Monthly Archives: October 2015

Owl update

After having the last three nights off due to inclement weather, I was really looking forward to opening the nets last night. The winds were out of the NW at around 14 mph to start out and I was hopeful for a push of birds. Six hefty females were captured between 2000 hours and 0100 hours. At around 0100 hours, the temperature dropped to below freezing and frost  collected on the mist nets, which scintillated in the moonlight. If I could see it without my headlamp on, the owls could, too. From 0100 hours to 0600 hours, the nets remained empty.

We’re at 215 Northern Saw-whet Owls and one Long-eared Owl with 12 nights left of banding. Still time for a busy night or two.


A dreary Monday night

Periodic drizzle throughout the night prevented me from opening the banding station and the next two nights don’t look any better. An east wind 15-20 mph is predicted for tonight and for Wednesday night there is an 80% chance of showers along with a 15 mph SW wind. It’s hard to say what the weather will do Thursday, but the weekend looks good so far.

Not the most exciting update, I know. 🙂


Owls: Night of 25 October

Well, I wasn’t bombarded with owls last night. I know it’s getting a little late in the migration, but I figured with as hot and cold as the migration has been this fall we’d see a couple more good pushes of birds. Last night was not one of them and I couldn’t help but wonder why. Ed thinks that the lack of wind kept the birds from moving much and I tend to agree with him. Of course, this is all just speculation, but perhaps the owls prefer to move when there is a bit of a wind for them to take advantage of. That way they conserve a bit of energy on their journey south versus flapping the entire time. Last night was dead calm for the most part and the big lake was like glass.

Eight new Northern Saw-whet Owls were captured and banded last night and all three net locations saw a little action from the birds. Most interesting, in my opinion, was a saw-whet captured in the Long-eared Owl audio lure location directly below the audio lure. This is the second saw-whet capture in this location, so perhaps the audio lure doesn’t deter saw-whets from moving through that area like we had wondered.

Tonight looks like a wash with the rain/drizzle predicted. It looks like it could clear up after midnight, so, if that happens, the nets will be dropped and we’ll give it a try. Winds are predicted to be light SSE.

A Feast Of Crows – And Good Diversity

This weekend I counted on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  To say that Saturday was slow would be a monumental understatement.  Very few birds were counted throughout the day, although the diversity was not bad.  It was just that only one or two birds was typical for a species.  American Crows flew over from the Upper Peninsula in good numbers with 205 being counted, but that was about it.  Anyway, here are Saturday’s numbers.

Species East West
Double-crested Cormorant 0 2
Shorebird Sp. 0 1
Mallard 5 0
Horned Grebe 0 1
Common Loon 1 0
Common Goldeneye 1 1
American Wigeon 3 0
American Black Duck 0 1
Lesser Scaup 0 2
Greater Scaup 2 0
Long-tailed Duck 48 23
White-winged Scoter 0 9

Sunday’s numbers were quite a bit better.  There was quite a bit of species diversity, although the number were not high, they were much more respectable than on Saturday.  Here is the breakdown.

Species East West
Common Merganser 5 4
Duck sp. 44 24
Common Goldeneye 0 3
Common Loon 1 1
Long-tailed Duck 82 31
Bufflehead 60 28
Aythya sp. 6 0
Readhead 75 100
White-winged Scoter 4 14
Greater Scaup 7 2
Red-necked Grebe 0 5
Merganser sp. 4 2
American Wigeon 3 17
Loon sp. 5 0
Red-breasted Merganser 0 2
Mallard 4 0
Red-throated Loon 3 0
Black Scoter 1 0


The rain showers ended earlier than expected last night and the banding station was up and running just after 2000 hours. Still, the WNW winds (gusting to 25 mph) were pretty brutal most of the night, which definitely had an impact on the movement. In fact, the first saw-whet wasn’t captured until 0200 hours when the winds died down to about 10 mph…thirty minutes AFTER the group of students from Sault College left (You called it, Rob). That’s usually how it works out, isn’t it? I appreciate everyone sticking around as long as they did though. As you all know, that’s just the nature of wildlife surveys, eh?

Even after the winds died down, the nets didn’t see much action. Between 0200 hours and 0700 hours, five Northern Saw-whets Owls were captured and banded. I am pleased to say that we are now just over 200 birds.

Based on the two weather forecasts I’ve looked at for tonight, I’m banking on a busy evening. Light north winds becoming calm after midnight! Stay tuned.

NSWO: 201

Our 200th Northern Saw-whet Owl of the 2015 Fall banding season. Photo by Selena Creed

Redheads are gathering!

Every autumn large flocks of ducks gather in the Lake Huron waters at the North end of the Mackinac Bridge. Rafts of thousands can be seen when northbound on the bridge. The vast majority are Redheads but study of photos usually show a few Canvasbacks and Scaup in the mix. They are often so tightly packed that they appear as dark smudges on the water. These rafts will remain until ice up and can be a spectacular show when taking to the air. Already this October there are at least a few thousand present with more to come.




Owl News: 22 October-23 October

On 22 October, the predicted NW winds did not disappoint. Thirteen Northern Saw-whet Owls were captured and two of these birds were already wearing bands. Information was available for only one of these birds at this time: the after second year female was banded at WPBO April 26, 2014. Shortly after midnight, the winds switched and began blowing from the east, which slowed the movement down. Blasted east winds…

Inclement weather last night (23 October) shut banding operations down shortly after dusk. I was hoping the rain and high winds would hold off for a bit, but no such luck there. Tonight is looking pretty iffy with a 50% chance of rain showers predicted before midnight with NW winds as high as 20 mph.

Checking for body molt. Photo by Steve Baker

Checking for body molt. Photo by Steve Baker

Photogenic Northern Saw-whet Owl on Pointe La Barbe. Photo by Steve Baker

Photogenic Northern Saw-whet Owl on Pointe La Barbe. Photo by Steve Baker

Photo by Steve Baker

Photo by Steve Baker


October 23. A slow day for waterbirds

Light NE winds and frost greeted us this morning but the Ducks were few and ID was challenging with water level distortion and aberrations. Two hours of observation produced these totals:
Long-tailed Duck-110
DC Cormorant-2
Horned Grebe-1
Unidentified duck-138
Common Loon-2
Red-breasted Merganser-1

Other birds : crow>200
Coopers Hawk-1

A good number of species of waterbirds

This morning, Thursday, Oct. 22, Ed Pike and Selena Creed counted waterbirds.  The winds were pretty brisk out of the WNW, 12 to 15 mph with higher gusts.   Temps about 50 degrees.  Surprisingly some birds were moving right after sunrise, slowed a little into the second and third hour.  Most all of the loons moved in the first hour.  Numbers of each species were not high but there was a good variety.

C. Loon    east bound  11     west bound   16 and 3 landing in the Straits                          D.C. Cormorant               3     west bound   1 landed in the Straits                                        Mute Swan    3                                                                                                                                               C. Merganser                     16  west bound      2 east bound                                                         Red-breasted Merganser       19 west bound                                                                              Long-tailed Duck             total 72  flying around the Straits                                                   W.W. Scoter                    7                                                                                                                 Redhead                          28                                                                                                                       Red-necked Grebe       2                                                                                                                              C. Goldeneye                   10                                                                                                       Bufflehead                         62                                                                                                               Horned Grebe                  3                                                                                                                        Surf Scoter                       1                                                                                                                Bonapart’s Gull              5                                                                                                                      Duck species                  396                                                                                                                        N. Harrier                          2       flew south across the Straits                                                                Turkey Vulture                9       flew south across the Straits                                                                C. Crow                               5       flew south across the Straits                                                              Snow Bunting                  5   flying west over the water,  out in the Straits                         Some Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were also seen flying around the area

Made for an interesting day of counting