Whitefish Point, MI
Whitefish Point is 12 miles north of Paradise, Michigan, in the far eastern Upper Peninsula. The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is 72 miles north of St. Ignace on Highway M-123 and 55 miles northeast of Newberry, MI on M-123.
The spring bird migration is starting. The "early birds" are returning from the south and going north. The flyway starts at Whitefish Point where tens of thousands of birds cross to Canada. The migration lasts for about 2 months, from March till the middle or end of May. In late fall, they will return to the south.
The eagles come first, in mid-march, followed by the other species of large hawks, such as the red tailed, and rough legged hawks. The smaller sharp-shinned hawks follow in mid to late April. Then come the falcons and finally, the broad winged hawks in late May. Between mid April and the end of May, waterfowl fly low over the lake to avoid the raptors. In the midst of all this come the songbirds.
April through Mid May is also peak time for the owl migration. 10 species of owls either breed or spend winters in Michigan. The boreal, snowy, great gray and northern hawk-owl winter in the Upper Peninsula, then return north for the summer. The northern saw-whet, great-horned, barred, log-eared and short-eared owls have also been banded at Whitefish Point.
In 1997, from April 15 to May 31, waterfowl biologists counted 42,260 waterfowl of 64 species.
As the birds come to the flyway over Lake Superior, many stop for a time in the Whitefish Point area to feed and rest.
Whitefish Point is a migration focal point and home of the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Last land going north, first land coming south, it sees everything going by, and that makes it famous for birds and shipwrecks.
The visitor center is located across from the Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Information is available on the paths around the Point and local bird lists are maintained. Although the natural features of the point bring many birds, the area is especially known for its raptors and water birds. Birders from all over migrate here in the spring and fall, when the hawks, eagles, goshawks, falcons and owls prepare for or recover from their journey across Superior to the great mouse-hunting areas of the North and South.
The Observatory offers scheduled programs and extended hours in the spring during migration. The raptor migration is phenomenal in the spring, and excellent water bird flights can be seen both spring and fall. Whitefish Point is also a spring and fall hot-spot for warblers, sparrows, and other songbirds.
Bird enthusiasts from all over the nation and other countries visit the Point to witness the spectacular migration to and from the northern breeding grounds. An elaborate series of wooden walkways has been constructed to allow the visitor a chance to venture into the sanctuary area and observe wildlife.
On migration weekends, visitors can listen to short presentations or enjoy supervised activities "in the field," such as bird identification walks or observing the capture of live birds for banding purposes. (Programs are offered on weekdays on a limited basis.)
The Visitor Center and gift shop is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily, April, May, June, September, and October. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm during July and August.
For more information, call 1-906-492-3596.
The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory documents the distribution and abundance of bird migration, and is operated by the Michigan Audubon Society.
Some of this information is from the book Northern Flights, Tracking the Birds and Birders of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, by Sheryl DeVore. Published by Mountain Press Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2399, Missoula MT 59806. 1-800-234-5308. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.mtnpress.com
Photos: Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
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