Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Ghostly Visitor

Luecystic RTLuecystic RT

Another great day at the hawk watch. A steady stream of raptors overhead delighted the many visitors and kept Kevin busy. The highlight was a luecystic Red-tail that made repeated appearances in kettles directly overhead. This bird appeared brilliant white , especially when backlit by the sun. Photos show what the eye could not, as there are obvious chest streaking , a hint of patagium markings, and a streaked head. Still a very stunning individual and a real crowd pleaser. Behaviorally this bird was a bit of a loner, hanging out on the edge of the kettles. Ring-billed Gulls singled out this bird for harrassment as well.
Today’s Golden Eagles were all immature birds and most visitors to the hawk watch were able to see one of these special raptors.

Foreign Recaptures and Big Owls!

It’s starting to feel like spring on our little peninsula, and we finally caught some big owls!

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Every time we catch a bird in our mist-nets, big or small, we attach a silver ring to its right leg with a unique number—this is the ‘band’. All of these numbers are stored in a huge database, and when a bird is caught with a band on its leg, the bander can report a sighting of the animal and see where it was originally banded. This kind of data is very powerful for tracking movements of individual birds, and we can discover lots of cool information from it. Where do our owls migrate to and from? How do they disperse after they’re born? Do they return to their breeding grounds, or travel elsewhere? How long do they live? How many birds survive through their first winter? Second?

When we catch a bird in the net that has a band on it, we refer to it as a foreign recapture. These birds are some of the most exciting, but we don’t see them very often. Fortunately, we seem to be catching quite a few birds with bands already on them: we’re up to a total of 11 foreign recaptures out of 116 saw-whets.

A majority of the foreign recaptures we’ve caught were from the UP, some banded by Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, and even some returning MSRW birds (banded by Ed or Selena)! We also caught a bird that was originally banded in Ontario, one from New Hampshire, and one from Yellowwood State Forest in Indiana. We can also say that one of the birds is, at the least, going to turn five years old this year, and another will be four. We normally cannot age a bird after its third year, so to know definitively that these birds are that old is really neat!

Now, onto the numbers. We caught our first Long-eared owl right at the start of April, which was earlier than expected. Since then, we have been trying to call the birds in using a speaker that plays the Long-eared call, but it hasn’t pulled in too many birds yet. We caught two more Long-eareds early in the morning on 14 April, and were lucky enough to catch two male Barred Owls on 12 and 14 April, both a bit before midnight.

We’ve also seen a steady trickle of Saw-whets: low numbers, but we hadn’t gotten completely skunked until Wednesday night, when we had a very hopeful Audubon group out for a visit—go figure! We did get good looks at an adult Bald Eagle, though, and the sunset and Northern Lights were absolutely beautiful, so hopefully everyone had a good time.

Here are the day-by-day numbers:

31 March

2 Northern Saw-whet

1 April

9 Northern Saw-whet, 1 Long-eared

2 April

16 Northern Saw-whet

3 April


4 April

10 Northern Saw-whet

5 April

5 Northern Saw-whet

6 April

1 Northern Saw-whet

7 April

3 Northern Saw-whet

8 April

2 Northern Saw-whet (partial weather night)

9 April


10 April

2 Northern Saw-whet (partial weather night)

11 April

3 Northern Saw-whet

12 April

2 Northern Saw-whet, 1 Barred

13 April

1 Northern Saw-whet, 2 Long-eared

14 April

2 Northern Saw-whet, 1 Barred

15 April


16 April

1 Northern Saw-whet he has a good point Season Total:

116 Northern Saw-whet, 3 Long-eared, 1 Barred

The spring migrants are moving in, too: we’ve been hearing lots of cool things right at dawn, from Eastern Phoebes to Sandhill Cranes, Winter Wrens, Northern Flickers… And the Golden-crowned Kinglets have started singing! The American Woodcocks are going strong, and we even found a Blue-spotted Salamander. So if the owls are slow, we still have some great springtime life to keep us entertained.

Wishing you all a great weekend!

Big crowd at Darrow's field on a week day.

H Big crowd at Darrow’s field on a week day.

Support from Mackinaw City

Support from Mackinaw City

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle


East winds are seldom productive and today was no exception. Every once in awhile a wind shift would briefly stir the pot and some kettles would stream north. For a week day there was a great turnout of hawk people and we all enjoyed the banter between veterans and newbies.
Jim Veller captured a beautiful immature a Golden Eagle shot and Jack Kirby shared the people shots.

Day of Diversity 4/14/15

image image  imageToday was a very rare day at the hawk watch. Every regularly occurring species of raptor ( 15 species) on the checklist was seen on this day. All 3 falcon species, all 3 Accipitors , the 4 Buteos, both Eagles, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, and Northern Harrier . The season’s first Broad-winged Hawk made it back from South America and soon there were hundreds moving north. Red-tails were steady all day with many kettles overhead. A very cooperative Perigrine flew directly over the counters not just once, but returned for an encore .
Visitors from the Thunder Bay Audubon enjoyed the day at the count, but had to leave without seeing a Golden Eagle when a handsome immature GE soared by just in time. I think they toasted that one at the Keyhole Bar down the street.  Other highlights were the first of season Osprey and a couple of dark morph Red-tails and an intermediate morph bird that was a beautiful rufous color.

Eagles steal the show. 4/11/15

Golden Eagle, immature

Golden Eagle, immaturen

Look up!

Look up!

Bald Eagles, adult and immature

Bald Eagles, adult and immature

Migration was strong today and Red-tailed Hawks were the dominant sighting. The first immature RT of the season soared over. A large group of hawk watchers were treated to several low altitude fly overs of both Bald and Golden Eagles. First an immature BE was joined by an adult BE as they circled directly over the gawking crowd below. The excitement peaked when a stunning immature Golden Eagle soared in tandem with an immature Bald Eagle . They passed over the amazed hawk watchers twice before continuing north. Lots of oohs and ahhs and clicking cameras were heard. Even the first time visitors to the hawk watch were enthralled by this spectacle. Keep your eyes to the skies!

April 7 Red-tails on the move

Red-tails kettling

Golden Eagle

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Cold NE winds this day had expectations low . Clearing skies by mid afternoon brought out the raptors as thermals developed quickly. Kettles of 50 birds plus several strings of sqauking Sandhill Cranes made for a nice finish to the afternoon.  This day wrapped up the first month of  the hawk count and Kevin’s tally of Red-tails is already over 5000 . The Golden Eagle numbers are at 297, a total unimaginable to us all before this season.  We still await rarities such as Swainson’s Hawk and Black Vulture. A few days of warm spring air would be welcomed as well. Steve Baker


Red-tails rule today!

image image imageToday, 4/3/15, was another cold and windy one. These same NW winds brought the record Golden Eagle days, and today the Red-tails showed up big time. Kevin had the clickers going for the first time this season and by the day’s end , 1899 Red-tails had been ticked. Three western dark morph birds were a highlight. Several very interested visitors enjoyed the spectacle of kettles of hawks overhead.