"We've sure hadda lotta excitement in Coppa Hobba lately!" WW&W inland lake correspondent Fanny Hooe said in her lovely, lilting, local dialect as we drank in the sweeping panoramic view of her home lake, the village below, and the endless deep blue of Lake Superior from the toppa Brockway Mountain.
"Last Saturday we had the ice fishing tournament and a town fulla snowmobilers," she added as bald eagles soared majestically overhead. "Then all hell broke loose when somebody up here on Brockway hollered 'The raptors are coming!' and all of a sudden, a buncha local fundamentalists showed up. thinking they heard 'the rapture is coming', eager to leave this sinful mortal coil behind and beam up to their heavenly home."
There were raptors alright, but no second coming in sight, thank God.
"It's enough to make you question your faith," WW&W fundamentalist correspondent and spokesperson Al Postolic blasphemed metaphorically, "This is for the birds."
Ironically, non-fundamentalists who heard it right were having all the fun, gazing and pointing happily heavenward, enraptured in a good way right here on earth, their spirits soaring, hovering and gliding with the raptors.
Since walleye and northern season ended yesterday, we're switching our outdoor coverage from fins to feathers. I recently talked with WW&W official Spring correspondent Verna Equinox, currently enjoying some hot snook and speck saltwater action on Tampa Bay with WW&W beach correspondent Sara Sota. Soon she'll be winging her way north and assures me she'll arrive in the Keweenaw right on schedule on March 21.
"The raptors and I arrive like clockwork every Spring, you can count on it," Verna said authoritatively.
"This (2012) is the third and final year of the Keweenaw Raptor Survey on Brockway Mountain," said Copper Country Audubon board member Joseph Youngman. "Last year's counter, Arthur Green, is back in the harbor thanks to the generosity of Ken and Vicki Stigers who put him up at The Pines and furnish him a snowmobile and ATV for his trips up the mountain to the viewing shack."
According to the website and Copper Country Audubon newsletter, the spring season counts rise as high as 15,034 birds, but there are still a lot of unknowns about the raptor flight. The vast majority passing Brockway are seen going east towards the tip of the Keweenaw with a much smaller number going back west. In 1992, there were 15,034 eastbound and 7,206 westbound; 2010 saw 9,509 east and 2,585 west; in 2011, 4,000 east and 2,210 west were counted. For the whole story, visit keweenawraptorsurvey.org; it'll send your spirit soaring enough to make a donation.
So where do all those eastbound raptors go when they reach the lake?
"This Spring we aim to find out," say Youngman and Green. Their studies at Manitou Island have shown quite clearly that raptors come across to Manitou from the Keweenaw by the hundreds, but they return to the Keweenaw as well, sneaking back westward through the middle or southern part of the Peninsula, out of view of the observers at Brockway. Casual observations by Zach Gayk and others near Bete Gris in spring indicate that many raptors move westward there.
Birds of a feather flocking together during last season's count were 9346 Broad-winged Hawk, 2425 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 745 Red-tailed Hawk, 545 Bald Eagle, 477 Turkey Vulture, 114 American Kestrel, 98 Rough-legged Hawk, 80 Northern Harrier, 34 Peregrine Falcon, 28 Merlin, 23 Northern Goshawk, 23 Golden Eagle, 21 Osprey, seven Cooper's Hawk, five Red-shouldered Hawk, four Swainson's Hawk, one Black Vulture, and a partridge in a pear tree.
"We also recorded 104 species of non-raptors, including 20,625 Canada Goose, 546 Common Loon, and 382 Sandhill Crane, not too shabby!" Green added, "The Common Raven nesting on West Bluff also raised two rambunctious youngsters, which kept me excellent company in the final weeks of the count and were the most fun to watch!"
In more down to earth outdoor news, don't miss the Northwoods Bait & Guide Service Crappie Ice Fishing Tournament on Chassell Bay, 7-7 tomorrow, March 17, weigh-ins at Chassell VFW, call Dan Loyd 231-2885 for info.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of columns covering the Keweenaw Raptor Survey. Jim's imagination, opinions and views are his own and should never be misconstrued as representative of the Daily Mining Gazette, its staff, or anybody else, no matter what, so help me God.