Monthly Archives: March 2015

Birding the UP and Owl Numbers

Snowy Owl in Pickford

Snowy Owl in Pickford

It may still feel like winter in Northern Michigan, but we are not want for things to do! Saturday morning, the amazingly knowledgeable Steve Baker took the two of us owl banders and Kevin, MSRW’s hawk counter, for a quick jaunt up to the UP. We saw so much cool stuff—a stunning sunrise over the Bridge, Sharp-tailed Grouse on a lek, 16 Snowy Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, Bald Eagles, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Bohemian Waxwings, what felt like hundreds of deer… and back in time for Kevin to take up his post at the Hawk Watch!

As far as the banding goes, the weather did improve for the weekend, but the owls were not moving much. We had a slow couple of nights, and then Sunday (29 March) we had another snow/rain/mush storm. But I heard my first American Woodcock of the season early Sunday morning, so I’m still hopeful that spring is on its way.

Here are the numbers we promised you:

21 March

12 Northern Saw-whet Owls

22 March

4 Northern Saw-whet Owls

23 March

6 Northern Saw-whet Owls

24 March

8 Northern Saw-whet Owls

25 March


26 March


27 March

4 Northern Saw-whet Owls

28 March

2 Northern Saw-whet Owls

29 March


30 March

9 Northern Saw-whet Owls

Season Total:

57 Northern Saw-whet Owls

On 24 March, a majority of the birds were captured between 3:30 and 5:30, and they may have been moving in ahead of the front that passed through the area and brought bad weather the following nights. Fronts might ‘push’ birds along in their migration, which is a pattern we will be looking for throughout the season. Another sentiment I often hear is that the birds must hunker down when it’s especially chilly, but so far, we haven’t noticed that being the case—these little owls are built for the cold!

In other news, we have been hearing a Great Horned Owl with some regularity, so perhaps it will be paying us a visit soon.

Next time: Foreign Recaptures. Stay tuned!

Owl Banding Update

Laura Makielski and Loren Taylor, the spring season’s owl banders, have arrived at Cheboygan State Park!

FullSizeRenderThe early melt seems to have brought an early start to the Saw-whet migration–we both arrived this weekend, a few days ahead of schedule, and since then have been adjusting to a nocturnal lifestyle and capturing lots of Northern Saw-whet Owls. Unfortunately, the nights of 25 and 26 March had high winds and snow, so we weren’t able to band, but things are looking up for the weekend ahead.

So far, 2015 has seen 42 Northern Saw-whets. Internet up here is sparse, but please check back soon for more detailed numbers and some observations about their movement. For now, though, please enjoy this photo of a delightful little Saw-whet!


85 Golden Eagles!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemember the record 70 Golden Eagles we counted on 17 March? Well, it didn’t take long to beat it! Our hawk counter, Kevin Georg, counted 85 just a few days later on 21 March (Sorry for the delay in reporting that!) We have also seen an increase in other migrants in the last several days, too. For example, on 24 March, the daily total consisted of 2 Northern Harriers (our first of the season), 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 16 Red-shouldered Hawks, 144 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, 2 Merlins, 3 Turkey Vultures, 28 Bald Eagles, and 7 Golden Eagles. Our total for Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles so far this month are 185 and 254, respectively. Stay tuned for results from our owl surveys, which are now under way each day from dusk until dawn (weather permitting).

Website Updates and How to See the Numbers

Hello all,

I’ve made a couple of changes to the website tonight and I wanted to share the most excited of those changes. Under the “Galleries” menu I have added a Video Gallery page. These are some videos that show raptors as you might see them while visiting the raptor watch site this spring (although, hopefully your hands might be steadier than mine!). Not only can you get a feel for what you might see during the count, but you can use these videos to study the identification of various raptors in flight before visiting the site.

I have also included another menu item – called Raptor Numbers” that links to our site’s details at This is where all of our count number are entered on a daily basis. You can check back each day to see what was counted that day and where the numbers stand for the month.

We’re off to a great season already! I hope you enjoy these updates!


Last night Ed Pike set the nets for Owl Surveys from 9:30 pm till 2:30 am.  During that time 4 N. Saw-whet Owls were captured, banded, and released back on their way.   Friday night is predicted to have rain and snow showers so surveys will not be conducted.

Spring Owl Surveys/Banding

We started our Owl Survey/Banding at Cheboygan State Park on Wed. March 18, 2015.  Ed Pike and Dave Mayberry checked nets from 9:15pm till 4:30 am.  We captured 8 N. Saw-whet Owls and placed bands on their legs and sent them on their way north.  A good start to the season.  Ed Pike

Hawk Watch, March 13, 2015

Today we had a good count although the weather is still cold here at Mackinaw temps in the 30’s with an east wind off the lake.   We counted 5 Bald Eagles, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, and 10 Golden Eagles.   The Golden Eagle count is now at 32.  Saturday sounds slow but Sunday with clearing skies should be a good day.  Come up and see the migration getting started, bring binoculars, warm clothes, chair and sun screen.

posted by Ed Pike