- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

COPPER HARBOR, Mich. (AP) - After a record-setting survey last year, hawk watchers in the Keweenaw Peninsula are eager to get started with this season’s three-month tally, which begins Saturday at the summit of Brockway Mountain.

However, with the northern tip of the peninsula still buried under about four feet of snow, Brockway Mountain Hawk Watch counter Calvin Brennan of Grayling is expected to need a snowmobile to get to his perch atop the cliffs, according to The Mining Journal ( http://bit.ly/1iuelkm ).

The situation was similar last spring.

“Last year, they couldn’t drive up there until mid-May,” said Karen Karl, the main organizer of the count for Copper Harbor Birding. “There were some hardcore people, they skied and snowshoed up.”

Each spring, thousands of hawks, vultures, eagles and falcons -called raptors- funnel their way past hawk watchers, buoyed on southerly winds, heading north along the central flyway on their spring migrations.

Since 2010, organized tallies of 16 species have been conducted.

In March, hourly counts are made daily for six hours and in April, May and June, hawk counting is done over eight hours each day, Karl said.

Last year, a total of 25,765 raptors were counted during the March 15 to June 15 hawk survey period, a figure surpassing the highest previous count from 2012, when 19,907 hawks were seen. Record numbers were posted for 13 of the 16 species in 2013.

The top five species represented included 15,653 broad-winged hawks; 2,987 sharp-shinned hawks; 2,163 turkey vultures; 2,182 red-tailed hawks and 1,441 bald eagles. Those totals were all record-setting.

Additional records included 175 ospreys; 40 northern goshawks; 21 red-shouldered hawks; 385 rough-legged hawks; 81 golden eagles; 259 American kestrels; 52 merlins and 70 peregrine falcons.

Other species counts logged, which did not set records, were 134 northern harriers; 21 Cooper’s hawks; five Swainson’s hawks and a single black vulture.

There were 95 birds which could not be conclusively identified and were counted as unknown raptors.

In addition to the hourly raptor counts, Brennan - a hired professional hawk counter - records various weather-related data including cloud types and cover, temperature, wind speed and direction and barometric pressure.

All of the information collected is compiled with data from other hawk counts across the country by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. The information is used for seasonal reports, journals and databases.

Karl said the Brockway count is important because it collects data lacking from that part of the Lake Superior region and supplements hawk watch results gathered from Whitefish Point in Chippewa County and Duluth, Minn.

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