Michigan Young Birder Meet-up, RAPTORS!

Young Birders Working on their Junior Guides

I’m stoked to be partnering with Michigan Audubon this year; leading four meet-ups with a focus on young birders. The goal is simple: Get young birders and their families outside together to see that other like-minded young friends are out there with similar interests. These meet-ups are a part of Michigan Audubon’s Young Birder Network. The Michigan Young Birders Network is a program of Michigan Audubon that aims to connect young birders, ages 13–18, offering a space for them to share their enthusiasm for the avian world.

Our recent September meet-up focused on raptor migration along the shores of Lake Erie. We focused our time at the Detroit River Hawkwatch, a popular migration site known for diversity and large numbers of Broad-winged Hawks in September. Anyone who knows how raptor migration works knows good flights are difficult to predict. Weather, winds and species timing make all the difference and when planning a meet-up months in advance, we can’t possibly know what will happen the day of. However, in mid-September, the likelihood of Broad-winged Hawk numbers is good so we targeted this species as the main draw to young birders and their families.

Detroit River Hawkwatch

Five young birders met on a beautiful mid-September day with warm temperatures on predicted Northeast winds for at least the first part of the day. Northeast winds are an excellent direction for the Detroit River Hawkwatch. While the watch site is at a single point of land, winds can push flights of birds North or South making the birds very distant to see. A North component to the overall wind is a great start for Fall migration. Adding some East in can put birds much closer to the watch site.

Broad-winged Hawk, (c) Josh Haas
Sharp-shinned Hawk, (c) Josh Haas
American Kestrel, (c) Josh Haas
Broad-winged Hawks, (c) Josh Haas

As luck would have it, the 1030-1130 hour brought over 10,000 Broad-winged Hawks directly in-front, overhead and behind the site, providing spectacular views for our entire group. In addition, Sharp-shinned Hawks were on the move and we even tallied a handful of American Kestrels, which was particularly exciting for one of our young birders.

In addition to stellar hawk-watching, we gave the birders a new Junior Hawkwatcher Guide we recently updated with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). The young birders loved the raptor migration-related activities and seeing them diligently working through the guide was especially gratifying. For more information on HMANA’s junior hawkwatcher program and to get a FREE Junior Hawkwatcher Guide, click HERE.

All in all, it was another successful meet-up. Our last and final meet-up for this year will be November 4th at the Muskegon Wastewater property where we’ll experience large rafts of Ducks and a good possibility for migrant Golden Eagles. We would love to have your family join us for this meet-up.  Please contact Lindsay Cain at Michigan Audubon for more information. These meet-ups are welcome to all and an informal way of birding and enjoying time with like-minded friends. A young birder aged 13-18 is required in your party.

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