The live bird and monarch butterfly demos returned to Hawk Cliff this past weekend,
as both the hawks and the butterflies migrate through this area. The number of monarch
butterflies has dropped dramatically in recent years, but the hawk migration numbers
What the hawk spotters and banders are looking for are winds out of the north to
push the birds south, up against the colder air over the water of Lake Erie. The
hawks ride the thermals and thus won't fly directly over the lake. Instead, they
migrate along the shoreline until they reach the narrow crossing area at Detroit.
If it's a clear day, the hawks will be flying very high - hard to spot, hard to
identify, and the Hawk Cliff Raptor Banders can forget about catching many to band.
Hawk Count as of September 14, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.
American Kestrel: 477
Peregrine Falcon: 4
Northern Harrier: 47
Bald Eagle: 24
Golden Eagle: 0
Total: 7,967, with 7,066 of them being counted in the single day of September 13,
The demonstrations are at Hawk Cliff at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and
Sunday for two weekends in September. At the hawk demonstrations speakers show live
specimens of the various types of hawks that have been caught and banded shortly
before the demonstration. They talk about the hawk, it's distinguishing features,
how it lives and what it eats, letting the public get a good look at the birds up
close and personal. Most of the birds caught are hatchling year birds and they are
released following each demonstration.
The St. Thomas Field Naturalists also give an informative demonstration on how they
tag Monarch butterflies. The generation they tag each year are known as the Methuselah
generation and they will fly 1,969 miles to the winter migration site in Mexico.
The tagging allows researchers to determine migration pathways, the influence of
weather on migration, know the timing of migration, and estimate the size of the
Monarch butterfly migration.
The sex of the Monarch can be determined by looking at its wings. The bottom two
wings will have enlarged circular black pouches if it is a male, and not if it is
female. Monarch butterflies are rather large. The smaller versions of them you see
are not baby Monarchs, they are Viceroy butterflies. Destruction of habitat, particularly
the loss of milkweed on which the Monarch lays its eggs and on which the larvae
depend for food, is contributing towards the decline in the Monarch butterfly population.
Unlike hawks, the Monarchs will fly directly across the lake.
The last weekend this year to get up close and personal with the Monarchs and the
hawks is September 21st and 22nd, 2013. Bring the whole family to learn more about
and enjoy these magnificent creatures.