Schedule/Programs/Field Trips

Friday April 5, 4:30 to 7:00 pm

Evening Early Registration and Meet and Greet Reception, Holiday Inn Express

Saturday April 6, 8:30 am to 7 pm

8:30 am

Mackinaw City School

Registration and Coffee

9:00 am

Plenary Session

Conservation of Raptors and Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory Program by David Cuthrell

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) has been generating and disseminating the highest quality scientific information on the location and condition of rare species for more than 35 years. David will provide an overview of the Program and our Biotics Conservation Database.  This database, approaching 20,000 records, is used by many entities in the conservation of rare species, including rare raptors.

10:15 am     Breakout Session Choices

10:15 am

Breakout Session Choices

Science of Lead Poisoning of Raptors by Todd Katzner

Lead is a poisonous metal present in a variety of commercial products, as a pollutant from industrial activities, and as an environmental contaminant in many urban and rural habitats throughout the world. When ingested or inhaled, the body "mistakes" lead for calcium and other beneficial metals, and thus transports lead into nerve cells and other vital tissues.  Mankind has long known about lead as an agent of sickness and death.  But recent medical studies show harmful effects at unexpectedly low levels of exposure, including impairment of cognitive function and physical growth in children.  

Osprey Migration Across the Americas” by Mark Martell

Learn about when and where Ospreys migrate in this talk.  

“Movement Ecology of Bald Eagles in the Midwest” by Trish Miller

Bald Eagles are often found along the waterways of the Midwest throughout the year. However, an increasing number are nesting and wintering in upland areas, where they are exposed to wind energy, electrocution, lead poisoning, and collisions with vehicles. To better understand how eagles use the Midwest and to conserve this iconic species, Dr. Miller and colleagues tracked 71 Bald Eagles with telemetry. Learn about their findings and efforts to conserve Bald Eagles in this fragmented landscape.

Raptors in Flight: Photography Tips 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.

“Why Are We Here?: The Migratory Mindset of MSRW”

by Richard Couse

This talk gives an overview of MSRW’s organizational history and research findings over the years.  Rich will describe educational public outreach as well, through people viewing the research sites in Cheboygan, Mackinaw City, and St. Ignace.  He will summarize past Mackinaw Raptor Fests for those who did not attend them.  The program will also allow attendees to provide input and reactions on possible future research, education, and conservation work.

11:15 am     

Breakout Session Choices

National Non-Lead Partnership" (Invited) by Vince Slabe

Lead is a huge issue for raptors.  Scientific evidence of the effects of lead on human health has brought forth large scale restrictions on its use in the United States, including the prohibition of lead in many gasolines and paints. Responses on behalf of wildlife have been less forthcoming, but consumption of lead shot by ducks and geese and secondary poisoning of Bald Eagles contributed to the 1991 ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting in the United States. Other countries have instituted similar measures.

Midwest Bald Eagles by Trish Miller

See above.

Adaptations for Raptor Flight by Josh Haas

As predators and meat-eaters, raptors must first capture their prey.  How is that done and how easy is it?  This talk will wow you with the many adaptations that allow birds of prey to master their challenging lifestyle.  Special features include their body and wing shapes, weight, and feathering patterns.  These and other structural and physiological factors result in spectacular feats of flight by raptors, from tail chases to dives from great heights.

Snowy Owls and Project SNOWstorm by Michael Lanzone

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 assumptions have been proven wrong by Project SNOWStorm.  In this talk, Michael Lanzone shares research from many collaborators in Project SNOWstorm.

Why Are We Here?: The Migratory Mindset of MSRW”

by Richard Couse

Description: See above

12:00 pm

Lunch at restaurant of your choice from list provided

1:45 pm

Keynote Presentation

Golden Eagle Conservation by Todd Katzner

Todd Katzner, Chair of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group, explains how this international collaborative of managers and researchers has tracked and worked to conserve Golden Eagles in eastern North America since 2006.  Before their work, very little was known about these birds.  Through telemetry and more traditional research, this group has learned about the ecology, behavior, and conservation of this enigmatic bird. This program will help you better understand the eastern Golden Eagle and its migration ecology, including new insights into the relationship between Golden Eagle migration behavior and the potential threats of wind turbines. 

11:15 am     

Breakout Session Choices

Hawk Watching: A Novice-Friendly Hawk Identification Experience by Bob Pettit

Using photographs and study skins, attendees will learn the basics about identifying hawks seen at migration sites.

VultureNet: The Internet of Wildlife and the Future of Animal Tracking by Michael Lanzone

This talk has a lot of potential application for raptors passing through Mackinaw in the future. Mike will explain and give examples of how the transmitters that raptors and vultures are wearing can talk to all the smaller transmitters from other birds and animals.  They can collect all their data as well and send it back to the researchers.

Identification of Waterbirds in Flight by Darrell Lawson

Based on years of identifying and photographing waterbirds and serving as back-up counter for MSRW, Darrell will explain and illustrate how to identify waterbirds in flight.  You will learn of features not emphasized in most bird books such as the tempo of wing flapping, shape of body, and silhouettes.

“Why Are We Here?: The Migratory Mindset of MSRW”

by Richard Couse

See above

Wind Energy and Raptors Panel Discussion with Todd Katzner, Mark Martell, Trish Miller, David Cuthrell

This first-ever panel discussion at a Mackinaw Raptor Fest takes advantage of the presence of four specialists who have been engaged in research and activism on this issue.  Their studies, including telemetry, provide insights into the relationship between Golden Eagle migration behavior and the potential threats of wind turbines.   They have conducted raptor surveys for power companies putting up wind turbines and been involved in siting and mitigation methods to reduce the possibility of harm from alternative energy sources.

4:30 pm

St. Anthony’s Church

Modern Falconry with Live Raptors by Jenny Schroeder

A licensed falconer will bring several of her hunting birds along with equipment to show how falconry has changed over time and what falconry looks like in modern time. She will address history, regulation, training techniques, and the inner workings of the behavior between the oldest hunting partners in the world. This program will include live Falcons, Hawks and Owls.   

5:45  pm

Pizza and Pasta Buffet

Silent Auction

Student Scholar Introductions

Wind Under Wings Award

Sunday April 7, 9:30 – 11 am – Special Free Feature

Learning Bird Songs by Bob Pettit at Headlands Dark Sky Park Guest House

Description: To many, identifying birds has become an art form. To make the proper identification, one looks for “field marks,” observes unique behaviors, and listens for significant utterances. In this workshop you will learn tried and true methods to start you in a positive direction of mastering bird song identification. You will be introduced to Bob’s unique methods of learning songs, and delight in the experience of adding another aspect to your birding enjoyment.  You will be able to take home free explanatory handouts.

Sunday April 7

Hawk and Waterbird Research viewing

Interpreter/Naturalists Interpreters will be on hand.

Monday to Wednesday April 8 to 10

Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group Meeting at Mackinaw Beach & Bay Hotel, Mackinaw City, 929 S. Huron St.

Please email Todd Katzner at for program schedule.


Saturday April 6, 7:15 to 10:15 pm

Owls and Stars at Headlands Dark Sky Park, led by Ed Pike and Kathy Bricker.  Limit: 30 people

This offering provides a chance to see migrating owls.  Attendees will also learn about constellations and planets of the night sky.  At dusk we will set up mist nets and an owl calling station, targeting Northern Saw-whet Owls. 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 25 years of research on 2,000 owls of eight species, and show a film about owl banding.  Between net checks, Kathy will talk on finding constellations and, conditions permitting, view them outdoors.  From the Headlands entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House.


Sunday April 7, 5:30 to 12 pm

Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Trip to Upper Peninsula, led by Steve Baker and Leonard Graf.  Limit 12 people.

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 birds on 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 7, 8 am to 4 pm

Late Winter Birding in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, led by Darrell Lawson. Limit 18 people. 

Meet at 8:00 am at the Mackinaw City School, 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.