Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker David Cuthrell (Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group presenter) is a conservation scientist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, part of MSU Extension. He has assisted with a variety of rare species surveys throughout the state and has worked with Northern Goshawks and Red-shouldered Hawks for over two decades. Believing that “conservation requires knowledge and action,” he disseminates information to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan DNR, and through publications, training workshops, and participation in many professional organizations. When he is not chasing bugs or sloshing through prairie fens, he enjoys time with his family and umpiring baseball.

Plenary Speaker

Josh Haas, past President of Battle Creek Audubon, first developed a love for hawks working with the birds of prey at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. A hawkwatching trip to Lake Erie Metropark opened his eyes to hawks in migration. Perplexed by seeing specks at a distance with an overwhelming itch to know what they were, he started learning from veteran hawk watchers and was hooked. He spent seven seasons helping the Detroit River Hawkwatch as a relief counter. His goal of making hawks accessible to everyone spawned the “Hawks on the Wing” instructional video on identifying hawks in flight. Josh co-owns Hawks at a Glance and Glances At Nature Photography where he sells his work, teaches lessons and workshops, and leads bird photography trips around the Midwest.

Session Presenters

Andrew Dennhardt is a doctoral student at Michigan State University who won a Student Scholarship to attend the 2019 Mackinaw Raptor Fest.  He has studied raptors for >10 years at Southern Illinois University, various contract positions, and as a Master’s student at West Virginia University.  He has worked at various times with peregrine falcons, northern spotted owls, northern goshawks, barn owls, osprey, and bald and golden eagles.  A self-described quantitative population and community ecologist, he is eager to further develop his scientific communication and outreach skills and further raptor ecology, conservation, and management.

Russ Edmonds recently retired from a large manufacturing company where he worked as an Environmental Engineer.   He attended his first hawk watch in 1975, has observed raptor migration at eight watch sites in the Great Lakes region since then, has volunteered at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth Minnesota for over 20 years, and has belonged to Hawk Migration Association of North America since 2004.  Russ and his wife Ann are retiring from Indiana to a cabin on Brimley Bay in the UP, with plans to be more active with Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and Whitefish Point Bird Observatory.

Kim Nowack, P.E. received her Civil Engineering degree from Michigan Technological University in 1985 and immediately started her career with the Michigan Department of Transportation.  In 2002, Kim accepted the position of Chief Engineer for the Mackinac Bridge Authority where she was responsible for all engineering and maintenance oversight of the bridge. She was the first woman to hold this position in the Bridge Authority’s 60+ year history.  Kim was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Mackinac Bridge in 2019 and is the first woman to hold this position.  Kim is active in the International Cable Supported Bridge Owners Association and presents papers at international conferences.  She serves on the Transportation Research Board,  tasked with revising the federal guidelines for inspections of suspension bridge main cable systems.   Kim was recently inducted into the MTU Academy of Civil and Environmental Engineers.

Bob Pettit gained his love for spotting and counting birds from his mother and ornithologist father.  He earned his Masters degree in Ornithology from Central Michigan University and became a Biology Professor at Monroe County Community College. Bob co-founded the Erie Shores Birding Association, chaired the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and the Hawk Migration Association of North America, and was president of the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory. He has volunteered as raptor observer for over 30 years, amassing 1,500+ hours of observation, and has conducted workshops on hawk identification for over 25 years.  For Bob, it’s not about racking up a list of species. It’s about camaraderie and giving a little something back, ‘seeing it, sharing it with other folks, and then sharing the data with the world so we can see the health of our environment.’

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 Raptor Watch.

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.

Interpreters and Field Trip Leaders

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 Board of Directors of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and has been the principal volunteer spring hawk counter since 2011 as well as helping with waterbirds.  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.

Leonard Graf is a licensed bird bander who has birded on all seven continents. He brings 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 leads state wide birding trips for local Audubon clubs. He co-authored the annotated checklist, “Birds of Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.” 

Bev Kirby has long been an avid birder, volunteering with Michigan Audubon’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey and Cornell University’s Project Feederwatch since the beginning of both citizen science programs.  She volunteered and watched hawks at Mackinac Straits for many years before Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch was founded and continues as volunteer greeter whenever she can.  Bev worked at Birmingham Public School District for 35 years.  A native Canadian, Bev is seldom seen without a smile on her face and her husband Jack by her side.

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 Board of Directors of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, which he co-founded.  He created the public information kiosks at the hawk and owl research sites and manages MSRW’s merchandise effort.

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 learned about the Hawk Count from 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 countless hours at the hawk watch over five years, including the magical day when nearly five thousand red-tail hawks were counted.

     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 Mackinac 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

      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.