Kathy Bricker began attending Toledo Star and Sky Study Group monthly meetings when she was 9 years old. Although she pursued careers in biology, land conservation, and non-profit management and development rather than astronomy, she has shared her knowledge about constellations with many
groups since retiring to northern Michigan in 2006. A past president of both Petoskey Regional and Straits Area Audubon Societies, she serves as Secretary of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and presents programs to groups around Michigan about its work.
Josh Haas is President of Battle Creek Audubon and an entertaining speaker with a passion for all things birds. His specialties are hawk identification in flight and birding by ear. He has an extensive background counting migrating hawks for the Detroit River Hawkwatch and working with birds of prey at nature centers. He co-owns Glances At Nature Photography where he sells his work, teaches lessons and workshops, and leads bird photography trips around the Midwest.
Jeff Lange of Petoskey, Michigan directs the non-profit group, Looncorps. He is a founding member and serves as area coordinator of Michigan Loon Watch. Jeff has been studying, protecting, and filming loons for 20 years, along with sandhill cranes, and other wildlife. He focuses his volunteer work on Emmet and Cheboygan Counties. He owns Morning Star Jewelry Repair and Design and is a singer/songwriter.
Rebecca Lessard founded and now directs Wings of Wonder, a non-profit raptor sanctuary and rehabilitation center in Empire, Michigan. A wildlife rehabilitator and educator since 1990, she holds
rehabilitation permits from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She has received the Northern Michigan “Environmentalist of the Year” award in Education and the President’s Award from Michigan Audubon Society for her work with raptors.
Mark Martell is a Senior Ecologist with Tetra Tech, Inc. Sciences in Bloomington, Minnesota. Before moving to this environmental consulting firm, he served as Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon
Minnesota for twelve years. It was there that he began satellite tracking of Golden Eagles. Prior to Audubon, he was a Research Fellow at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. He has conducted research on raptors in North and Central America since 1985.
Ed Pike, retired from Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, has conducted bird research for
four decades. As a licensed bird bander, he studied Barn Swallows and Piping Plovers, serving on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Piping Plover Recovery Team and chairing the D.N.R.'s Piping Plover Recovery Team. Wanting to learn the importance of the Straits of Mackinac to raptors, he secured funding for the first spring hawk count in 2004 and has banded more than 2,000 owls of eight species, working both spring and fall migrations as a volunteer. Ed co-founded and chairs the Mackinac Straits
Holly Vaughn is a Wildlife Outreach Technician with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Based from the Detroit Metro Customer Service Center, she serves all of Southeast Michigan. She
loves to educate people about Michigan wildlife. She holds a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife and an M.S. in Park, Recreation and Tourism Resources, both from Michigan State University. She is an avid birder and is the First Vice President of the Macomb Audubon Society
Steve Baker, a retired veterinarian from Indian River, has observed raptor migration in the Straits of Mackinac since the early 1980s. He serves on the governing committee of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, was the principal volunteer spring hawk counter and organizer from 2011 through 2013 and a volunteer waterbird counter in fall 2015. Steve leads field trips and gives programs for several Audubon societies and land conservancies. He enjoys botanizing (especially for native orchids and ferns), kayaking, hiking, taking nature photographs, and trying to learn the dragonflies.
Bill Grigg is an avid birder and bird bander who has volunteered at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and with the Michigan eagle and osprey banding program. He has coordinated the Christmas Bird Count in Alpena for more than 40 years, comparing data over the decades. Besides Thunder Bay Audubon Society, Grigg is a leader in the Friends of Thompson's Harbor State Park which protects habitat for rare species such as Hine's emerald dragonfly and many orchids.
Darrell Lawson, a computer programmer, ranks as one of the top Ebird participants in Michigan. He serves as president of Petoskey Regional Audubon Society and is on the governing committee of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. Darrell leads many birding field trips and is committed to the development of birding trails in northern lower Michigan.
Dave Mayberry works in landscape design and execution. For this, he travels frequently to Mackinac Island where he has observed the spring raptor migration for many years. He serves on the governing committee of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and is responsible for creating the public information kiosks at the hawk and owl research sites.
Will Weber, Ph.D. co-founded the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory and serves on the advisory committee of the Detroit River Hawk Watch. As a board member of the Hawk Migration Association of North America for more than two decades, he was instrumental in developing HMANA’s HawkCount database and the Raptor Population Index which utilizes HawkCount data. He co-founded Journeys International, Inc., and has led more than 60 international nature and culture expeditions to Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific.
Programs on April 8
Keynote Dinner Presentation
“Golden Eagles in the Eastern United States” by Mark Martell
Golden Eagles, among the most spectacular birds in the world, are rare but regular migrants through Michigan. More of them have been recorded at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch than any other hawk watch site east of the Mississippi River. Using satellite telemetry, Mark Martell tracks Golden Eagles to determine their winter and summer ranges as well as their fall and spring migration routes. His work shows strong fidelity to wintering areas, with the same roosting sites used in multiple years. He and others also have learned that Golden Eagles breed in northern Canada from the coast of Newfoundland to north of the Great Slave Lake 3,000 km to the west.
Morning Plenary Session
“Raptor Migration and Conquering ID: Using Video to Make Raptor ID a Snap!” by Josh Haas
Hawks bring both a sense of wonder and struggle to birders, especially when it comes to identifying them in the field. Join hawk watcher Josh Haas for an informative and innovative new way of identifying hawks on the wing. Instead of only hearing descriptive narratives on the subject, Josh's program features side-by-side videos of Hawks in flight, making conquering the techniques much faster and easier.
Afternoon Plenary Session:
“Wings of Wonder Live Raptor Program” by Rebecca Lessard
Regardless of the weather or migration flow outside, some raptors will be seen during the Fest. Rebecca Lessard brings live birds to more than 150 educational programs a year. Presentations are designed to foster appreciation, understanding, honor, and respect for raptors and the important role these birds play in healthy ecosystems. Besides educational outreach, Wings of Wonder has rehabilitated sick, injured, or orphaned raptors since 1990, with the goal of releasing healthy birds back into the wild.
“Overview of Raptor Migration in the Midwest” by Mark Martell
The Midwest region of the U.S. provides a vital migratory route to raptors of many species. Whether they over-winter in the southern U.S., Central America, or South America, raptors that nest in a broad swath from Minnesota to New York or in Canada may pass through the Midwest. Mark Martell has studied these birds in both North and Central America for more than three decades. He has presented his findings to the Mississippi Flyway Council and other venues and will share a general educational overview.
“How is Migration Data Used?” by Will Weber, Ph.D.
The Hawk Migration Association of North America maintains a website, www.hmana.org,
where dozens of hawk sites post their observation data. How this data is used and the history and work of HMANA will be discussed in this talk. Learn about its structure, mission, new office in Michigan, and future plans.
“Peregrine Falcons in Michigan” by Holly Vaughn
Due to the effects of DDT and other pesticides, Peregrine Falcons were once completely absent from Michigan. The Department of Natural Resources began a re-introduction program in the late 1980s. Since then, the state’s population has grown to more than 45 breeding pairs. Learn about biology and behavior of Peregrine Falcons, their population status, and where and when to see them in the state.
“Bird Photography for Beginners: A Guide to Jump Starting a Gratifying Adventure”
Join Josh Haas for a bird photography session for beginners. Josh will share some beginning techniques for starting off right. Don't let technical frustrations or a lack of good images so far hinder you from continuing your quest. This common sense approach to photography makes learning easier and will revitalize your passion for striving to be a creative photographer. (Photography class participants are invited to the photograph review session this evening at Headlands Dark Sky Park)
“The Special Challenges of Photographing Hawks on the Wing”
Hawks in flight pose big challenges to aspiring bird photographers. Tricky lighting and erratic raptors often seem like they want nothing more than to avoid the camera. Josh Haas will share some of his favorite techniques for capturing inspiring images of hawks in flight and getting around tracking and focus issues. He will share his favorite spots for the best photo opportunities and tell how to prepare for your days of photographing hawks. (Photography class participants are invited to the photograph review session this evening at Headlands Dark Sky Park)
“Loon Research and Banding” by Jeff Lange
Learning about loons first-hand requires handling them first-hand, which is not as easy as studying some other species. Starting many years ago, Jeff Lange has assisted and filmed loon researchers as they refined methodology to capture, take measurements, band, and release the birds in a fashion that is safe for both birds and biologists. Enjoy the stories and some of the footage, including an eight-minute clip.
“Owl Research in the Straits” by Ed Pike
When the hawks roost at dusk, owls take over the migration flyways. Learn about these birds and the information gleaned from 25 years of spring and fall banding studies in the Straits region. Ed Pike will share stories and data from banding more than 2,000 owls of nine species: screech, northern saw-whet, long-eared, short-eared, boreal, great gray, barred, great horned, and snowy.
“The Uncommon Loon” by Jeff Lange
In an artistic film shot and produced by Jeff Lange, these elegant birds amply demonstrate why they are worth the effort to see and protect them. Learn about loon ecology, their striking interactions with each other, and their breeding and population status in Michigan. The Michigan Loon Watch program cares for them by providing nesting platforms, marking nest sites to alert boaters, and checking for speedboat and other human disruptions. Much of the film's footage was shot on Round Lake in Petoskey.
Friday, April 7 - Owl Banding and Constellation Finding, Headlands Dark Sky Park, by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker. Free event for first 40 Fest registrants who reserve space. (See offerings below as well.)
This joint offering by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker gives Fest participants the best chance to see in person some migrating owls that are caught, examined, and released from banding nets, as well as view constellations and planets of the night sky. At dusk we will help Ed Pike set up mist nets and an owl calling station. He will target saw-whet owls, with boreal and long-eared owls also possible. Before the first net check, Kathy will give a talk on constellations. Any captured owls will be measured, aged, sexed, banded, photographed, and released. Ed will demonstrate techniques that biologists use to learn about these nocturnal hunters, share highlights of his 25 years of banding 2,000 owls of eight species, and show a film about owl banding. Between net checks, Kathy will help participants find constellations outdoors. From the Headlands entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House.
April 7 - Statewide Astronomy Night, Headlands Dark Sky Park, by Park staff and Michigan State University. Free public event. No limit on participants and no need to register.
This event, not affiliated with Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, is nevertheless open to any interested Fest attendees. Participants will preview the new Roger McCormick 20” PlaneWave telescrope for peering deeply into the sky. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own telescopes and questions for experts about how to use them, which to buy, what to see, and more.
Saturday, April 15 - Owl Banding and Constellation Finding, Headlands Dark Sky Park, by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker. This extra event, is offered a week later to allow more people to have the chance to see owls, especially those living in Northern Michigan and/or Fest volunteers. Limited to 40 participants.
This joint offering by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker affords the best chance to see in person some migrating owls that are caught, examined, and released from banding nets, as well as view constellations and planets of the night sky. At dusk we will help Ed Pike set up mist nets and an owl calling station. He will target saw-whet owls, with boreal and long-eared owls also possible. Before the first net check, Kathy will give a talk on constellations. Any captured owls will be measured, aged, sexed, banded, photographed, and released. Ed will demonstrate techniques that biologists use to learn about these nocturnal hunters, share highlights of his 25 years of banding 2,000 owls of eight species, and show a film about owl banding. Between net checks, Kathy will help participants find constellations outdoors. From the Headlands entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House.
Leonard Graf is a licensed bird bander who has birded on all seven continents. He brings with him over 25 years of experience as a part time volunteer hawk and waterbird counter at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Leonard has spent over 20 years leading winter birding tours to Sault Ste. Marie and is currently a tour leader for state wide birding trips for local Audubon clubs. He is also a co-author of the annotated checklist, “Birds of Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.”
Lead funding for the Mackinaw Raptor Fest 2017 and other education outreach is generously provided by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation.
We also thank the Hawk Watch Sponsors: the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau.
Bruce Seeger relocated to Cheboygan from downstate a decade ago. Interested in birds for most of his life, he joined Straits Area Audubon Society and participates in the annual Cheboygan Christmas Bird Counts. Seeger grew interested in the Hawk Count after reading an article in the Cheboygan Daily Tribune announcing that professional counter Kevin Georg was hired to do the first count. Seeger credits Kevin Georg for teaching him much about raptors and their identification during numerous hours at the hawk watch over four years, including the magical day when nearly five thousand red-tail hawks were counted.
Bob Pettit has led bird and raptor organizations for more than 30 years. He founded Erie Shores Birding Association and chaired both the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and the Hawk Migration Association of North America. He is current president of the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory. Pettit earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees (biology/ornithology) from Central Michigan University and is Professor Emeritus at Monroe County Community College. For Pettit, birding is more than compiling a species list; it’s about camaraderie and giving something back. “It’s the feeling of sharing it with other folks, and the data with the world, so we can see the health of the environment.”