The only formal report available so far is a report written in the fall of 2002 as part of the requirements for receiving a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Non-Game Heritage Grant. Within it you will find many of the details of our first year of work at Manitou. Click here to download the 2002 MDNR Report. (pdf file 937K).
There are three informal reports as well. "Our Story" is focused on who went, when.
"Our Sightings", found on this page, is focused on what we saw. (You may click here to download a PDF version of our sightings). It is largely based on summaries of each trip as they were posted on the Copper Country Sightings Page of Northbirding.com
At the bottom of this page is a report on the Michipicoten survey done in May of 2007.
The Manitou Island Bird Survey funded by the CCAC and MDNR Non-game fund made its first visit to the island in the evening of May 4 th and returned on the evening of May 7 th . We observed 61 species. Our main objective was to watch the raptor migration as it encountered Manitou. We had people at each end of the island. I was the main observer at the west end and as such, was sort of the toll-taker for raptor migrants for those three days. The geography of the island was such that it was very hard for any raptors to get to or from the island without being seen by me. Over the three days I recorded 238 raptors arriving on Manitou from the mainland Keweenaw and saw 468 raptors leaving Manitou for the Keweenaw. Of the 468 that I saw heading for the Keweenaw about 320 of those were in one massive flock of buteos (probably Broadwings) that left the island on the 5th. I suspect that those birds probably arrived on the island on the day we got there which had moderate west winds and very large numbers of raptors were reported passing east by Brockway Mtn. The crew at the east end did see raptors leaving the island heading east, northeast and north. We are by no means sure that those birds actually crossed Lake Superior . Those birds were actually fighting a head wind most days we were there. On the 6th for instance, I saw 164 raptors (90% Sharpshins) fly into a 10 mile per hour NE wind for three miles to get to Manitou from the Keweenaw and only 16 raptors were seen flying towards the Keweenaw that day. Raptor migration in this area is looking a little more complicated than our "common sense" might indicate. Back in the 1930's Dr. Norman Wood spent some time on Manitou and collected a Swainson's Hawk . Our East end observers also saw a single Swainson's Hawk. We saw almost 100 Loons (common and some Red-throated) passing by the island and one odd thing was the 72 Flickers that passed my spot heading for the Keweenaw. They left in little convoys of 2 to 6 birds spread out over the three days. How did all those Flickers get to Manitou in the first place? As expected our short little jaunt has raised more questions than it has answered. But, it has shown Manitou Island to be a very interesting piece of ground during spring migration. Our project will send people back to Manitou in mid-June and mid-July and hopefully in September.
Our Manitou Island Bird Survey project has made the first of two trips out to check on breeding birds there. We were out there from the evening of the 17 th till late afternoon of the 20 th . I have by no means digested all our data but here's some highlights: we had two singing male Blackpoll Warblers (If we can prove breeding it would be a first for the state), a singing male Wilsons 's Warbler, we confirmed breeding for Woodcock, Common Merganser and Bald Eagle. We found Winter Wrens and Nashville Warblers running neck and neck for the most common bird on that island. On the last day as the morning rain cleared off and the west wind and sunshine came on, an astounding 500 raptors began soaring over the north central part of the island. The birds were quite a ways from our perch on the east end lighthouse tower so identifying wasn't so easy. But from what we saw we believe that the great majority were immature Broadwings with a few Sharpshins and Redtails thrown in. I had been hiking through that north central part of the island in the morning hours and had not noticed a single perched hawk. I suspect that most of those raptors came over from the Keweenaw on the west wind not long before we watched them soaring. We hope to return in mid-July to confirm more breeding species - if our funding holds up.
Jake Musser and myself just spent parts of four days on Manitou Island in Lake Superior , completing the breeding bird work of our yearlong survey project. We confirmed breeding for Red-breasted Merganser, Belted Kingfisher, Black-capped Chickadee, Swainson's Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, A. Redstart and White-throated Sparrow. Unfortunately, we found no trace of the Blackkpoll and Wilsons 's Warblers that we found singing during our June trip. At 4:00PM on Tuesday the 16 th I was paddling out with the first load of gear to transfer to the charter boat - we were going home. We had seen a number of immature Broadwings and TV's soaring overhead but then I noticed something rather black with white on the topside of some of its primaries. It turned out to be a Black Vulture! We got a real good look for several minutes as it turned this way and that and it indulged in some fast flapping - so different from the TV's that it was with. I had to meet the boat and transfer gear but as I did the Black flew right over Jake on the beach. Who knows where that bird may go but birders in the Keweenaw should keep an eye out.
Our Manitou Island Bird Survey crew, sponsored by the Copper Country Audubon Club and a MDNR Non-Game Heritage Grant, made its last trip for 2002 on the 8 th , 9 th and 10 th of September. The rarest birds seen were a Red-headed Woodpecker and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a single Rock Dove. After a front passed through at midday on the 10 th, a significant movement of waterbirds passed by our site at the eastern tip of the island. We saw over 200 Red-necked Grebes, 8 White-winged Scoters, 6 C. Loons and 55 unidentified waterbirds moving ESE past us. On the 9 th , in a moderate north wind a Great Blue Heron appeared far to the NE, steadily rowed on, passed high over the lighthouse yard and kept on flying south - I followed it with the scope until it disappeared into the distance. Was that a GBH that left, Isle Royale perhaps, and flew directly across Lake Superior to the Huron Mountains or Marquette area?? On the morning of the 9 th we saw dozens of smallish passerines flying into the eastern tip of Manitou. Many of those birds were coming from the NE and many were met by a welcoming committee of two Merlins and one Peregrine Falcon. One chase we witnessed was a Cuckoo (species unknown) that narrowly missed being Merlin food.
April / May 2003
Here is a summary of the first trip of 2003 to survey the birds of Manitou Island off the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula in Lake Superior . Our first crew went out on Tuesday the 29th of April and our second crew relieved them on Thursday the 1st of May and came back on the 4th of May. We had intended to have a third shift stay out till the 7th of May but that shift was canceled due to rough weather. We saw 72 species of birds. We added three new species to the Manitou list. They were White Pelican, Golden Eagle and Pileated Woodpecker. On the first day of the survey our west end observer saw over 500 raptors leaving Manitou and returning to the Keweenaw. Several days later, on the 3rd of May our east end observers saw an estimated 300 raptors soaring over the north central part of the island. On that day we had one large kettle of over 100 raptors. In general those soaring raptors seemed to stay in the friendly airspace over Manitou. But on the 3rd I saw a group of 76 buteos (they seemed to be Broad-wings) head east after their kettle broke up. I watched them go out of sight to the east. A few minutes later about 20 returned to Manitou. Each morning we were there, the observer at the east end watched Sharp-shin Hawks rise up from the forest of Manitou and fly east across Lake Superior out of sight. On my shift I saw 42 Sharpies go in the early morning of May 2nd and 47 go on the 3rd. Other species seem to cross Superior by going ENE from the east end of Manitou. We saw Red-tails, Rough-legs, Northern Harriers, A. Kestrels all flying out over the lake to the east or northeast from Manitou without apparent returns. We even saw a group of Turkey Vultures make their move - but they came back after about 5 minutes. I judged the direction that most Sharpshins took from the east end of Manitou as East/Northeast. That direction would take them to the Michipicoten Island area of the NE shore of Lake Superior . In 1931 Dr. Norman Wood of the U of Michigan spent some time on Manitou and in a subsequent article spoke of "thousands" of raptors on Manitou and some crossing to Canada "without a stop". No notes can be found giving details of his statements: which species? , which direction did they fly? ,in what winds? Our project is giving some details to Dr. Woods' statements. It's clear from our two short visits in the spring of 2002 and 2003 that hundreds of raptors do cross to Manitou from the Keweenaw and that most of the buteos return to it. But a significant number of Sharp-shinned Hawks and lesser numbers of other raptors seem to cross Lake Superior flying east and northeast from Manitou Island .
June / July 2003
Five observers went over on the 28 th of June and returned on the 1 st of July. We were split into two camps - each covering separate areas of the island. We confirmed a total of 8 species - though all of those species had been confirmed in 2002. We did add 8 new species to the total list of possible breeding birds for Manitou. We did find three singing Tennessee Warblers but we spent enough time with those birds to conclude that they were unmated males. We saw a single White Pelican flying by on our last day - rather unusual for the 1 st of July in the middle of Lake Superior . As during our June visit in 2002, we saw hundreds of raptors soaring over the island. Those raptors were mostly immature Broadwings but included some Redtails and a couple Sharpshins.
The Manitou Island Bird Survey made its last trip of 2003. Brian Johnson and myself went out on Oct 5th and returned on the 8th. We enjoyed nice warm weather and generally SW winds. We had 60 species and added 9 new ones to the Manitou list. We didn't have any real exciting birds - just ones you would expect to be seen there eventually. The total species list for Manitou is now at 152. We observed alot of movement over the three days. We were stationed at the eastern tip and saw 2,998 waterbirds pass by moving generally from NW to SE. Those birds included C. Loon, Rednecked Grebes, Redheads, White-Winged Scoters and the largest numbers were Scaup. We also saw large numbers of passerines coming in to Manitou. A total of 225 passerines were seen running the gauntlet of Merlins and one Peregrine. 164 of those came in a three hour period on the 7th. These birds are coming from the east, north and northeast across Lake Superior and finding a rest and refueling stop at Manitou. Those incoming passerines included Downy Woodpeckers, Juncos, Yellowrumped and Palm warblers, N. Flicker, Robins, N. Harrier, Kinglet Species and an Asio owl. On the island we spotted a N.Shrike and a Am. Tree Sparrow and a couple late birds. Brian found a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and seven warbler species. I watched three Roughlegged Hawks circling for a minute over the eastmost tip of Manitou and then head off across the lake heading ESE.
MANITOU ISLAND BIRD SURVEY
SPRING 2004 UPDATE
The survey continued this spring but weather punched a hole in our efforts. We’d planned to have observers on the island for 11 straight days in late April but weather forced the cancellation of one shift and the shortening of another.
Marj Krumm and Joseph Youngman went and covered the east end from midday on April 20th to late afternoon on the 23rd. They were replaced then by Shawn Hagan, Mike Okma and Lynn Murphy. Their stay only lasted 24 hours, the threat of days of bad weather led to the decision to pull them off early. That also meant that the 3rd shift of Greg Cleary, Bruce Ventura and Tina Hall of Marquette, had to be cancelled. The final shift went out to Manitou late on the 28th of April and stayed through the 1st of May. That crew was Catherine Andrews, Zach Gayk and Joseph Youngman.
As in years past we saw hundreds of raptors over Manitou. The greatest number in sight at any one time was about 200. We were not able to have the west tip of Manitou covered for most of our time this year and the west tip gives the most accurate count of raptors. Therefore, we don’t have a solid estimate of total raptors seen but it was probably about 500 over the seven days. We did record a new raptor species, a Snowy Owl was seen on the last two days of April at the east tip. Dozens of raptors were seen heading east and east northeast across Lake Superior again.
We saw 80 species and found a nest with two young ravens in it. We added nine new species to the Manitou species list, which brings the total to 165. Once again dozens of Northern Flickers were observed leaving Manitou’s western tip heading for the Keweenaw. This year a few were also observed coming to Manitou from the east. It is beginning to look like there is some east to west pathway of Flicker migration that passes through Manitou. Michael Shupe of Ahmeek loaned us a great digital camera and lens and we came back with some pretty nice photos of raptors on Manitou. We’ll be posting a few on this website.
Report on a
Bird Survey of the west end of Michipicoten Island – May 2007
by Joseph Youngman 36311 US 41 Chassell, Michigan 49916
From the 13th through the 20th of May 2007 myself and Zach Gayk and Greg Cleary – all from Michigan’s upper peninsula camped, hiked and observed birds on the extreme western end of Michipicoten Island. The main purpose for our being there was to watch for raptors flying into Michipicoten’s west tip from across Lake Superior from the west. During five years of bird surveys at Manitou Island at the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula we’d seen small numbers of raptors leaving Manitou’s eastern tip and seeming to cross Lake Superior in a east northeast direction. If such a cross lake migration was taking place we figured the west tip of Michipicoten might be the most likely place to see them finish their crossing. So our main purpose was to be in place at the points on Michipicoten’s west tip for as many days as possible to watch for incoming raptors. Realizing that we might see few if any such raptors we were going to make a significant effort to watch for and document any waterbird migration past the west tip of Michipicoten and given the largely unknown nature of Michipicoten’s bird life we planned to record pretty much every bird we saw.
So this little report will be broken into the following parts
How we got there, where we were
We flew into Michi Lake with Hawk Air at 9:25AM on the 13th of May. We hauled our camping gear north on a trail made by Hawk Air toward the Quebec Mine. We took a short-cut ( very bad move ) but eventually camped on the gravel beach near the outlet of a tiny creek that drained a small lake west of the north part of Michi Lake. We’d hoped to camp right down at the western tip of the island but had underestimated the difficulty of getting our gear there. Our plan was to spend hours each day sitting on one or more of the several rocky points that protrude westward from the blunt west end of the island. For the first several days we would hike from our campsite to and from these points. On the afternoon of the 17th we moved our camp to the head of Schafer Bay and operated from there till our last night on the island. We gave names to several of the points on Michipicotens west tip - to help us communicate about them and generally keep things straight. On the next page I’ve put a map with labels indicating the points we “named", our campsites, etc. On our first day, the 13th we only spent an hour at the Northwest Point. The next day we spent more time at Northwest Point and began to cover the North Schafer Bay point as well. It became clear very quickly that for observing waterbirds the points toward the south would be better locations – the birds were closer to shore at the south and the direction of their flight (somewhat west of north )moved them farther away from the northern points.
So as the week went on we spent more time at Cotton Cove and Blunt Point and less at Northwest Point. Since we were hoping to see inbound raptors we always tried to have people at one of the northern points as well as Blunt Pt or Cotton Cove. For purposes of watching the movement of migrating waterbirds the point we called Cotton Cove was the best.. Its location at the south side of Cotton Cove and on a elevation about 20 feet above the water seemed ideal. Unfortunately for us it was by far the hardest to get to. It was more than a one hour hike from the camp at Schafer Bay. Most days we manned two points and let the third person hike inland or along the shorelines looking for birds. Many of the passerine species we recorded were spotted or heard on those walks. We did basically no “owling”. One evening I hiked eastward up the valley behind Schafer Bay and whistled twice for saw-whet owls in what seemed like suitable locations. At both spots a saw-whet whistled back.
Michipicoten Island had a surprising small number of raptors We estimated that during the week we spent there we saw perhaps 15 total raptors (not counting Turkey Vultures ). We saw one immature Bald Eagle, one adult Bald Eagle, one dead adult Bald Eagle, one territorial Broadwing, one territorial Sharpshin, four or five Merlins, two Peregrines and a couple un identified accipiters near the extreme west tip of the island. That’s IT. The living eagles were seen during our relatively brief times at Michi Lake. The dead eagle was found a little way into the forest near the shore of Cotton Cove. The lack of eagles at Michipicoten seems really strange. The habitat seems so great for them, the flight out from the mainland would surely not intimidate an eagle. Where are they? Perhaps there were a few breeding pairs on the island and they had no need to stray far during their foraging and our location out at the far west tip was just not in any hunting territory. Still, in comparing my experience at Manitou and living in the Keweenaw, I would expect to see a bunch of immature Bald Eagles using that shoreline at Michipicoten. We didn’t.
We went to Michipicoten hoping to see tired raptors approaching its western tip from the west. We didn’t really see any. The following direct quote from my notes is the only possible lake crossing raptor we had. 17 May Cotton Cove 11:21 AM “ 1 raptor prob. accipiter S of West End light island flying from W to island a very short look at it” That’s what we were looking for and that could indeed have been a raptor that just finished a flight across Lake Superior from Manitou that morning. It could have been a raptor that had been on Michipicoten and flew out to the west a bit and turned around. What we’d hoped to see was raptors (especially Sharpshins because they are the birds most often seen leaving Manitou) far out to the west and follow them as they finished their long translake flights. That 11:21 sighting of a “prob. accipiter” was the best we had. Later that same day we saw two unidentified accipiters flying north over Michipicoten near the west tip. We do NOT conclude that the small cross- lake migration that we seemed to be seeing from Manitou is not taking place, only that we didn’t see any evidence of it during our week at Michipicoten. The weather was not especially conducive to raptors moving eastward across the lake and if any raptors do cross it is possible or perhaps likely that they would be drifted northward by winds during the 80 mile crossing and would then make landfall along the Pukaskwa coast .
We did see Peregrine Falcons and Merlins everyday on the island. It was impossible to tell how many we were seeing but our guess was we saw about 4 – 5 different Merlins and at least 2 Peregrines. As we were used to seeing at Manitou both falcons made extensive use of the tip of the island to hunt for various passerines, shorebirds, etc that were coming in off the lake to the island. We saw many hunting forays off that west end. Perhaps the most interesting was watching a Merlin persistently harass another Merlin to give up its passerine prey, which it finally did. One second later a Peregrine dove on the 2nd Merlin which quickly dropped its pilfered prize into the lake. The Peregrine plucked it out. In our travels we passed near a few cliffs and kept eyes and ears open for nesting Peregrines - no luck.
From my experience in the Keweenaw and knowledge of waterbirds moving through Lake Superior, I had thought it quite likely that the west tip of Michipicoten might well be used by migrating waterbirds as a navigational point. That surely is the case. During the six days we sat out on the west tip we saw a total of 1602 waterbirds pass by in about 36 hours of observation. Due to location and not always having a scope at each observation point the largest number of individuals was in the “Unidentified Waterbird” category. There were 1041 of them. Next up came Common Loons at 191, Red-breasted Mergansers at 135, then White-winged Scoters at 98. Below is a table showing dates, numbers and species. The count location varied by day. The count locations were all at the west tip of the island, from one of the points shown on the map on page 2 of this report.
The only fact that seemed noteworthy was how much behind the passerine migration seemed to be compared to the Keweenaw peninsula where we came over from. Michipicoten seemed to have very few passerines in the first days we were there. By the end of our week a couple nights had brought in significant movements of passerines, especially warblers. The fact that passerine migration at Michipicoten Island is a couple weeks later than our upper peninsula of Michigan migration may well be already known. It was very noticeable to us.
Bird Species List for Michipicoten Island 13 – 20 May 2007
Greg Cleary, Zach Gayk, Joseph Youngman
Pacific / Arctic Loon
Great Blue Heron
Northern Saw-whet Owl
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black and White Warbler
We were only on the west end of the island.