Monthly Archives: May 2018

May 6th Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

Low nimbo – stratus clouds hung in the straits this morning. Temperature of 6.7C with no wind or wave action. Visibility was superb. It actually tried to rain a little and it seemed quite cold. It didn’t start to warm up until 9:30AM. By the end of the count it had warmed to 12.8C.

Waterbird Notes –

A small pulse of (43) COLO went through in the morning and quickly trickled off to nothing. Big surprise of the day was (1) RTLO right in front of the gazebo. If it was a snake it would have bit me. I was actually trying to get a high count of HOGR when I saw a loon right in front of me with noticeably different plumage and structure than the COLO. The one field mark I believe is missing from most guidebooks on waterfowl ID is the huge difference in bill shape between the two. The RTLO bill is almost needle like compared to the heavy thick bill of a COLO. This bird was a juvenile and the head seemed quite squarish. Check out todays eBird link below for the photo.  Also, note that I have removed my first RTLO siting of the season from the end of April. Surprisingly it was a slow day and I believe it was due to the cold, wet weather that wasn’t forecast for the day.

Non- waterbird Notes –

Several flocks of migrants crossed the straits this morning. (24) BLJA and (24) RWBL. (2) EAME were spotted flying directly in front of the gazebo and I brushed them off as YSFL. Fortunately I had help today and I was corrected!

Wildlife-

RESQ did several scamper throughs early in the morning, apparently not happy the snack crackers were not available at dawn. It then returned to the cover of the forest behind the gazebo and began scolding me. I caved in and dug out some crackers and placed them carefully on the the bench behind where I sit. RESQ instantly appeared and picked up one. It then spun it around in its little hands and placed it carefully in its mouth. It then scampered back into the forest and either cached it or ate it in the cover of the forest.

Freighters-

H Lee White east bound at 9:21, and I missed my chance to get the high count on LTDU on this one! Endeavor east bound at 1:24.

Visitors –

A family with their daughter dropped by to see what was happening in the straits. I hope they forgive me for forgetting their names, but they are regular attendees at the MSRW Raptor Fest. Their daughter scanned the skies picking out the days SACR and GBHE while dad helped me ID the first EAME. Mom walked up the beach and helped correct my BRCR ID to BTNW. I still hear BRCR regularly since yesterday calling, but the song belongs to BTNW! I also wanted to add that it makes me happy seeing parents getting their children into birding. It seems like a rewarding way to spend time compared to all the distractions technology has made available to the youth today. Lynn Fraze stopped by at the end of the count to see how things were going at the water bird count.

Total observer hours – 8.0

Next days forecast –

Mainly sunny with a high near 55F. Winds WSW at 5-10mph.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

Total Species: 41

Total Count : 868

2018 Spring Owl Banding Update

Good afternoon raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back to another quick update for the spring owl banding blog.

Last night (May 5) was mostly clear with little to no wind. The spring peepers, wood frogs and leopard frogs were out in force as they have been for a good week now.

We caught 5 new saw-whets bringing our spring total up to 169!

For the second night in a row we caught a new species! This time it was a barred owl!

This barred owl had a mass of 616 grams which is much larger than both the saw-whet and long-eared owl. The barred owl is in the Strix genus which also includes the smaller spotted owl that resides in the western United States and the great gray owl which mainly resides in Canada, but may, on rare occasion, find its way into the northern United States. The barred owl can be found through out most of the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Their call is the recognizable “who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” hoot. While we were taking this one out of the net a second barred owl was making that call not far off in the treeline. The main predatory threat to the barred owl is the great-horned owl and most times will not be present in areas where great-horned owls are. We know that there is a pair of great-horned owls near our cabin so it was kind of surprising to find barred owls in the area. However, it was still very exciting to capture and band a species that we have yet to see this spring. Now here’s to hoping there is a great-horned owl in the nets tonight! (not very likely at all, but hey we can dream right?!)

That’s all for now, but be sure to check back often for more updates!

-Matthew

where can i buy ampicillin for fish click to find out more Totals

Northern saw-whet owls: 169

Long-eared owls: 1

Barred owls: 1

Sharp-shinned hawks: 2

May 5th Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

A little haze to the start of the morning and a temperature of 5C. 12-19kph winds out of the north west.  Visibility to both the east and the west was severely limited to 8k on the east and less than 5k on the west. Winds were out of the west in the afternoon 20-28kph. The visibility had improved greatly but the heat shimmer was apparent.

Waterbird Notes –

(246) COLO continued through the straits today in a westerly direction. Today’s flight was different than Thursdays in that the birds were predominantly a steady trickle throughout the day versus the first hour after dawn. The busiest hours were 6:00AM (42), 7:00AM (69) and 8:00AM (56). (33) HOGR were the high count of loafing birds in the 9:00AM hour. (2) TRUS crossed high and moving north. It has been a long time since I had seen any swans.

Non- waterbird Notes –

Big surprise for the day was (2) WFIB winging their way south. I noted them as two black birds off over the north side of the straits coming almost directly at me. They seemed like crows at a distance, but their flight style and spacing was definitively un – crow like. As they got to the middle of the straits they swung a little west of me and a long down curved bill came into view. I knew it was an ibis instantly as they are quite common back home in the west. The two birds ended up flying just to the west of me less than .25 mile. I could make out the glossy sheen on the feathers and very long bright red legs dragging behind them. I was surprised to see it was a rarity here in MI and was happy I payed attention to every detail as without the leg color it may have been hard to make the call between a GLIB and a WFIB.

Several resident raptors were seen moving south across the straits as well. A little before noon (2) NOHA led the flight south. Shortly after (3) SSHA were seen lazily flying across the straits near the bridge, even taking time to swing around in a few places. The first (1) COHA nearly slipped by undetected just to the west of me. I caught it coming ashore out of the corner of my eye, long, rounded and stretched out tail with a large head jutting well forward of the wings.

The first BTNW (1) of the season was heard singing frequently today. I wasn’t able to clinch the ID without the help of local birders the following day, but fortunately I took good notes.

Wildlife-

RESQ and (1) BLSQ.

Freighters-

Algoma Sault east bound at 9:20.

Visitors –

Ed Pike dropped by to pick up some paperwork.

Total observer hours – 8.0

Next days forecast –

Cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. High 53F. Winds ENE at 5-10mph.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

Total Species: 45

Total Count : 956

May 4th Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

Heavy rain started early this morning. Upon arrival at McGulpin Point I was able to make out the bridge and its lights in the distance. By dawn fog had rolled in and visibility was limited to 500 meters in any direction. I waited in the car until 8:30AM hoping the visibility would improve but it didn’t. I returned in the evening and began counting a little after 4:00PM. It was still mostly cloudy at the time with a north west wind 6-11kph. Temperature was 10.6C. Visibility was greatly diminished by haze from all of the moisture still in the air and heat shimmer.

Waterbird Notes –

I believe this is now the 3rd time I have tried counting in the late afternoon until a little before sunset. After this evenings count I realized there is more birds moving in the late afternoon than there has been on any of the evenings I have counted. Visibility is noticeably better in the afternoon as well as the sun is behind me and cuts through some of the heat shimmer. A couple (2) COLO came through near the beginning of this evenings count. (13) HOGR were loafing in the vicinity. The sheer lack of birds moving through the area has made it apparent to me counting in the evening is not a productive use of time nor is it a good reflection of migrants use of the straits.

Non- waterbird Notes –

A (1) WITU surprised me coming out of the woods to eat some of the scattered black oil sunflower seed under one of the feeders. Nothing else special to report as it was even slow behind the gazebo this evening.

Wildlife-

RESQ stopped by for some late snack crackers. Shortly after the first 2 black squirrels of the season were detected.

Freighters-

None

Visitors –

A woman from Carp Lake stopped by and together with the Merlin Bird ID app we were able to narrow down the little ducks she likes so much at Carp Lake: Bufflehead.

Total observer hours – 4.75

Next days forecast –

Sunny with a high of 60F. Winds out of the north 10mph.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

Total Species: 21

Total Count : 226

Swainson’s Hawk

Today we had our first Swainson’s Hawk Steve Baker found it among hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks! Had 19 Golden Eagles all young birds! 16 Rough-legged Hawks ! And over 17000 Broad-winged Hawks! Thanks to everybody who help today ! We had over 24 visitors today which is awesome! Tomorrow looks like another good day

2018 Spring Owl Banding Update

Good afternoon everyone and welcome back to another update for the 2018 spring owl banding blog! Pleasant weather continues here in the straits (with the occasional rain shower or thunderstorm) and the saw-whets continue to migrate.

MAY 2: 9 saw-whets, cloudy most of the night with no rain

MAY 3: 4 saw-whets, we had to close around 12:30 due to rain showers moving into the area which continued for the rest of the night and into the morning.

MAY 4: 2 saw-whets and….drum roll please…..1 LONG EARED OWL!!! Yes that’s right we captured and banded our first (and hopefully not our last) long-eared owl around 1AM.

This long-eared owl is a second year (SY) female and she weighed 280 grams. For comparison an average female saw-whet weighs between 90 and 95 grams. The long-eared owl is in the genus Asio along with the short-eared owl. Long-eared owls are strictly nocturnal and hunt for small mammals in open grassland areas. They look similar to the much larger great-horned owl with their prominent ear tufts which is how both get their namesake. However, the tufts are not ears at all, but simply erect feathers that can mimic small twigs when the owl is attempting to camouflage itself.

We have also been hearing a barred owl calling in the distance for the last few nights as well as the pair of great-horned owls that continue to hoot back and forth to each other on occasion.

In addition to catching owls we also been paying attention to the emergence of the local amphibians. for the week or so we have been hearing a chorus of spring peepers, wood frogs, leopard frogs and the occasional bull frog. As we walk the trail between net locations we have also discovered a few blue spotted salamanders making their way across the path.

The world is completely different between dusk and dawn and its very exciting to experience the sights and the sounds of the “night life” here in Cheboygan State Park.

Thanks for checking in and be sure to stop back often for more updates!

-Matthew

Totals

Northern saw-whet owls: 164

Long-eared owls: 1

Sharp-shinned hawks: 2

May 3rd Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

2.8C and no wind at the start of the count. No wave action either. The barometer was steady all day. The wind did pick up out of the west lightly in the afternoon. Luckily the heat shimmer never appeared.

Waterbird Notes –

Before dawn the sky was filled with COLO (334). Had I not been in place before official sunrise I would have missed nearly 100 birds. Before anyone steals the thunder out of migration in the straits, I understand more loon are seen in an hour at Whitefish Point. Either way after sitting patiently through the last of the winter weather I enjoyed the spectacle thoroughly. 161 COLO flew through between 6:18 – 6:22AM.  Another 117 flew through between 6:24 – 7:23AM. The straits were literally filled with COLO! HOGR (35) are increasing in numbers daily and again defying many peoples assumptions. These birds were all staged in close to McGulpin Point. Arriving well before dawn and walking as quietly as possible to the gazebo made it such that the birds stayed close to be counted and observed.

Non- waterbird Notes –

As I was getting my gear out of the car the first WIWR (1) was heard belting out a mouthful. In the midst of all of the COLO air traffic (3) SSHA set off north across the straits. I definitely missed many raptors today as I was counting waterbirds. Ed Pike called in the afternoon to ask if I had seen any BWHA, which I hadn’t. Not shortly after I noted 35 or more raptors high over the towers of the bridge. I am not saying they fly over the bridge, but anyone who has spent time at McGulpin knows that from this vantage point it looks as if that is where the birds are. I was able to sort out a few BWHA (2) before returning to the waterbird count. A PEFA (1) had taken prey, possibly a NOFL just 100 meters away from me. I saw the bird flying away out of the corner of my eye and when I stood up I could make out the strongly tapered wings of a falcon and prey in its talons.

Wildlife-

RESQ stopped by for some crackers. The beaver that was spotted a few days back was seen multiple times today heading west only to return later heading east.

Freighters-

James R. Barker east bound at 9:49 and Kaye E. Barker west bound at 11:45.

Visitors –

Joe Haas

Total observer hours – 8.0

Next days forecast –

Showers, mainly before noon. High near 52. East wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

Total Species: 46

Total Count : 1638

gyrfalcon

Yesterday around 5:30  I heard a lot of noise from the baseball field as the robins and  other birds feeding  in the  field took off at first thought  the local merlin but seeing this falcon it was not the merlin it was large red-tailed size flying fast low over the field, heavy streaks on its side and medium gray,  with no peregrine helmut just smallish streaks on its face and then it was gone flying west thru the trees.

 

2018 Spring Owl Banding Update

Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back to another update for the spring owl banding blog. We’ve had some very pleasant weather lately which we’re very happy about considering the extended winter we had to endure. Most nights have been partly cloudy to clear with a very bright full moon. At time we didn’t even need any headlamps to walk between the different net locations! The saw-whet migration has been fairly good still with us capturing an average of 5 owls per night for the past week.

Our owl count for the past six nights is as follows:

APR 26: 11 saw-whets

APR 27: 6 saw-whets

APR 28: 7 saw-whets

APR 29: 4 saw-whets, 1 Sharp-shinned hawk

APR 30: 3 saw-whets

May 1: 1 saw whet, we closed early due to thunderstorms moving into the area.

As you can see in addition to our saw-whets, we captured and banded another sharp-shinned hawk which flew into the net on our final check in the morning. This hawk was another second year (SY) female very similar to the first sharp-shinned hawk we caught a week ago.

We also have been hearing at least two boreal owls calling intermittently for the past 5 nights. We’ve attempted to lure them into the nets by playing their call on the audio lure, however, thus far we have been unsuccessful. Boreal owls are rare to have in the area and usually only move further south in search of more food when food is getting sparse in their normal range. In years where this happens it is known as an “irruption year” and usually follows a multi-year cycle. This also happens with other owl species such as the great gray owl from time to time. I can’t say for certain that this year is an irruption year for boreal owls, however it has been 3 or 4 years since any boreals have been observed by MSRW owl banders. In any case it is very exciting to experience new owl species!

Two nights ago we acquired another audio caller which we used to broadcast for the boreal owls at a different net location while still using our main audio caller for saw-whets. Last night (MAY 1) we switched the caller to play the long-eared owl call in hopes of attracting some long-ears to our nets. I believe we will continue to play the long-eared call on the second caller for the remainder of the migration with the hope of capturing and banding a few.

Yesterday afternoon (MAY 1) we had a group of 8th grade ecology seminar students from the Petoskey Middle School visit us. Connor and I gave a short presentation about the research we’re conducting and the banding techniques we use. We also took a walk out to a few of the nets so the students could see how they are set up and how they function. It was great having theses students and their teachers come out and learn about the important research that we’re doing.

Thanks for checking in and be sure to stop back often for more owl banding updates as well as updates from the hawk count and waterbird count.

 

-Matthew

Totals

Northern saw-whet owls: 149

Sharp-shinned hawks: 2

May 2nd Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

A heavy fog and light drizzle was coming down at the beginning of todays short count. The temperature was 8.3C and it was completely calm with no wave action. Visibility was limited to 100 meters and more often than not McGulpin Rock wasn’t even visible. After 1 hour of effort the count was called off due to lack of visibility. I returned at 1:45PM to see if things had improved and it hadn’t. The visibility was no better than when I had left this morning. As such I feel confident no opportunity was missed to count today.

Waterbird Notes –

(1) DCCO was spotted in close. A GRYE (1) was clearly heard calling in the vicinity.

Non- waterbird Notes –

The forest birds behind the gazebo were fired up about the arrival of the rain! The resident birds were all accounted for.

Wildlife-

RESQ stopped by for some crackers.

Freighters-

None

Visitors –

None

Total observer hours – 1.0

Next days forecast –

Mostly sunny, with a high near 55. East wind around 5 mph.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

Total Species: 6

Total Count : 11