Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Trend Continues Not much exciting news to report from last night. The winds did eventually switch around to the north, but things on the point remained pretty quiet. The first NSWO was captured at 11:30 (second year female) and the second (and final) capture came in at 6:30 this morning (after second year female).

With east winds predicted from tonight through Friday, I’m expecting the next few nights to be slow.

Slow Second Night of Owl Surveys

It was another beautiful, clear evening on Pointe La Barbe last night. South winds were light at dusk and continued to build throughout the evening with gusts around 10 mph. A few NSWO began “talking” around 11pm, which was enough to make me feel hopeful we’d catch a few. Turns out, for the most part, that they were really just taunting us. One saw-whet (second year female) made its way into the nets at about 2am and the remainder of night/morning stayed quiet.

We’ll see what tonight brings with a change in wind direction. By midnight, the winds are predicted to switch around to the north, which could bring in a few migrant owls. Stay tuned!


Ed Pike ready to release a newly banded NSWO. Photo from 9/20/15


A good number of species

This morning, Sept. 22 it seemed slow but I ended up with some good numbers of species.    I again had Sandhill Cranes (3) fly north across the Straits; makes me wonder if some of the northern Cranes move north to the staging grounds in the Rudyard-Pickford area.  Most of the D.C. Cormorants were again flying to the west with some smaller numbers.   Movement of waterbirds slowed in the second hour with the third hour bringing in other species; Passerines – 7, (N. Pipit or Horned Lark) – 2 flocks 34 and 14; Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3; Merlin- 1, Bald Eagle – 1 flying from U.P. to Lower.

Waterbirds: D.C. Cormorant – 56, Canada Goose – 33, C. Merganser – 13, C. Loon 7 east bound 5 west bound, Red-throated Loon -1 east bound, Redhead 14, Mallard 4, Longtailed Duck – 3, Teal sp. – 9, Duck sp. – 88, Swan sp. 1, Jaeger sp. 1.

As a side note, early evening, Sept. 21 when crossing the bridge I saw 2 flocks of several hundred ducks on the water to the east; probably the Redheads starting to build in numbers.

A Good Start – 9/20/2015

Today started out well.  During the first hour and a half I counted 34 Common Loons and 187 Redhead and other Aythya sp.  There were also many American Pipits and Yellow-rumped Warblers flying in off the lake.  The most unusual was a Pileated Woodpecker that also flew in off the lake.  This is a species that I never thought of as a bird that would fly long distances over water, but I guess they do.

The second hour and a half was much slower and continued to get slower as the morning went on.  Here is a breakdown of what was counted followed by a few photos.

Species East West
Duck sp. 45 11
Common Loon 26 9
Double-crested Cormorant 8 36
Aythya sp. 120 0
Horned Grebe 0 2
Loon sp. 2 0
Common Merganser 2 3
Red-breasted Merganser 3 0
Redhead 104 0
Merganser sp. 14 1

American Pipit


Blue Jay


Yellow-rumped Warbler




Sunset after helping setup the owl banding nets.


Common Merganser hunting


Common Merganser

Successful start to owl surveys

Clear skies and a light southwest breeze made for a beautiful first night of banding on the point. As mentioned in an earlier post, we generally expect things to be slow this early in the migration. With that in mind, we were delighted to have one Northern Saw-whet Owl (NSWO) on our second net check of the night. Despite our dash from the starting line, things remained slow and we finished at dawn with a total of three NSWO.
Selena Creed with a NSWO (hatch year male). Photo by Ed Pike

Stay tuned!



2015 Fall Owl Banding begins September 20th-Pointe La Barbe, St. Ignace, MI

It’s that time of year again! It’s almost hard to believe, isn’t it?

The fall banding season will begin this Sunday and will continue through November 10th. The weather this week looks clear, which is great for everyone still wanting to hold onto summer and enjoy the last bits of any warm weather we’ll have. While that’s great news for the sun- worshipers (me included), it could mean a slow start to the migration (though we never expect huge numbers this time of year anyway).
Banding will occur every night on Pointe La Barbe from dusk to dawn in the absence of rain or winds exceeding 15 mph. Please contact Ed Pike for information about owl banding trips at 231-758-3319.

For updates about numbers, species diversity, etc., check back often. You can also find us on Facebook at

We look forward to seeing you!

North Wind Brings Birds

After the rain died down, today was an excellent day at the waterbird count.  Many Loons moved east today, including multiple Red-throated Loons.  There was also a nice diversity of Duck species to make things interesting.  The best part of the day had to be the hundreds of Redheads that flew to the east.  You may be familiar with the fact that Redheads use the Straits Area in the fall as a staging area for their southern migration.  Sometimes tens of thousands of them can be seen.  Next time you drive across the Mackinac Bridge in October be sure to look at the water.  These large rafts of Redheads look like floating islands in the water.  They tend to be closer to the north end of the bridge.  Today seemed to be the first big push of these ducks into the area.

Also of note, there was almost a complete lack of Red-necked Grebes today with only two seen floating in the water just offshore.  The number of Double-crested Cormorants has also been greatly reduced over the last couple of weeks.  Most birds now are seen flying west.  Reports are that in the southern part of Lake Michigan their numbers are building.

Raptors could be seen kettling over the Upper Peninsula, but not many moved across – just a few Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures and a single Peregrine Falcon.  Passerines were represented by six American Pipits and a single Song Sparrow that may have already been in the Lower Peninsula.

Three Monarch Butterflies were also counted flying in from the lake.

Here is the breakdown of total species followed by some photos.

Species East West
Swan sp. 1 0
Canada Goose 14 0
Double-crested Cormorant 7 73
Common Loon 35 4
Red-throated Loon 7 0
Loon sp. 1 0
Greater Scaup 23 0
Redhead 262 31
Aythya sp. 119 0
Common Goldeneye 3 0
American Wigeon 4 0
Mallard 1 0
White-winged Scoter 5 3
Merganser sp. 4 0
Green-winged Teal 1 0
Duck sp. 46 14
White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters

Sunrise provided some interesting colors to the west.

Sunrise provided some interesting colors to the west.

Red-throated Loons

Red-throated Loons

Common Mergansers

Common Mergansers

Common Loon

Common Loon

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

American Pipit

American Pipit

Sept. 13, 2015 fewer waterbirds moving

On Sunday the weather looked good with light winds out of the north and good visibility; however the birds didn’t seem to be migrating; Ed Pike made observations from 7:14 till 10:14 am.  The first hour was the most active but the Red-necked Grebe’s were not seen like on Sat.  The species seen were: C. Loon with a total of 5 east bound and 3 west bound, with one landing.  D.C. Cormorants seemed to be migrating south with most of them heading west especially in the second hour; total of 84 west bound and 6 east bound.  Only a few Red-necked Grebes were seen with 5 the first hour and a group of 20 the 3 rd hour.   Ten Redheads were seen the first hour moving around in the Straits area.  One group of 3 and one of 8 Canada Geese were seen headed south.  There are still some Common Mergansers moving around the area total 10.  Unknown ducks flying too far out to identify totaled 29.  Flying along the shoreline were 2 adult Bald Eagles and one Spotted Sandpiper.  A flock of 5 Sandhill Cranes were seen although they went north across the Straits (apparently confused).

Migration will probably slow down with the warm weather and south winds for the next few days.

A good movement on Sept. 12, 2015

Today from 7:10 till 10:45 am Ed Pike, Steve Baker and Rick Brigham were making observations.  There was a good flight of birds till around 9 and it really slowed down; with very few moving during the last hour.  All the C. Loons were flying toward the east, total 15.  The D. C. Cormorants were again moving west 130 total.  Red-necked Grebes were moving around and some migrating to the west.  There were 57 flying to the southwest leaving the area. and 135 moving around in the Straits.  C. Merganser were 25 moving around the Straits.   A total of 13 White-winged Scoters were moving through the Straits.  Two flocks of Canada Geese were seen flying to the south total 17.  Two Horned Grebes were seen flying around and landing in the Straits.  Two Greater Scaup were seen flying and landing in the Straits.  One Sanderling was seen flying along the shore.  One adult Bald Eagle was flying back and forth along the shoreline.  One Monarch Butterfly was seen flying south coming ashore during the last hour.

Sept. 11, 2015

Ed Pike made observations from 7:10 till 9:11 am; then had to leave early.  Common Loons were 1 on the water and 9 observed migrating flying southeast with one flying to the south west.  The Double-crested Cormorants seemed to be moving to the west with a total of 50 seen.