2018 Fest People


Programs/Field Trips



Photo Courtesty Davd Kunze Photography




2018 Fest Birds

New: Evening Event on April 6

Early Registration and Meet and Greet Reception, Holiday Inn Express - 4:00

Programs on April 7

Mackinaw City School

Registration is at 8:30 and Conference starts at 9:00

Keynote Afternoon Presentation

“Snowy Owl Winter Habitat Use” by Eugene Jacobs

Some Snowy Owls remain on the northern breeding grounds or actually move onto the Arctic sea ice, hunting in perpetual winter darkness.  Others, sometimes in large numbers, migrate south in a phenomenon called an irruption.  In the mega-irruption of 2013, Snowy Owls were seen as far south as Florida and Bermuda.  Most people assume that hunger has driven these owls south, and that the birds will starve to death in unfamiliar landscapes.  Both assumption have been proven wrong by Project SNOWStorm.  In this talk, Gene Jacobs shares his research with using solar-powered transmitters that record owl locations in three dimensions, latitude, longitude, and altitude.

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.

Evening Plenary Session:

“Live Raptor Program” by Glen McCune.

Regardless of the weather or migration flow outside, some raptors will be seen during the Fest.   Glen McCune will bring at least one raptor under his care.  Glen gives educational programs with his birds to foster appreciation, understanding, and respect for raptors and for the practice of falconry.

Optional Sessions:

“Northern Saw-whet Owl: What Banding Has Revealed” by Eugene Jacobs

Through thirty years of banding migrant Saw-whet Owls, Gene has discovered some interesting facts about this quarter-pounder.  We will discuss owl migration, band recoveries, longevity, and age classes in the populations that he has researched.  We also will explore general owl adaptations and how they benefit the Saw-whet in particular. 

“Nesting Ecology Studies on Merlins and Red-shouldered Hawks” by Eugene Jacobs

Hear how Merlins are expanding their breeding range to the south, and learn why, surprisingly, urban landscapes make popular nesting sites for them.  Discover the results from 45 years of studying Red-shouldered Hawks on their nesting grounds.  Gene will share some interesting nesting behavior, the truth about re-occupancy of previous nest sites, their reproductive performance, and observations on their food preferences.

"Waterbird Migration Over Lake Superior" by Joseph Youngman 

 Tens of thousands of ducks, loons and grebes pass through Lake Superior every fall moving from their breeding grounds to winter territories.  Whitefish Point Bird Observatory has been doing fall waterbird counts since 1989.   The Thunder Cape Bird Observatory in Canada has been counting too and the late Dr. Laurence Binford discovered a major migration pathway along the north shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula in the 1980s.  Since 2002, Copper Country Audubon has conducted waterbird counts throughout Lake Superior to try and tease out the different pathways that the various species take on their journey through Lake Superior.

“Bird Photography for Beginners: A Guide to Jump Starting a Gratifying Adventure”  by Josh Haas

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.

““Photographing Hawks on the Wing: Tips for Advanced Bird Photographers” by Josh Haas

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.  

“Banding the elusive Boreal Owl: The Hilliardton Marsh experience” by Bruce Murphy

While Boreal Owl and Long-eared Owl banding has proven to be both exciting and compelling, many mysteries remain regarding these elusive owls.   Bruce will explain their research results over 17 years, including the strong connection between owls of northeastern Ontario and northern Michigan.  You will have to come to this talk to hear “owl about it!”

“Photography’s Role in Citizen Science: A Case Study with Kestrels” by Lynn Fraze

This program embraces our symbiotic relationship with nature, specifically raptors, using nesting research collected by a wildlife photographer for the American Kestrel Partnership as an example.  Understanding raptor behavior helps us take better photos and better photos improve the science of understanding and protecting raptors.

"The Science and Magic of Migration” by Jane Ferreyra 

The new Director of Hawk Migration Association of North America reveals some amazing aspects of hawk migration for general birding audiences.  She will describe how HMANA uses the data from dozens of hawk counts to analyze overall and regional raptor count trends.

Field Trips

Friday, April 6

Early Registration and Meet and Greet Evening Reception

Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 - Owls and Stars, Headlands Dark Sky Park

by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker.  Limit: 40.

This joint offering by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker provides the best chance to see in person some migrating owls as they are caught, examined, and released from banding nets, as well as view constellations and planets of the night sky.  After meeting at 7 p.m., we will help Ed Pike set up mist nets and an owl calling station.  He will target Northern Saw-whet Owls, with Boreal and Long-eared Owls also possible.   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.  Josh Haas will be photographing the night sky if clouds don’t get in the way.  He will provide tips and help on night sky photography to field trip attendees who want to join him.  From the Headlands entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House.

Sunday, April 8 - Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek, by Steve Baker and Leonard Graf.  This early morning trip will allow attendees to witness the courtship ritual of these grouse, including dancing and calls.  Meet at 5:30 am at the Mackinaw City State Welcome Center/ Rest Area on South Nicolet St. We will carpool in four vehicles and drive about an hour to a Sharptailed Grouse lek which is easily viewed from the vehicles, which will serve as blinds. The birds gather at dawn and the dancing should be going strong by sunrise. Dress warmly so windows can be open to let in the amazing sounds of the lek.  There are no bathroom facilities until leaving the lek at about 8 am so plan accordingly. We will return to Mackinaw City by 10 am.

Sunday, April 8Late Winter Birding in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, by Darrell Lawson.  Meet at 8:00 am at the Mackinaw City State Welcome Center/ Rest Area on South Nicolet St. from which we will carpool to the Upper Peninsula.  We will search for Snowy Owls, Northern Shrikes, Rough-legged Hawks, and other winter migrants and residents through Mackinac County  We will eat lunch at a restaurant and return to Mackinaw City by 4 pm. 

Sunday, April 8 – Hawk Watch with Identification Expert Josh Haas.

Not able go on a field trip?  Stick around Sunday morning and join Josh Haas of Hawks on the Wing at the Hawk Watch site, starting about 10 am.  He will help hawk watchers hone their identification skills as he points out the migrating hawks.

Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14 -  Owl Banding and Constellation Finding, Headlands Dark Sky Park, by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker.

This extra weekend is offered to allow more people to have the chance to see owls, especially those living in Northern Michigan and/or Fest volunteers. After meeting at 7 p.m., 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. 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 talk about the night sky and help participants find celestial features outside.   From the Headlands entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House.

Owl Poster

Poster available for purchase at Mackinaw Raptor Fest along with clothing merchandise