Keeping an eye on the sky for Brockway birds/Wilder-notes

Spring is due to come to the Copper country any time now. I have been patiently awaiting its arrival.

In doing so I’ve been concentrating on watching for new species of migrating birds at the feeders. Since adding suet balls to the menu, I’ve managed to attract both hairy and downy woodpeckers but these are hardly new arrivals as they manage to spend the winter locally and do not migrate. I imagine it will not be long before the red-winged blackbirds return to the area, if they haven’t already.

The most intriguing thing to happen at our feeders occurred last Sunday morning. I was watching hordes of redpolls and various other birds noisily rain down upon the feeders while I was enjoying a cup of coffee.

All of a sudden, they just stopped what they were doing went silent and perched in the trees. Half a minute later a small raptor blazed down into the bushes where the birds were perched, scattering all the smaller birds. It was such a surprise I was unable to tell if it managed to snatch up one of the smaller birds or even tell exactly what it was.

Many species of birds migrate during the winter primarily in search of better feeding grounds. Several species travel as far south as Central and South America. Some only travel as far south as our area to over-winter such as dark-eyed juncos, while others only travel a short distance due to lack of food or overpopulation.

Although I haven’t managed to see much of evidence of migration, it has been happening. There is an observation post on top of Brockway Mountain where migrating raptors are being recorded daily. From 2010 to 2012 a program called the Keweenaw Raptor Survey manned an observation post in the spring each year to tally the migrating raptors. This year the program is being run under the Brockway Mountain Hawk Watch. From March 15 to June 15 an observer will man the post to count the migrating birds.

The data collected is being used to determine migration patterns and also monitor the recovery of these raptors, who were nearly wiped out from the former use of DDT as a pesticide.

At the time of this writing, the post on Brockway has already recorded the passing of 440 bald eagles, 34 golden eagles, and most recently a few turkey vultures. They have also seen other raptors such as red-tail hawks, northern goshawks, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks to name a few.

Currently, the road to the top of Brockway Mountain is covered in snow so getting there may be difficult. But as the weather improves and the snow clears, the amount of birds passing by should increase as well. It would be well worth a trip to see what is passing through.

If you would like to know more about what is going on with the hawk watch and see who is involved, they run a website to keep everyone updated on their activities.