Birding Prime Time in Keweenaw

Dana Richter/Copper Country Audubon photos A pileated woodpecker is seen on a stump. The species is the largest of six seen in the Copper Country.

HOUGHTON — For people who like to watch birds as a hobby, or even those who are only slightly interested in them, the Copper Country is an excellent place to do that, according to local avid birders.

Bonnie Hay, who is a member of the Gratiot Lake Conservancy, said many species of birds pass over the Keweenaw Peninsula as they move north or south depending on the time of year.

“It’s really a big hot spot for migrating birds,” she said.

Some migrating species actually take up residence in the Keweenaw.

“Some of them nest in the Keweenaw area,” she said.

Dana Richter/Copper Country Audubon photos This baby great-horned owl came out of the nest on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge a few years ago. Owls also nested on the bridge this year.

For the next week or so, Hay said the annual raptor migration will pass over parts of the Copper Country, with Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor being a prime location to watch them.

“It’s an exciting thing to do,” she said.

One species members of the GLC keep an eye are warblers, Hay said.

“There are many species of warblers,” she said. “Some of them migrate through; some of them nest.”

Dana Richter, president of Copper Country Audubon, said the Keweenaw Peninsula is a focal point for 16 migrating raptor species heading south or north.

Dana Richter/Copper Country Audubon photos Above: Raptors are seen soaring over Brockway Mountain in the Keweenaw.

“The concept is the raptors don’t want to travel over the water,” he said.

Raptors want to stay over land because the can’t set down on water, and their food prey are on the land, Richter said.

Official counts of the raptor species take place on Brockway Mountain from March 15 to June 15, Richter said. On a good day, up to 1,000 raptors can be seen flying over the site. The maximum number of raptors counted during the counting period was 30,000, and the minimum was about 9,000. As of Tuesday, 9,239 raptors were counted.

On May 27, Richter said 1,041 raptors were counted at Brockway Mountain.

“It was phenomenal day,” he said.

Dana Richter/Copper Country Audubon photos More than 250 kids from local schools came up to Brockway Mountain on May 26 to view the hawk migration. More than 300 hawks were seen that day and some of the kids got closeup views of a variety of raptors.

Information about the Brockway Mountain raptor count can be found at thekbrg.org/bmhw, which is a website created by the Keweenaw Bird Research Group.

Richter said where a person watches for birds will determine what species might be seen. In woodland areas, there is a wide variety of species. Fields are places where certain species of birds can be seen. There are many species of birds which frequent shorelines or the water just off the shore.

Richter said a couple good locations for birding is the Paavola Wetlands off U.S. 41 north of Hancock, and the Nara Nature Trail off U.S. 41 in Houghton.

Every spring, a pair of peregrine falcons use one of two nesting boxes mounted at the top of the north and south towers of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. The Copper Country Audubon has two web cameras mounted near the boxes so the growth of the chicks can be seen.

Getting started in birding is as simple as getting a good pair of binoculars, a book about birding and finding a spot to watch. It is also a good idea to write down what birds are seen.

“Keep lists,” he said.

Richter said more information about Copper Country Audubon can be found by writing to the organization at P.O. Box 124, Houghton 49931, or by emailing Richter at dlrichte@mtu.edu.

Copper Country Audubon is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society and receives no funding from that organization or the Michigan Audubon.

Canada geese have been seen heading north over the Copper Country recently, which Richter said is a little late for that migration.

“Everything’s a couple weeks late,” he said.

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