Monthly Archives: March 2017

Waterbird Count, March 24

My name is Joshua Jaeger, and it is an honor and a privilege to be conducting the MSRW’s waterbird count for Spring 2017.  Due to recent pile ups of ice around McGulpin Point and lack of cooperation from the weather, the official start of the waterbird survey was delayed.  Today’s report was taken at Shepler’s Cove since there is enough open water for ducks to be moving through and resting while simultaneously allowing me to see them from shore.  It had snowed the previous night, and the rainfall today was constant and consistent throughout the duration of the survey.  The waterbird activity was fairly low likely because there is still a fair amount of ice out on the strait.  The ambient temperature was 33 °F for most of the day, wind speed did not exceed five miles per hour, and average visibility was approximately two miles.  At about 02:20 PM is when it switched from rain to snow, and bird sightings began to drop off.  Highlights of the day include one adult male Hooded Merganser that stopped and rested at about 1:45 PM, as well as an adult male Northern Harrier moving east at around the same time.

Canada Goose – 31
Mallard – 6
Greater Scaup – 8
Common Goldeneye – 19
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 40
Red-breasted Merganser – 8
duck sp. – 23

Others Species:
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 1

‘Tis The Season

Greetings From Cheboygan,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Arthur Sanchez Jr. and I am the lead owl bander with MSRW for spring migration. Over the past couple of years I have been trained by master banders at Humboldt Bay Bird Observatory in Northern California. Throughout my training at HBBO I have had the opportunity to supervise banding operations at two different MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) stations within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as well as leading and organizing owl banding at my home station. I recently graduated from Humboldt State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in wildlife management and conservation biology. This season I am working along side the assistant owl bander Nick Alioto, a recent biology graduate from Bishop University in Lennnoxville, Quebec, Canada.

March 20th was our first night of owl banding. It was rather slow and we only captured two Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus). Out of our two captures that night, we had one unbanded bird and a recapture. A bird that we consider to be a recapture already has a band on it from previous banding operations. The recapture bird was an ATY (After Third Year) female. When banders age a bird ATY, it is essentially saying that we do not know the definitive age of the individual, but we do know that bird is at least in it’s fourth calendar year of living. After we contacted our boss, Ed Pike, we gave him the recapture band number to see if it was a bird that MSRW has banded in the past. It turns out that our first recapture bird of the season was banded in central Indiana in 2014.

Our protocol calls for running mist nets from dusk to dawn. Mist nets are a common trap used to capture birds and bats as well. Through out the night, we will routinely check the nets for any owl captures. When birds are captured, the process of taking them out of the net is dubbed an extraction. After the bird is extracted with every precaution necessary, they are transported to our banding lab where they are processed and then released. On our first night of banding, we observed a Barred Owl (Strix varia) perched high in a White Pine (Pinus strobus) in between net rounds. On the night of March 24th we were pleasantly surprised to hear the spring calls of American Woodcocks and Common Nighthawks as we were opening nets. Again, this was a rather slow night with only two NSWO captures. As we arrived to the last net during our closing round, we had a special treat in the net as we captured a Ruffed Grouse.

Due to the weather being uncooperative, we’ve only been able to sneak in a couple of full banding nights. Since the night of March 20th, we now have a total of 1 recap, and 9 newly banded birds. Most of the NSWOs that we have been capturing are females with the ages ranging from SY (Second Year) to ATY. At this time of year, we are coming across some very unique molt patterns within the primary and secondary feathers. NSWOs are almost exclusively aged by molt limits within the flight feathers. Molt limits are defined as the differentiation between old retained and newly replaced feathers, exhibiting different generations of feathers. Molt is one of my favorite topics in avian ecology and we are excited to see more molt patterns as birds are passing through. We are anticipating more birds in the near future as spring migration picks up.


A few Raptors and Sandhill Cranes

Saturday there were strong east winds and cloudy skies which lead to a few Raptors flying throughout the day. There was a nice diversity with 4 species of Raptors seen.
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 4
Merlin 1
Sandhill Crane 4

Looks like poor weather for migration for the next 2 days. Sunny skies predicted for Tuesday to Thursday should allow for good numbers of Raptors to push through the area.
Keep looking up.

Slow start to migration

The weather has not been cooperating for many species to migrate. The Hawk count has been tallying a trickle of Raptors moving through without big numbers on any days.

After being mostly open for most of the winter 3 nights of zero temps the week before the start of the Waterbird count left the Straits iced in. Hopefully the warmer stormy weather this weekend will open the Straits. Josh is getting bored not being able to look for waterbirds in migration.

The Owl banders are not having much better luck with only a few N. Saw-whet Owls captured so far. One of those captures was already wearing a band which was placed on the Saw-whet Nov. 20, 2014 at Greene Co., Indianna.

Josh Jaeger (our waterbird counter) and I have tried capturing N. Saw-whet Owls at the Headland, Dark Sky Park on 2 nights this week. We captured 5 Saw-whets the first night and 3 the second. We also had some repeats which indicates the Saw-whets are also not migrating across the Straits yet. One Saw-whet we captured was also wearing a band which was placed on the bird Oct. 20, 2015 as a part of our project at Point LaBarbe on the north side of the Straits.

The Owl people did see the norther lights this week which was new for Josh. We are off to a slow start with bigger numbers to come when the weather cooperates. Be sure to come up and join the fun of seeing the Raptors and waterbirds over the Straits this spring.

MSRW is looking for a Raptor Naturalist!

Purpose: Share information and enthusiasm for hawks and eagles with the public, working outdoors at Hawk Watch sites in Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Location: Mackinaw City, Michigan
Job Category: Temporary Contract Position
Duration: Weekends from 4/8/2017 through 6/4/2017 (at most 18 days, 10 am to 4 pm, only during good weather for migration. Maximum of 108 hours.)

Last Date to Apply: March 19, 2017

For additional position and compensation details, and to apply, please email a resume and contact information for three references to Kathy Bricker:


Owl Prowl: Saturday 3/11

Straits Area Audubon Society, Tara Buehler & Ed Pike to host Owl Prowl!

Saturday March 11, 2017 at 5:45pm at the Pigeon River Country State Forest Field Office on Twin Lakes Rd in Vanderbilt, MI

Families… come join us as we listen for owl calls on a night before a full moon! We’ll have refreshments available and kids’ activities (such as: dissecting an owl pellet and making a craft item) starting at 5:45 p.m. The main event for all ages will start an hour later at 6:45 p.m. We will be outside for about an hour walking a trail and listening for owls (weather dependent) so dress appropriately! Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Limited to 30 people. RSVP by contacting Tara Buehler at or calling (989-983-4101)

Directions: to office from I-75 (GPS directions often do not lead you there)

  • Coming from the North on I-75, turn left (east) onto Mill St. and head over the overpass
  • Coming from the South on I-75, turn right (east) onto Mill St.
  • Go 0.5 miles and turn left (east) onto E Main St. (at the yellow flashing light). After 0.5 miles E Main St. will turn into E Sturgeon Valley Rd., continue onward)
  • Go 11 miles on E Sturgeon Valley Rd. to the intersection of Twin Lakes Rd.
  • Turn left (north) onto Twin Lakes Rd.
  • Continue for 1 mile, the office will be on the left

This event could not be held without the help from Ed Pike with the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, the Pigeon River Country Association, Headwaters Land Conservancy, Michigan DNR, and Huron Pines AmeriCorps. Thank you!

Straits Area Audubon Society: