At last weekend’s Hawkfest at Lake Erie Metropark in Brownstown Township, Michigan, I took the short hike from the Marshlands Museum and Nature Center along the Cherry Island Trail and boardwalk down to the boat launch to view the migrating hawks.
I’ve been hiking the trail for over 15 years. Each year I notice how the cattails and other aquatic plants have overtaken what was once a wide open expanse of blue water along the trail. This year was no different.
The Hawkfest is held annually the third weekend of September, when migrating hawks are funneled through the Brownstown Township area as they migrate southward. Migrating hawks gather in large flocks during migration, and use rising air currents called thermals, on their journey.
The first thermals develop in mid-morning as the sun heats up. By mid-afternoon, more powerful thermals will have hawks soaring in the sky as they rise to the top of one thermal and coast to the next thermal. The hawks descend in the Brownstown area since no thermals exist over open water.
And since thermals don’t happen at night, you can get some amazing, relatively close-up views of hawks during the afternoon.
I was lucky to be looking up at just the right time: two bald eagles were riding the thermals far above me. They looked like specks in the sky with the naked eye, but I was able to catch a great view of them in my binoculars.
Unfortunately, not a shot I could get with my camera.