmet County's future to understand the environmental assets in our region. The raptor count has been an amazing example of educating the public about what an important area this is for birds of prey on an international level,” Appold said. “As a secondary benefit, Emmet County receives exposure about our unique amenities and experiences and we attract tens of thousands of visitors to our communities and parks, in turn supporting our economy and encouraging families and individuals to relocate here and invest in our area. We will continue to support excellent efforts such as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and we’re glad we could help MSRW launch a very successful first year festival.”

Gary Appold receives Wind Under Wings Award on behalf of Emmet County from Ed Pike, Chair of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.

Photo By Anthony Dunaske

2017 Raptorfest

April 7-9

Thank You!

(Click to See Lists of

Volunteers who made

The Raptor Fest possible)

     As the spring season comes to a close this weekend for owls and waterbirds, the hawk count continues until June 5.  Broad-wings will likely pick up in numbers.  Feel free to come on out and enjoy the birds.  Here is an invite also to an introductory presentation and afternoon in Mackinaw City about hawks.

     Thank you for visiting or otherwise expressing interest in the spring migration through the Straits of Mackinac of hawks, owls, and waterbirds, either this year or previous years.

     To invite you - In conjunction with Earth Week Plus, a free introduction to raptors talk and outdoor experience will be offered on May 14. Meet at 1 p.m. at the Mackinaw Area Public Library, then stay at the hawk watch in Mackinaw City as long as desired. We hope to see large numbers of broadwinged hawks soaring in kettles.

     To update you – This year, our first-ever full waterbird count is rewarding the investment. Jason Newton, counter, reported that on May 2, 2,945 longtail ducks passed through. In addition, he noted that while some species continue in high numbers, others (red-throated loon, black and surf scoters) have declined since the count began March 19. The owl banding by Emily Wilmoth and Kim Edgington, begun March 20, has caught more long-eared owls than in recent years, and fewer northern saw-whet owls. Both these activities will end next weekend.

The biggest news in terms of record numbers comes from hawk counter Kevin Georg. In this sixth spring of data collection in Mackinaw City, higher numbers already have been tallied than ever before of red-tailed hawks, black vultures, bald eagles, northern harriers, sharp-shinned hawks, redshouldered hawks, merlins, peregrine falcons, and gyrfalcons. The hawk count goes until June 5, so bring a lawn chair and join us to share the joy of watching these birds wend their way north.

     Visit for more information.