Monthly Archives: April 2016

Owl Banding, April 30/May 1

We did not band any owls last night. We heard a pair of Great Horned Owls calling back and forth. These were the first Great Horned Owls we have heard since March.

An American Bittern was calling as we were closing up nets this morning.

Tonight is owl bander, Kim Edgington’s birthday. It should be a cloudy night with a northeast wind. Hopefully some owls will come through to wish Kim a happy birthday!

Owl Banding, April 28/29

We banded one second year, female saw-whet last night.  Her wing chord measurement and weight just barely got her out of the “unknown” sex range.

We had another flying squirrel in our nets.  Luckily, it was not really tangled as much as it was just climbing around.  It quickly jumped to the ground after we approached.

At sunrise, we heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler singing.

The forecast for tonight shows clear skies with light and variable winds.

 

Waterbird Count, April 28

A decrease in Long-tailed Ducks today and to a lesser extent Red-breasted Mergansers as well. White-winged Scoters are still going strong. Only sighting of note was the largest flock of Common Goldeneyes that I’ve had yet, with 15 birds.

Canada Goose – 2
Mallard – 2
Redhead – 103
White-winged Scoter – 56
Unidentified scoter sp. – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 52
Common Goldeneye – 19
Common Merganser – 18
Red-breasted Merganser – 68
Unidentified duck sp. – 3
Common Loon – 14
Horned Grebe – 3
Double-Crested Cormorant – 58
Bonaparte’s Gull – 25

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 19
Osprey – 5
Golden Eagle – 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 8
Bald Eagle – 2
Broad-winged Hawk – 33
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
Sandhill Crane – 1
Merlin – 1

Owl Banding, April 27/28

One Northern Saw-whet Owl and one Long-eared Owl were banded last night.  The saw-whet was a third year female.  She had fresh blood on her feet from a recent meal when we caught her.  After hearing scurrying under a nearby bush, we found several mice in the area.

We were unable to determine the sex of the Long-eared Owl, but it was an after second year bird.  Another LEOW was seen taking off toward the north at dusk.

We heard the howl of a coyote in the middle of the night, and observed a Great Blue Heron fly by during an especially beautiful  sunrise.

Colorful sunrise this morning.

Tonight should be cloudy with a northeast wind.

 

Waterbird Count, April 27

More business as usual. Once again strong winds in the morning subsided into a calm afternoon. I finally had my first warbler at McGulpin Point — a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Canada Goose – 2
Mallard – 4
Redhead – 71
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 5
White-winged Scoter – 25
Long-tailed Duck – 300
Common Merganser – 12
Red-breasted Merganser – 93
Unidentified duck sp. – 14
Common Loon – 13
Horned Grebe – 2
Double-Crested Cormorant – 48
Great Blue Heron – 4
Bonaparte’s Gull – 3

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 1
Osprey – 2
Northern Harrier – 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 7
Broad-winged Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Sandhill Crane – 3
Merlin – 1

Owl Banding, April 26/27

We were unable to open nets Sunday and Monday night due to rain and strong winds.  We were able to operate last night, but we did not catch any owls.  There was a constant wind of about 10 mph coming off of the lake.  It was clear and temperatures were in the 30’s.

There has been a lot of porcupine activity lately.  We spotted one right outside of our cabin or on the way to the nets almost every hour.  It is fun to see them, but we definitely don’t want to find one in our nets!

Tonight’s forecast looks similar to last night, but hopefully we will have better luck.

 

Waterbird Count, April 26

Strong winds in the morning subsided into a nice and calm afternoon. Numbers continue to be about the same. Most notable sighting was a pair of Horned Grebes doing a partial courtship dance.

Canada Goose – 1
Gadwall – 2
Mallard – 3
Redhead – 177
Greater Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 18
Long-tailed Duck – 161
Bufflehead – 2
Common Goldeneye – 9
Common Merganser – 20
Red-breasted Merganser – 90
Unidentified duck sp. – 10
Common Loon – 21
Unidentified loon sp. – 2
Horned Grebe – 8
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-Crested Cormorant – 19
Great Blue Heron – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 7

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 8
Osprey – 1
Northern Harrier – 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
Bald Eagle – 12
Broad-winged Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Sandhill Crane – 5
Merlin – 1

Waterbird Count, April 25

It rained until around 11:00am today but visibility was mostly good. The wind wasn’t too bad, surprisingly. There were occasional strong gusts but in between it was pretty calm. My only sighting of note was all three expected grebe species. But the best sighting of the day occurred at the hawk watch where Kevin found two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Canada Goose – 1
Wood Duck – 4
Mallard – 2
Redhead – 25
Greater Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 22
Long-tailed Duck – 211
Bufflehead – 2
Common Goldeneye – 7
Common Merganser – 12
Red-breasted Merganser – 81
Unidentified duck sp. – 2
Common Loon – 17
Pied-billed Grebe – 1
Horned Grebe – 5
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-Crested Cormorant – 23
Bonaparte’s Gull – 18

Others:
Osprey – 2
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 1

Waterbird Count, April 24

More of the same today. Had a little bit of rain in the afternoon but visibility was mostly unaffected. Tomorrow’s forecast of rain and strong wind looks pretty dismal.

Wood Duck – 2
Mallard – 8
Redhead – 1
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 3
Unidentified Aythya sp. – 3
White-winged Scoter – 29
Long-tailed Duck – 243
Common Goldeneye – 8
Common Merganser – 17
Red-breasted Merganser – 103
Unidentified duck sp. – 4
Common Loon – 13
Horned Grebe – 3
Double-Crested Cormorant – 79
Great Blue Heron – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 7
Osprey – 2
Northern Harrier – 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
Bald Eagle – 6
Red-tailed Hawk – 1

Owl Banding, April 23/24

We banded one third year, female saw-whet last night. She flew in to out nets around 3 am and then again just before sunrise. A woodcock was caught close to sunrise as well.

Other wildlife sightings included a porcupine chewing on our outhouse in the middle of the night, and White-throated Sparrow singing in the morning.

Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of nights.

Waterbird Count, April 23

Pretty average day, with strong wings from the northeast. The largest flock of Redheads I’ve had yet (around 210) flew in from the west and landed around Pointe La Barbe early in the day. Still good numbers of White-winged Scoters around.

Around 6:00 this morning there was an Eastern Towhee singing outside of our bathroom window.

Canada Goose – 1
Mallard – 7
Redhead – 300
Greater Scaup – 2
White-winged Scoter – 45
Long-tailed Duck – 179
Common Goldeneye – 1
Common Merganser – 15
Red-breasted Merganser – 92
Unidentified duck sp. – 22
Common Loon – 9
Horned Grebe – 1
Double-Crested Cormorant – 60
Great Blue Heron – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 15
Osprey – 1
Golden Eagle – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 10
Broad-winged Hawk – 17
Red-tailed Hawk – 6
Rough-legged Hawk – 2
Sandhill Crane – 2
Peregrine Falcon – 1
American Kestrel – 1

Waterbird Count, April 22

Not a bad day for waterbird migration. Many flocks were flying much higher than usual. The majority of Red-breasted Mergansers I saw today appeared to be migrating, which is interesting because as of late they had almost all been loafers. I had a new species for the season with a flock of 13 Gadwall. Quite a few Bonaparte’s Gulls passed by heading west, unfortunately I couldn’t find yesterday’s Little Gull among them. Very few raptors passed over me today.

Canada Goose – 4
Gadwall – 13
Mallard – 9
Northern Shoveler – 3
Northern Pintail – 2
Green-winged Teal – 1
Redhead – 51
Greater Scaup – 39
White-winged Scoter – 27
Long-tailed Duck – 164
Bufflehead – 6
Common Goldeneye – 2
Common Merganser – 27
Red-breasted Merganser – 143
Unidentified duck sp. – 58
Common Loon – 18
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-Crested Cormorant – 41
Great Blue Heron – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 43

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 9
Northern Harrier – 3
Bald Eagle – 3
Sandhill Crane – 16

Owl Banding, April 21/22

We were not surprised to have a zero bird night last night. There was a dense, moist fog hanging around the area all night.

Our hopes for tonight are a bit higher. It should be clear with a north wind of 5 to 10 mph. Saturday night looks even better.

Happy Earth Day!

Waterbird Count, April 21

I had a decent variety of species in spite of persistent rain and heavy fog. I ended the count about an hour and a half early in hopes of seeing the Little Gull that Ed, Steve, the Kirbys, and others had found in St Ignace. We searched thoroughly but could not relocate it.

At home, Kevin and I had two Chipping Sparrows at our feeders — our first of the year.

Wood Duck – 1
Mallard – 7
White-winged Scoter – 7
Long-tailed Duck – 205
Bufflehead – 16
Common Goldeneye – 6
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 58
Unidentified duck sp. – 23
Common Loon – 5
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-Crested Cormorant – 10

Others:
Northern Harrier – 1

Owl Banding, April 20/21

The banding station was in operation until about 2:45 this morning when it started to rain.  We banded one second year, female saw-whet.  We had another woodcock fly in to the nets as well.

There may be a few showers tonight, but hopefully we can get some banding in.  Tomorrow night should be clear, allowing us to view the full moon!

Waterbird Count, April 20

Another new species for the season today — a male Blue-winged Teal. The male Black Scoter was still around today, again loafing with Red-breasted Mergansers. Hawks were sparse, I had more going south than going north.

Canada Goose – 11
Wood Duck – 1
Mallard – 9
Blue-winged Teal – 1
Redhead – 6
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 13
White-winged Scoter – 23
Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 591
Common Goldeneye – 3
Common Merganser – 12
Red-breasted Merganser – 64
Unidentified duck sp. – 2
Common Loon – 28
Double-Crested Cormorant – 55
Great Blue Heron – 2

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 8
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3
Bald Eagle – 3
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1
Merlin – 1
Sandhill Crane – 3

Owl Banding, April 19/20

Three Northern Saw-whet Owls were banded last night.  All three were female, and one had a very large brood patch and an egg inside of her!  Two were second year birds and one was a third year bird.

We opened our nets at sunset to the sound of a Common Loon calling, and closed our nets at sunrise while listening to a Brown Thrasher.

There may be some rain late tonight.  The majority of the night will be cloudy with light winds out of the southeast.  Maybe some owls will be migrating ahead of the rain!

 

Waterbird Count, April 19

Pretty average day for waterbirds, but I did have a new species for the season — a male Black Scoter. He was flying and foraging with Red-breasted Mergansers. The best bird of the day was not at the waterbird count but at the hawk watch, when the dark morph Swainson’s Hawk from April 17 made another appearance and I was able to see it this time! I also had a nice variety of hawks migrating over me. The down side is that they were quite high up today.

Canada Goose – 113
Wood Duck – 1
Greater Scaup – 2
Lesser Scaup – 3
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 2
White-winged Scoter – 11
Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 424
Common Merganser – 24
Red-breasted Merganser – 98
Unidentified duck sp. – 4
Common Loon – 11
Double-Crested Cormorant – 46

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 75
Osprey – 3
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 8
Cooper’s Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 5
Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
Broad-winged Hawk – 51
Red-tailed Hawk – 34
Merlin – 1
Sandhill Crane – 15

Owl Banding, April 18/19

There was a very light drizzle early in the evening, but the weather quickly cleared up for the remainder of the night.  Although we did not catch any owls, there was quite a bit of excitement.

We enjoyed listening to a couple of Wilson’s Snipes making their “winnowing” sounds while flying over our heads.  At dawn, we had two Sharp-shinned Hawks in our nets.  We also had a Hermit Thrush.

We are hoping that tonight will bring us some owls!  It should be partly cloudy with light and variable winds.

 

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Sharp-shinned Hawk.

 

Photos From Waterbird Count

Hello all,

If you read Jason’s most recent post, then you know that I filled in for him yesterday so that he could have a well-earned rest.  He already summarized much of what happened, but I thought I would share a few photos that I got from the count yesterday.  You will notice that despite the fact we were conducting a waterbird count, many, if not most, of these photos will be of raptors and songbirds.  There is a good reason for that.  Most of the waterbirds that we count are probably a mile or more off of shore, which means they are well out of camera range.  The raptors are often times flying directly overhead, which makes them much easier to photograph.

Red-tailed Hawk 2

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk 3

Red-tailed Hawk – sometimes the birds watch you too!

Red-tailed Hawk 4

Young Red-tailed Hawk

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters – notice the heat distortion in the background.

Red-breasted Mergansers

Red-breated Mergansers

Pintail

Distant Northern Pintail – look closely and you can see the “pin” tail.

Pied-billed Grebe

Somewhat unusual for the location , a Pied-billed Grebe.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser – swimming just offshore.

Northern Harrier

One of a few Northern Harriers that flew to the Upper Peninsula on Sunday.

Belted Kingfisher

This Belted Kingfisher flew down the beach. Two others flew directly across to the Upper Peninsula.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

And for fun, here is a video of a female Red-breasted Merganser being chased by four males.  Notice the funny head movements of the males.  This is courtship behavior.

After the count was over, Jason and I headed up to the Hawk Watch for a few minutes, where we found this rather cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

First Savannah Sparrow of the year.

Jason and I then made a trip to nearby Dingman Marsh to look for Ring-necked Ducks.  There were many there and we also found this Singing Pine Warbler.

Waterbird Count, April 18

Yesterday Darrell covered for me giving me a chance to sleep in a little, but I joined him for around 4 hours. I don’t have the full report, but we had good numbers of Common Loons (19 while I was there), Turkey Vultures, and most interestingly a Pied-billed Grebe fairly close to shore. There were more Long-tailed Ducks than there had been (at least 310), and many were vocalizing. Thanks to the calm water and wind, we also got to hear Red-breasted Mergansers vocalizing while displaying. Weather-wise, it was very nice.

Today was pretty nice as well, but with stronger winds from the west that were sometimes quite cold. Raptor numbers were down, probably in part due to the westerly winds. There was heavy heat shimmer, probably the worst I’ve had yet, that reduced visibility. Common Loons numbers continue to rise and there were way more Long-tailed Ducks resting in the straits. I also had a new species for the season with a flock of 13 Bonaparte’s Gulls that were flying west, close to shore.

Canada Goose – 5
Mallard – 4
Green-winged Teal – 3
Redhead – 3
Greater Scaup – 20
White-winged Scoter – 14
Long-tailed Duck – 670
Bufflehead – 3
Common Merganser – 17
Red-breasted Merganser – 119
Unidentified duck sp. – 77
Common Loon – 29
Horned Grebe – 1
Double-Crested Cormorant – 67
Great Blue Heron – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 13

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 32
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 3
Red-tailed Hawk – 6
Sandhill Crane – 35

Owl Banding, April 17/18

We caught an American Woodcock early in the night, but were not having much luck with owls. We almost went the entire night without catching any owls, so we were very excited to find a Long-eared Owl in our nets at sunrise!  The bird was a second year female and our third LEOW banded this season.

There was a lot of frog activity last night.  We heard both Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs calling.  We also came across several Northern Leopard Frogs while we were walking to check nets.

It should be cloudy tonight with winds from the northeast at 10 to 15 mph.  The next saw-whet we band will be the 40th one we have banded this spring.  Hopefully we will do it tonight!

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American Woodcock

Owl Banding, April 16/17

We banded two saw-whets last night.  They were captured early, on our first and second net runs. The rest of the night was quiet.

Although we did not catch any big owls, we are fairly certain there was one in the area.  We found some remains of a saw-whet that was likely preyed upon by a larger owl.  It was not near any of our nets and we did not find a band.

We are optimistic about tonight.  It should be clear and warmer than what we have gotten used to! Winds will be out of the southwest at 5 to 10 mph.

 

lots of tails to tail

2761 Red-tailed hawks which pretty much sums up the day! Had  2 more Golden  Eagles  with 15 Bald Eagles, with 7 of being immatures .With 320 Sharp-shinned hawks and 41 Broad-winged Hawks ,first of the year! Also 392 Sandhill Cranes and a lot of  Tree Swallows and 1 Barn Swallow. And 1 more Black Vulture!

Waterbird Count, April 15 & 16

Didn’t get a chance to post yesterday but I finally made it out to owl banding, which was great — thanks for having us all Emily and Kim! I expected to have to leave before they caught anything but I was grateful that we got lucky with two saw-whets so early.

Loons have been steadily increasing and Long-tailed Ducks have been dwindling. Yesterday I had my first-of-the-year Eastern Phoebe and Osprey. Today I had two new species for this season’s count — Northern Shoveler and Red-throated Loon! I’ve been enjoying the east winds pushing many of the raptors over my head.

April 15
Canada Goose – 31
Trumpeter/Tundra Swan – 6
Mallard – 4
Northern Pintail – 16
Redhead – 8
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 15
Unidentified Aythya sp. 1
White-winged Scoter – 37
Long-tailed Duck – 194
Bufflehead – 2
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 30
Red-breasted Merganser – 120
Unidentified duck sp. – 79
Common Loon – 10
Double-Crested Cormorant – 34
Great Blue Heron – 2

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 88
Osprey – 2
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 13
Cooper’s Hawk – 3
Bald Eagle – 13
Red-shouldered Hawk – 3
Red-tailed Hawk – 54 (at least one Western dark morph)
Rough-legged Hawk – 5
Sandhill Crane – 45
American Kestrel – 2
Merlin – 2

April 16
Canada Goose – 107
Wood Duck – 2
Mallard – 4
Northern Shoveler- 4
Green-winged Teal – 17
Redhead – 6
Greater Scaup – 10
White-winged Scoter – 56
Long-tailed Duck – 115
Common Goldeneye – 1
Common Merganser – 35
Red-breasted Merganser – 120
Unidentified duck sp. – 44
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 17
Double-Crested Cormorant – 41
Great Blue Heron – 4

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 107
Golden Eagle – 1
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 21
Cooper’s Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 7
Red-tailed Hawk – 34 (one Western dark morph and at least one Northern)
Rough-legged Hawk – 8
Sandhill Crane – 88
American Kestrel – 2
Merlin – 1

Owl Banding, April 15/16

We enjoyed having the Straits Area Audubon Society come to the banding station last night!

We captured two saw-whets on our very first net run. There was then a little break in the action before catching three more saw-whets later on. That is a total of 5 owls banded last night.

It is certainly starting to feel like spring. We even heard some Spring Peepers calling! Looks like another great night ahead.

 

 

Owl Banding, April 14/15

It was a pleasant night with clear skies and temperatures in the low 40’s and upper 30’s.  Winds were out of the southeast at approximately 10 mph.

We banded two Northern Saw-whet Owls and one Long-eared Owl.  It was our second night using a LEOW audio lure, and the bird was captured adjacent to it.  This was our second LEOW of the season, and just like the first one, it was an after second year female.

We were unable to determine the sex of one of the saw-whets, and the other was a female.  The “unknown” saw-whet was a third year bird, and the female was a second year bird.

There was a lone salamander crawling around on the ice last night!  We moved it over to a patch of ground that was thawed.

Two American Robins found their way in to our nets early this morning, and there was a couple of Eastern Phoebes outside of our cabin.

The forecast for tonight looks similar to last night.  We have the Straits Area Audubon coming out for a visit and hope to show them some owls!

Waterbird Count, April 14

Three new species for the season and good numbers today as well. New additions were Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and Lesser Scaup. I almost had another new species but couldn’t resolve a group of 16 Trumpeter/Tundra Swans that were just too far out on the water. Among non-waterbirds, new for the year was a Barn Swallow flying east along the beach.

Canada Goose – 148
Trumpeter/Tundra Swan – 16
Unidentified swan sp. – 3
Wood Duck – 1
Mallard – 19
Northern Pintail – 3
Green-winged Teal – 4
Redhead – 237
Greater Scaup – 2
Lesser Scaup – 2
White-winged Scoter – 25
Long-tailed Duck – 178
Common Merganser – 29
Red-breasted Merganser – 96
Unidentified duck sp. – 40
Common Loon – 5
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 31

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 111
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 49
Rough-legged Hawk – 2
Sandhill Crane – 1
Snowy Owl – 1

Press Release, Spring Red-tailed Hawk Record, April 2016

Hawk Watch breaks world record

HawkWatch International announced that a world record in hawk migration was recently
broken by the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. On April 13, more Red-tailed Hawks were seen
in a single day than at any time anywhere in the world. Said HawkWatch International,
“Congratulations to Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch on setting the single-day Red-tailed Hawk
count record with an amazing 4,966 individual migrants!!! This breaks the previous record of
4,591 set at Derby Hill, New York on April 11, 1995.”

Explained Kevin Georg, contracted hawk counter for MSRW, “The cold, snowy weather we
had in Mackinaw City in early April apparently held the migrating hawks downstate. When a
day of good weather finally came, the hawks headed north en masse, and many flew over the
hawk counting site near the Recreation Center.” MSRW already held the nation’s record for the
highest number of Red-tailed Hawks seen during a spring count period. So far in 2016, 12,123
have been tallied, 3,000 birds more than the previous record set in 2015. Concludes Georg,
“There’s no telling how high we will go this year. Seeing all these Red-tails is exciting for me,
right up there with our record number of golden eagles.”

Enjoying the non-stop hawk spectacle that day were several members of Straits Area Audubon
Society, including Cheboygan photographer Bruce Seeger. “So many birds were circling in the
air at once, it was magic. Besides red-tails with their normal brown and white plumage with a
bright red tail, I captured pictures of both an albino and a very dark-colored morph. This was a
day none of us will ever forget.”

Already, the hawk watch has recorded species seldom seen here. Eight Black Vultures, nine
Peregrine Falcons, one Gyrfalcon, and one Swainson’s hawk have passed over. Broad-winged
Hawks have just begun to head north and are expected to continue through early June.
Thousands of hawks choose to fly above Mackinaw City enroute to their nesting grounds, since
this is the narrowest place to cross the Straits of Mackinac. Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch
tracks the migration numbers and species; studies the movements of loons, grebes, ducks, and
other waterbirds in the Straits; and researches owl migration near Cheboygan. Guided field
trips occasionally are held, and the public is invited to visit the study sites in Mackinaw City
anytime in the coming several weeks. Visit www.mackinacraptorwatch or call 231-758-3319
for more information.

Owl Banding, April 13/14

We captured eight Northern Saw-whet Owls last night. We banded seven of them, and one was a foreign recapture. All were female except for one, which was only our second male of the season so far.

We have been hearing woodcocks calling for the past couple of weeks, and we found one in our nets at sunrise this morning.

Tonight looks like a good night for catching owls.  We should have clear skies and mild winds out of the southeast.

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Setting up nets at sunset.

Waterbird Count, April 13

Not quite the day that the hawk watch had, but I had decent numbers of waterbirds. The weather looks to be much warmer for the foreseeable future so I’m hoping for more and more movement.

Canada Goose – 73
Mallard – 8
Redhead – 194
Greater Scaup – 2
White-winged Scoter – 80
Unidentified scoter sp. – 31 (probably all White-winged)
Long-tailed Duck – 470
Common Goldeneye – 9
Hooded Merganser – 2
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 104
Unidentified duck sp. – 18
Common Loon – 4
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 5

Otheres:
Turkey Vulture – 166
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 14
Red-tailed Hawk – 134
Rough-legged Hawk – 2
Merlin – 1

holey moley

After several days of bad weather it finally open up in a big way here with 39 Bald Eagles with 30 young eagles 5 Golden Eagles 1 Peregrine  and 12 Rough-legged hawks. 4966 Red-tailed Hawks flew by today with 2 albino type and 4 dark morphs!!!!!!

Owl Banding, April 12/13

We banded two Northern Saw-whet Owls last night.  I guess I should say this morning, beacause the first was captured around 2:45am and the second around 5:15am.  The first owl was a thrid year female with a full brood patch.  The second owl was an after third year female, and she was a big bird by saw-whet standards, weighing 108 grams.

It seems like the owl migration may have finally started up again! We are excited to see what develops over the next few nights.  The forecast for tonight is partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 30’s and southeast winds.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos I’ve taken so far this season.

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Northern Saw-whet Owl

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Long-eared Owl

Waterbird Count, April 12 — Black-legged Kittiwake!

A fairly slow day until the last 10 minutes when I saw a smaller gull that I thought was going to be the first Bonaparte’s of the season. As it got closer, I noticed the black collar on its nape and the bold, black M pattern on its wings, which didn’t have black trailing edges. It was in fact a first cycle BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE. I was able to get very good views as it gradually flew northwest into a strong headwind across the straits, landing several times on the water. I called Steve Baker to come and try to photograph it, but it was pretty distant by the time he arrived, though he may have got some identifiable shots. A very exciting and unexpected bird!

Aside from that, it was business as usual. Many Turkey Vultures were on the move.

Redhead – 5
White-winged Scoter – 16
Long-tailed Duck – 419
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 3
Red-breasted Merganser – 99
Unidentified duck sp. – 38
Horned Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 5
Black-legged Kittiwake – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 140
Bald Eagle – 6
Red-tailed Hawk – 1

Better Nights Ahead!

We attempted to catch owls the past two nights, but were unsuccessful.  We only had nets open a couple of hours each night before being forced to close due to high winds or “wintery mix”.  This has been a pretty typical scenario over the past couple of weeks. However, things are about to change!

We should stay dry for the next several nights and it looks like the winds will be cooperative as well.  I think it is about time for some owls to start moving through the area.  Get ready for some exciting blog posts coming soon!

 

Waterbird Count, April 11

Today was quite active for a change. The first two hours had so much movement in both directions it was stressful to keep up. Aside from heavy fog at sunrise, visibility was excellent. The wind was consistently strong from the west, but it was still pretty nice out. And to top it off, I had a new arrival — four Double-crested Cormorants.

Canada Goose – 2
Mallard – 10
Redhead – 62
White-winged Scoter – 34
Long-tailed Duck – 678
Bufflehead – 6
Common Goldeneye – 27
Common Merganser – 14
Red-breasted Merganser – 206
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 1
Unidentified duck sp. – 33
Common Loon – 3
Double-crested Cormorant – 4
Great Blue Heron – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 48
Bald Eagle – 9

Waterbird Count, April 10

It snowed for the majority of the time today, but there were around two hours of no snow and good visibility in the late morning. The only thing of note today was the amount of Redheads — my highest count so far, with one flock of 55.

Redhead – 66
Long-tailed Duck – 322
Bufflehead – 1
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 72
Unidentified duck sp. – 31

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 5
Bald Eagle – 1

Owl Banding, April 9/10

Unfortunately, my prediction about last night proved to be incorrect. For the second night in a row, despite having nets open all night, we banded zero owls.

We are not too discouraged. The owls will have to come through at some point. Many slow nights now will lead to many busy nights coming up!

There is snow and freezing rain in the forecast tonight. However, it looks like the weather should start shaping up this week.

Waterbird Count, April 9

The day started out quite cold in the mid-teens with strong winds, but by the end of the day it wasn’t too bad. Heat shimmer was quite extensive and resulted in some missed IDs of distant ducks. I had fewer Red-breasted Mergansers than average but otherwise it was business as usual for waterbirds. I also had the most Turkey Vultures of the season so far.

Redhead – 3
White-winged Scoter – 6
Long-tailed Duck – 474
Bufflehead – 1
Common Goldeneye – 3
Common Merganser – 12
Red-breasted Merganser – 54
Unidentified duck sp. – 63
Great Blue Heron – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 73
Bald Eagle – 6

Owl Banding, April 8/9

Our nets were open all night, but we did not catch any owls.  Winds were blowing  strong out of the north and it was very cold.

We caught our second flying squirell of the season and enjoyed observing fresh coyote tracks in the snow.

I am predicting that tonight will be better! Mild winds will be coming from the south.  There is a storm moving in early tomorrow, so hopefully some owls will be flying ahead of it.

Waterbird Count, April 8

Better weather brought poorer variety, with only 5 species of waterfowl. But at least there were more raptors today. Tomorrow’s weather looks about the same as today’s but even colder.

White-winged Scoter – 18
Long-tailed Duck – 324
Common Goldeneye – 2
Common Merganser – 15
Red-breasted Merganser – 82
Unidentified duck sp. – 12

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 17
Bald Eagle – 5
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
Rough-legged Hawk – 1
Merlin – 1

Owl Banding, April 7/8

As I was shaking the nets free of snow yesterday afternoon, I noticed an abundance of American Robins in the area.  So, I was not surprised to find a robin in one of our nets shortly after opening it.

We banded only one saw-whet last night.  There were fairly strong winds coming off of the lake.

Early in the morning, we discovered that a deer had ran through one of our nets, completely tearing it down!  We have some major repairs to do this evening.

There is a chance for snow or flurries tonight, but we are hoping to get a full night in.

Waterbird Count, April 7

Yet another snowy day with low visibility, except today there were stronger winds. It felt much slower than yesterday but numbers were pretty similar. Tomorrow is looking like it’ll be a comparatively nice day.

Canada Goose – 20
Mallard – 3
Redhead – 2
White-winged Scoter – 10
Long-tailed Duck – 287
Common Goldeneye – 13
Common Merganser – 11
Red-breasted Merganser – 77
Unidentified duck sp. – 16
Common Loon – 1

Other:
Bald Eagle – 2

Waterbird Count, April 6

Constant snow and low visibility today, but at least it was fairly warm with calm wind. It’s interesting that despite such poor visibility, my numbers and variety were about the same as a clear day. Tomorrow’s forecast shows snow once again.

Mallard – 1
Redhead – 2
White-winged Scoter – 14
Long-tailed Duck – 430
Common Goldeneye – 9
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 87
Unidentified duck sp. – 6
Great Blue Heron – 1

Other:
Bald Eagle – 2

Owl Banding, April 5/6

Our banding station was in operation until about 2:00 this morning when it began snowing.  Before the snow hit, it was a hazy night with mild southeast winds and temperatures in the low 30’s.

We banded two saw-whets, both of which were captured on our first net run.  They were both second year females.  After the first net run, we didn’t catch any more birds.

It looks like snow willl continue through the night tonight.  We should be in the clear for tomorrow night.

Waterbird Count, April 5

Nice weather today with fairly calm winds which made it feel less cold. Tomorrow’s forecast looks pretty bleak in comparison. Waterbirds were fairly standard. Most notable was my largest flock of White-winged Scoters so far (50) and an adult Great Black-backed Gull.

Canada Goose – 20
Unidentified swan sp. – 3
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 78
Long-tailed Duck – 361
Common Goldeneye – 6
Common Merganser – 14
Red-breasted Merganser – 98
Unidentified duck sp. – 4
Common Loon – 1
Great Black-backed Gull – 1

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 4
Bald Eagle – 2

Owl Banding, April 4/5

After several nights stuck inside due to bad weather, we were finally able to open nets last night!  It was a clear and cold night.  Winds started out of the northwest at about 12mph and decreased throughout the night.

We captured and banded one Northern Saw-whet Owl at around 5:30 this morning.  It was an after third year female with a very interesting molt pattern.

I am hoping tonight will be more active than last night.  Winds should be out of the southeast at around 10mph.  Snow is in the forecast for late tonight, but we should be able to get some valuable banding time in before then!

Waterbird Count, April 4

Quite a cold morning due to strong winds, but around 2:00pm the wind subsided and it was pretty nice afterward. There was extensive heat shimmer all day which reduced visibility.

Canada Goose – 1
White-winged Scoter – 6
Long-tailed Duck – 491
Bufflehead – 1
Common Goldeneye – 3
Common Merganser – 9
Red-breasted Merganser – 87
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 5
Unidentified duck sp. – 58
Unidentified loon sp. – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 5

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 13
Bald Eagle – 5
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

Waterbird Count, April 3

Although today’s weather was similar to yesterday’s, activity was much lower. There was pretty much constant snow and poor visibility, especially from 11:00am onward.

Long-tailed Duck – 111
Common Goldeneye – 6
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 82
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 1
Unidentified duck sp. – 50
Horned Grebe – 1

Others:
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 2

Raptor Fest

I unfortunately don’t have any owl news to report. String winds and snow have been preventing us from banding.

I would just like to say that I had a great time getting to know so many interesting people at Raptor Fest this weekend. Thank you to everyone for showing us your support!

We will get back to banding owls as soon as possible.

 

Waterbird Count, April 2

Nearly constant snow throughout the day, especially in the morning. Visibility was mostly poor but it cleared up intermittently. Wind was pretty calm until the last two hours. But it was still a productive day since poor weather doesn’t seem to concern the waterbirds.

Canada Goose – 4
Redhead – 3
Greater Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 95
Long-tailed Duck – 834
Bufflehead – 2
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 15
Red-breasted Merganser – 116
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 1
Unidentified duck sp. – 16
Common Loon – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 1

Others:
Bald Eagle – 5

Waterbird Count, April 1

Waterbirds were back to the same old species again. Most interesting sightings today were of passerines — two Snow Buntings heading north over the Straits and five Eastern Meadowlarks who seemed like they were going to cross the Straits but decided to turn around.

Canada Goose – 1
Greater Scaup – 1
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 5
Long-tailed Duck – 438
Bufflehead – 1
Common Goldeneye – 15
Common Merganser – 16
Red-breasted Merganser – 169
Unidentified duck sp. – 215

Others:
Turkey Vulture – 1
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 5
Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1

Owl Banding, March 31/April 1

We were able to open nets around midnight last night after a rainy evening. Then, we were forced to close them around 3:30 when it started to snow and become very gusty.

We did not band any owls during our short period of operation, but we did catch a flying squirrel!

I have some information about the recaptured owls that we’ve had so far this season.  Two were previously banded last year in Whitefish Point.  One was banded at Point LaBarbe last fall and one was banded in Newark, Indiana last fall.

On March 26th, we recaptured a bird that was banded here at Cheboygan Sate Park in the spring of 2011. It was originally banded as a second year bird, making it seven years old this year!  Learning how long birds can live in the wild is just one of the many fascinating aspects of banding.

It looks like we will be able to get a full night in tonight.  There may be some precipitation early in the evening, but it should end around 8pm.  The forecast for the remainder of the night shows cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 30’s and upper 20’s, and winds out of the northwest.

 

Press Release, Mackinaw Fest Award, April 2016

Emmet County awarded for ‘unflagging support’ in helping in Mackinaw Raptor Fest, public raptor migration count take flight.

At the Mackinaw Raptor Fest closing ceremony April 2, Emmet County was awarded the first-ever Wind Under Wings Award, in recognition of the assistance by numerous county staff who helped launch the inaugural event, and for supporting a public raptor migration watch in Mackinaw City.

In front of 110 people, Gary Appold, Assistant County Administrator and Human Resources Director, accepted the award of a framed adult bald eagle from Ed Pike, chair of the non-profit group, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  The photograph was donated by professional photographer, Lynn Walters-Fraze of J-A-M Productions International, Alanson.

“When I first broached the idea of a hawk watch in the Straits area in 2004, people were daunted by the amount of work and funding that it would entail,” said Pike. “Thanks to help from many colleagues and the proof from three years of preliminary counts that this is a vital hawk migration corridor, we launched the full research and public outreach work in 2014. This weekend, birders came to Emmet and Cheboygan Counties from throughout Michigan as well as Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin. Along with contributors of funds, topping the list that made it possible is the unflagging support and encouragement of Emmet County, which has been there at every turn.”

That support from the county began back in 2010 with owl research demonstrations at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, combined with an educational night sky experience.  In July of 2013 when Pike and others began meeting about a new public festival during the spring shoulder season, Emmet County sent representatives who provided “wise guidance and advice,” Pike noted.

“Emmet County and its commissioners exemplify what it means to be forward-thinking and community-caring. Through our formative years and even after MSRW started, Emmet County has helped in so many ways behind the scenes, it’s hard to enumerate them.

From owls, Emmet County’s help spread to hawks.  “The professionalism of their staff and encouragement of their commissioners has figuratively given us wings. Emmet County has helped with housing and computer service for some of the biologists. They have assisted with audiovisual equipment setup, publication design, media outreach, and publicity on their website. I am delighted to present them with the first Wind Under Wings Award.”

Emmet County’s Appold said the county is pleased to partner with such an important group as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and to support their work in raising awareness about protecting sensitive regional environments and habitats.

“It’s vital to Emmet County’s future to understand the environmental assets in our region. The raptor count has been an amazing example of educating the public about what an important area this is for birds of prey on an international level,” Appold said. “As a secondary benefit, Emmet County receives exposure about our unique amenities and experiences and we attract tens of thousands of visitors to our communities and parks, in turn supporting our economy and encouraging families and individuals to relocate here and invest in our area. We will continue to support excellent efforts such as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and we’re glad we could help MSRW launch a very successful first year festival.”

Waterbird Count, March 31

Despite rain and heavy fog for most of the day, I had three new arrivals — a Common Loon, three Red-necked Grebes, and a Great Blue Heron. I again had six unidentified swans, four flying south far to the west and two foraging off Pointe La Barbe. I also had amazing views of a male Northern Harrier flying along the shore very close to me.

Canada Goose – 6
Unidentified swan sp. – 6
Mallard – 5
Redhead – 6
Long-tailed Duck – 930
Common Goldeneye – 9
Common Merganser – 37
Red-breasted Merganser – 119
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 4
Unidentified duck sp. – 8
Common Loon – 1
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 3
Great Blue Heron – 1

Other:
Northern Harrier – 1