At 0200 hours on the last night of owl surveys, the 250th Northern Saw-whet Owl of the season was captured and banded and it also happened to be the very last bird of the season, too. What a great way to end the 8-week season.
I want to thank MSRW for the opportunity to run the banding station again this fall. I am beyond grateful to had been a part of another successful season on Pointe La Barbe. Of course, this position would not have been possible without the generosity from our donors, which is definitely worth mentioning. Thank you so much for your support!
Lastly, thank you to the many visitors who helped make this a memorable season. Perhaps, I’ll see you all again in the future or run into you on the trail somewhere. Cheers.
On Nov 10, 2015 Ed Pike conducted the last scheduled waterbird count from 7:50 am till 10 am. The count was slow with few birds moving. The winds were light from the south which probably kept many birds from migrating or even moving around. Conditions over the water were hazy leading to a reduced visibility making it difficult to see across the Straits.
C. Merganser 4, Gadwall 1, Long-tailed Duck 11, C. Goldeneye 1, C. Loon 3 sitting on the water with 1 flying toward the east. Swan sp. 2 flying south, and Duck sp. 8.
Although we did not document large numbers of waterbirds migrating through the Straits area we did have some interesting sightings as with the Common Egrets seen early in the count period. The numbers of loons counted over the fall shows a large number of Loons migrate through the Straits area. Although the count of Redheads was not large on a daily basis from McGalpin Point, counts taken from the area at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge give an estimate of 5000 on Nov. 2. Daily counts for 8 hours would definitely increase the numbers and possilbly the species counted.
Monday,November 9 there was a farewell dinner for Selena at the Keyhole in Mackinaw City. We celebrated a very successful owl banding season thanks to Selena’s efforts. Thanks to Tony for the group photo. Tuesday was the last day for the waterbird count and Ed closed out the season. Sunrise over the straits was a good show as usual and I will miss these early morning scenes.
Wind, wind, and more wind. On Sunday night, the winds were out of the southwest and were pretty relentless the whole night. Down on the point, they stayed at a steady 8 mph with gusts as high as 16 mph. I could see the tops of the spruce trees swaying like crazy and I’m willing to bet the winds were stronger up on US-2. Even though the winds were strong, protocol states that as long as they aren’t exceeding 15 mph, the station must be opened and that it was. I kept my fingers and toes crossed from dusk to dawn, but never caught a single owl. At about 0400 hours, I heard one Northern Saw-whet Owl calling near the audio lure, but it never came in to visit. Sunday night, skunked.
Last night, the winds were calm out of the south/southwest and I was hopeful we’d catch a few. My goal this season is to reach 250 saw-whets and I guess I might be pushing it with so little time to reach that goal. Three saw-whets were captured and banded last night bringing our count to 245 (not including the three long-eareds and one barred owl).
Tonight, the final night of the banding season, the winds are predicted to be light out of the south/southeast. I think a few more birds will move through, but it will likely be another slow night. Stay tuned.
The waterbird count on Saturday started out with a bang. I had difficulty keeping up with the number of Common Goldeneyes that were flying by. One flock even contained a Hooded Merganser. I believe this was the first Hoody I had counted during the waterbird count. By the end of the first hour the Goldeneye had slowed significantly, but Red-breasted Mergansers then took over to keep things interesting. Other notable species included Red-throated Loons. Ten of them flew by. Of the identified Loons, this meant that more Red-throated than Common were counted, although a few unidentified Loons went by as well. Here are the numbers with some photos and videos to follow.
One of a few Bald Eagles that were flying around the straits.
A flock of Common Goldeneye.
An early morning flock of Common Goldeneye. Even as a silhouette the identification is relatively obvious (for those with experience waterbird counting anyway).
As I mentioned in yesterday’s update, the winds were due to die down around midnight. They slowed down enough by 2230 hours that I was able to open them up, but by midnight they were blowing at around 15 mph out of the west. That was enough to keep the birds from flying, I guess, and the nets remained empty until I closed the station at 0630 hours.
I’m still hoping to reach 250 by the time we wrap the season up in a couple of days. Tonight doesn’t look promising with the predicted 10-15mph SW winds, but I’ll give it try. Monday and Tuesday, the winds are predicted to be light from the south, which looks a little better. Fingers crossed for a few more birds.
Photo by Emily Grasch. Selena and Ed with the 2100 hour captures. Take note of the slight color differences in each owls’ head and face.
The saw-whets are still on the move and we saw a nice push during the first few hours of the night. Between 2000 hours and 2330 hours, seven saw-whets were captured and banded. The winds really picked up around 2130 hours, which slowed the movement down quite a bit. The last two birds came in at 0330 hours and 0530 hours. I really tried to reach double digits last night, but nine is a great number!
The winds are still pretty strong out of the west at the moment, so I have yet to open the nets. They’re due to die down sometime around midnight, so we’ll give it a shot then.
I did finally end up catching that noisy saw-whet from two nights ago. It was the last capture of the night making our total on Wednesday a whopping two birds. Still pretty exciting with that Long-eared Owl that came in.
Last night started off looking really promising with four saw-whets captured in the first few hours after setting nets. Unfortunately, the winds picked up and I had to shut the banding station down at 2330 hours. Rain followed at around 0200 hours. We’re seeing some pretty impressive winds here on the point today, but it looks like they’re starting to die down with a current west wind of 17 mph with gusts at about 28 mph. We’ll have to see how things look around dusk.
Five nights left of the season and our totals are:
it was supposed to be a foggy morning but a visit to the bridge view cam showed pretty good visibility at 6 am so I did a few hours of observation at McGulpin Point. Migration has definitely slowed to a trickle. Several flocks of 20-50 small birds, probably finches, were seen headed south, but none were close enough to ID.
RB Merganser 2
Common Loon 3
Unidentified Flying Ducks 33
Long-tailed duck 12
C. Goose 19
It wasn’t too long after opening the nets that the fog lifted and the sky cleared. The east winds switched over to the southeast sometime around 0100 hours and died down quite a bit. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was captured at 2100 hours and the nets remained empty for the rest of the night. Perhaps I should have said in my last blog update that I would be happy with twenty?
Slow as it was, I’m glad we had the one come through, but I’d say the most exciting part of the evening was watching the northern lights. They were quite low in the horizon and the lights along US-2 drowned them out a bit, but they were still beautiful. The display showed some beautiful reds-my first time seeing that color in the auroras.
Tonight (4 November) started off just like last night. The fog was super dense and I, again, couldn’t see the bridge from our furthest net. I planned on keeping the nets open until around midnight or 0200 hours and shutting down if I hadn’t caught anything by then. Sure enough, at about 0030 hours, the fog lifted and exposed the bright, star-lit sky. A half hour later, our first owl of the night was captured in the Long-eared Owl audio lure net and it was a…..wait for it……a Long-eared Owl! Our third of the season and our first one in the LEOW audio lure location.
As of 0345 hours, there have been no other captures, though I just heard a saw-whet talking over by the NSWO nets. We’ll see what the next net check brings.