Registration is well underway for the second Mackinaw Raptor Fest, according to Kathy Bricker, Secretary of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. She welcomes people to come learn more about birds and their twice-a-year migration at this event April 7 to 9 at the Mackinaw City Public School.
The Mackinaw Raptor Fest provides an entertaining and educational showcase to promote public awareness and knowledge of raptors and waterbirds and the significance of Mackinaw City and the Straits of Mackinac during migration. It promotes positive public attitudes towards raptors and waterbirds and their importance to the environment. It aims to become an internationally renowned annual festival that will generate ongoing ecotourism revenue for the Mackinaw City/Cheboygan/Petoskey/Harbor Springs area, new sponsorship for research on raptors and waterbirds, and net proceeds to further that research.
“Last year,” Bricker explains, “many more people wanted to attend than we could accommodate. So we have moved the banquet and keynote speech to a larger venue.” Bricker believes the Fest may draw up to 120 people from around Michigan and nearby states. Already, 60 volunteers have offered to help with advance preparations, sign-in, site set-up, food service, outdoor guidance to birders and photographers, and other needs.
The keynote banquet speaker on Saturday April 8 will be researcher Mark Martell. From Duluth, Minnesota, Martell will regale people with stories about Golden Eagles, close relatives of the more widely-known Bald Eagle. In 2015 Martell, the foremost researcher of eastern Golden Eagles, praised MSRW for recording more Golden Eagles than any other hawk count site east of the Mississippi River. MSRW counted 374 in 2015 and 349 in 2016.
Daytime plenary sessions at the Mackinaw Raptor Fest will teach people how to identify hawks in flight, with instructional film excerpts, and will introduce participants in person to live birds of prey.
Break-out session topics include Raptor Migration in the Midwest, Peregrine Falcons in Michigan, Use of Hawk Migration Data, Bird Photography, Owl Migration in the Straits, Loon Research, and the documentary film Uncommon Loon by Jeff Lange of Petoskey.
Bricker adds. "Besides the Mackinaw Raptor Fest, MSRW will improve other outreach about hawks and owls in 2017, thanks to the generosity of the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. The PHSACF has pledged $7,000 for special programming and publicity to build on the enthusiastic public reaction to our avian resources. Birds comprise the feathered component of the natural inheritance under our generation's care, and are every bit as vulnerable as they look. Their future depends directly on our appreciation and actions.”
In 2016, MSRW recorded over 1,500 guest visits to the hawk, owl, and waterbird research sites, while several hundred more people attended programs and field trips. Support from PHSACF will help ensure that such people, including youth, come away with a greater awareness and understanding of birds. The Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau also gave generously toward the 2017 educational work of MSRW, recognizing the potential of birds to attract visitors to northern lower Michigan. Additional Fest Sponsors are joining in 2017.
MSRW Chair Ed Pike, sums up: “Since MSRW was created in 2014, we have proven that the Straits of Mackinac ranks among the top migration funnels in the country for birds of prey. It's vital to continue this research to monitor changes over time. We also have tapped into the fastest-growing pastime in the U.S.: birdwatching. Bird research, education, and conservation dovetail perfectly, because people must experience and understand natural resources in order to value and protect them.” To directly support the research or education work, MSRW accepts tax-deductible donations via the website or by check.
Bricker invites people to learn more and register at www.mackinawraptorfest.org.
Event Contact: Kathy Bricker, Secretary, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch at 231-627-4830