Monthly Archives: September 2018

Skunks everywhere… but then?!

After a few nights of nothing but skunks, wind, and rain in the net, the weather turned favorable and finally elicited saw-whet owl movement. I caught 7 birds on the night of the 26th, with a solid mix of hatch year, second year, and after second year birds.

Apparently this off-and-on stormy weather isn’t usual for the upper peninsula at this time of year, which makes me wonder if one of three things will take place: 1. we’ll get an intense push of birds around the first week of october; 2. a higher than normal number of birds will continue to trickle in after peak season (into mid or possibly late November) before migration peeters out; or 3. the birds will decide to take a different migratory route this year. Time will tell, but I’m very curious to find out!

A hatchyear female ready to depart into the night

Until next time, take care


Waterbird Count 9/25-9/27

The 26th was the best of the last 3 days.  Highlights lately include the first Surf Scoter and Lincoln’s Sparrow of the season on the 25th, the highest duck count of the season so far on the 26th, and the first Horned Grebes of the season today.

968 ducks were counted on the 26th, however due to their distance plus the passing rain decreasing light and visibility, only 324 were i.d.’d to species.  Of those, 250 were Redhead.  Also of note was a Surf Scoter & 9 White-winged Scoters.

Total counts can be viewed on the following eBird lists from the 25th26th, & 27th.


Alas, the storm fronts never did fizzle out, but despite the less-than-ideal conditions, we did catch one saw-whet owl on the night of September 22nd.

Richard Couse, MSRW Coordinator, holds Miss 094 – those are the last three digits of her unique band number.

After examining old and new flight feathers on her wings, I aged this saw-whet to be an after second year (ASY), meaning she is at least 2.5 years old.

Every year, saw-whets will symmetrically replace some old flight feathers with crisp new ones. Therefore, we can age a bird by the number of generations of flight feathers present. Just going off the naked eyeball, it can be tough to gauge which feathers are really old, old, and new! But fortunately, a pigment in flight feathers, called porphyrin, readily glows under black light. As feathers age, so does porphyrin, and thus older feathers glow dimly, whereas fresh feathers glow brightly.

ASY saw-whet. The flight feathers she replaced this summer glow hot pink; last year’s feathers glow warmly; and feathers retained from two years ago, possibly earlier, are cold.

It could be that Miss 094 was born in the spring of 2016, and in that summer fledged with her first set of flight feathers, which she has steadily replaced over subsequent summers.

As the season progresses, I’ll nab more black lighting photos to share! Precise aging of saw-whets by molt limits is still a developing science, which is very exciting!


Waterbird count 9/21-9/24

In the past 4 days there was a good turn out of terns, a day of decent duck diversity, and a day with winds that made 8 foot tall waves.  Some species have been new for the season, and others are becoming more numerous.  Nice to see the fall start to increase in action.

Here are the migrants counted in the past 4 days…


Canada Goose: 6, Blue-winged Teal: 5, Green-winged Teal: 27, teal sp.:9, Common Merganser: 1, Red-breasted Merganser: 2, Red-throated Loon: 1 (first of season), Common Loon: 6, Double-crested Cormorant: 74, Common Tern: 13, Ring-billed Gull: 43, Herring Gull: 19

Morning & evening lists via eBird.


Canada Goose: 14, American Black Duck: 1, Mallard: 13, Blue-winged Teal: 5, Northern Shoveler: 7, Green-winged Teal; 1, teal sp.:3, Redhead: 11, Lesser Scaup: 21, Common Merganser: 26, Red-breasted Merganser: 11, Duck sp.: 50, Common Loon: 10, Red-necked Grebe: 1, Double-crested Cormorant: 86, Turkey Vulture: 34, Sharp-shinned Hawk: 9, Cooper’s Hawk: 1, Bald Eagle: 30 (9 adult, 21 immature), Monarch Butterfly: 1

list via eBird


Canada Goose: 550, Mallard: 13, Redhead: 4, Aythya sp.: 6, Common Merganser: 41, duck sp: 6, Common Loon: 6, Double-crested Cormorant: 134, Turkey Vulture: 171, Sharp-shinned Hawk: 12, Bald Eagle: 10 (5 adult, 5 imm.), American Kestrel: 4, Monarch Butterfly: 10

list via eBird


Canada Goose: 22, American Black Duck: 1, Mallard: 8, Common Merganser: 12, duck sp.: 7, Common Loon: 3, Red-necked Grebe: 4 plus 1 resting, Double-crested Cormorant: 160, Turkey Vulture: 65, Sharp-shinned Hawk: 8, Bald Eagle: 6 (4 adult, 1 imm.), Peregrine Falcon: 3, Common Raven: 13 (Yes, all these ravens appeared to be migrating as they all flew south across the strait.)

list via eBird

Hawk Count Sept. 23

On Sunday Ed Pike and Steve Baker conducted the count; the weather was nice in the morning with light to moderate winds from the southwest, which switched to the southeast and east in the afternoon and increased. It started cool, then with the sun coming out became quite warm; the winds switched to the east it turned cold.
For the Raptors it was a slow day overall with the most common being Turkey Vultures with 213 for the day. The TV’s were mostly seen before the winds switched; however some still moved south across the Straits with the moderate southeast winds.
There were unidentified small birds constantly seen in flight over the point till the winds switched to the southeast. The most common migrant was Canada Goose with a total of 906 for the day. Blue Jays put in a good showing in the first 2 hours with 441 counted.
Small numbers of Monarch Butterflies are still being seen.

Ed Pike

Hawk Count and Other Goodies-September 18th-22nd

Raptors:  The forecast was incorrect for most of the last 5 days, but the raptor migration has continued to be great, with nearly 800 raptors in the last 5 days.

September 18th:  Rather than having moderate NE winds, it was variable winds to light to west winds.  Raptors remained good though, with 175 tallied.  The biggest highlight was a rather early subadult Golden Eagle.  The bird circled with some vultures for a short period before crossing the straits.  Six additional species of raptors met or exceeded their peaks for the season.  They were: Osprey-3, Northern Harrier-8, Red-tailed Hawk-7, American Kestrel-22, Merlin-1, and Peregrine Falcon-2.  Four Northern Harriers came high together which was pretty neat.  Also, every Broad-winged Hawk crossed (18), as well as 17 of the 24 Vultures.

September 19th: The winds ended up being easterly the entire day which led to a similar day as the previous, but with less numbers and species.  Fifty-six Sharpies and 6 Northern Harriers were the standouts.

September 20th: The rain hit early in the day, although a lone Merlin crossed the straits before the rain started coming down hard.

September 21st: Extremely strong winds exceeding 50 mph at times led to no count being conducted.

September 22nd:  The best day of the period and the season.  In fact, today more than doubled our previous daily season high (of 225 raptors).  A total of 501 raptors were recorded today, with the period between 10 and 11 best.  A total of 165 raptors were recorded this hour alone, which would make this the 7th best day of the season, if that was all there was to the count today.  The winds were very light during this hour and 99 Turkey Vultures, 43 Bald Eagles, 6 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 16 Broad-winged Hawks, and 1 Red-tailed Hawk all took advantage and all crossed the straits.  Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures remained strong for the next few hours, before Sharp-shinned Hawks took over the flight for most of the rest of the day.  Sprinkled in the flight were 2 rather early Rough-legged Hawks.  One was a light morph juvenile, while the other was a light morph adult female.  Four additional raptors exceeded their previous season peaks.  They were: 178 Turkey Vultures, 119 Bald Eagles, 122 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and 17 Red-tailed Hawks.  Most raptors crossed today, including 140 of the Turkey Vultures, all but 3 Red-taileds, and all Bald Eagles (except locals).  Overall, an excellent day of migration.

Golden Eagle on the 18th

Rough-legged Hawk today (the 22nd)

One of many Bald Eagles today

Red-taileds had their first push today, with 18 birds


September 18th: The best day of the period with many flocks of Canada Geese, resulting in a day total of 738.  Mixed in with these flocks were 1 Snow Goose, 1 Snow/Ross’s Goose, as well as a group of 3 Snow Geese by themselves.  Sandhill Cranes made their first big push of the season, with 196 recorded.  Other highlights included American Golden-Plover-4, Semipalmated Plover-1, Least Sandpiper-2, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker-1, Red-bellied Woodpecker-1, Eastern Wood-Pewee-1, Blue Jay-112, and the first Horned Larks (2), American Pipit (2), and Lapland Longspur (1) of the season.

September 19th: Highlights included American Golden-Plover-1, Least Sandpiper-1, Solitary Sandpiper-1, Lesser Yellowlegs-2, Eastern Bluebird-1, American Pipit-16, and Rusty Blackbird-44

September 20th: The day’s few highlights at the count site included an American Golden-Plover and a Semipalmated Plover.

September 22nd:  Highlights included Canada Goose-499, Snow/Ross’s Goose-1, Redhead-77, Red-throated Loon-2, Common Loon-9, Sandhill Crane-39, American Golden-Plover-7, Greater Yellowlegs-1, Lesser Yellowlegs-1, Blue Jay-162, and American Pipit-14.

This Pileated Woodpecker flew around in circles for a few minutes at the count site, providing excellent views

Pileated Woodpecker

Snow Geese

A lone American Golden-Plover has occasionally been on the ground

Most American Golden-Plovers have been fly-bys though

Monarchs: Smallish numbers continue with the best days being 38 on the 18th and 26 on the 22nd.

Bonus: On the evening of the 18th, Kyle and I headed to Point Iroquois.  Highlights included over 300 Canada Geese, 1 Cackling Goose, and 1 Red-throated Loon.

In the rain on the 20th, Steve and I had a rather great day of birding in the eastern U.P. from SW of Rudyard to Munuscong WMA to Cedarville.  The best of the day was 11 shorebird species, including a Hudsonian Godwit (which also called).  Other highlights included Snow Geese-3, Canada Geese-600+, most dabbling ducks, American Pipits-300+, Lapland Longspur-5+, Barred Owl-1 probable, American Bittern-1, Black-crowned Night-Heron-1, Virginia Rail-1, Sora-1, American Golden-Plover-11, Black-bellied Plover-2, Rusty Blackbird-8 in the surprising location of a field on Hantz, Sandhill Crane-700+, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler eating bugs while hopping from one lily pad to another.

In the wind on the 21st, Jessica and I went to Cheboygan State Park.  At least 6 Ruffed Grouse were the only noteworthy birds, but the wind made things rather interesting.  At least 4 trees fell down when we were walking the woods, and we were able to watch as Cedar Trees were literally being uprooted.  I hope to post that video here eventually.

An Osprey over town today was the last ‘other’ of interest of the period.

Snow Geese have been surprisingly regular lately

And the first of the fall is…

A hatchyear female!

Not a particularly well composed post-release photo, but… it is endearing to me all the same

Despite not being able to operate in full capacity due to high winds and only one net location established, two saw whets visited me at the station last night. Equipped with their unique band number, hopefully these birds will get caught by other banding stations as they migrate south, thereby continuing to fortify our knowledge of their migration ecology.

It looks like we will be in for a string of good weather nights, so stay tuned for regular updates.


Waterbird Count 9/18-9/20

On the 18th, things with wings of all categories were on the move, waterbirds, raptors, and the highest count of Monarch Butterflies I’ve had in a few weeks now.  The 19th was not as productive as the 18th, and today, a rainy and foggy day, even less so.  Friday afternoon into Saturday the winds are predicted to come from the northwest, so on Saturday morning there might be a good number of birds to count.

Here are the migrants counted from McGulpin Point in the past 3 days…


Snow Goose – 1 (First of season)

Canada Goose – 63

Mute Swan – 2

Gadwall – 4

White-winged Scoter – 8

Common Merganser – 1 (Plus the local family of 5 are still around)

Red-breasted Merganser – 3

Common Loon – 21

Double-crested Cormorant – 65

Turkey Vulture – 1

Osprey – 3

Northern Harrier – 5

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 23

Cooper’s Hawk – 2

Bald Eagle – 16 (9 immature & 7 adult)

Broad-winged Hawk – 2

Unidentified Eagle – 4

Sandhill Crane – 66

Ring-billed Gull – 6

Herring Gull – 3

American Kestrel – 1

Merlin – 4

Unidentified Falcon – 1

Unidentified Raptor – 10

American Pipit – 1

Monarch Butterfly – 20

list via eBird.


Canada Goose – 46

Teal sp. – 1

Aythya sp. – 2

Red-breasted Merganser – 6

duck sp. – 2

Common Loon – 9

loon sp. – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 121

Turkey Vulture – 2

Ring-billed Gull – 28

Herring Gull – 3

Merlin – 1

American Pipit – 5

list via eBird.


Mallard – 4

Common Merganser – 17 (plus local family of 5)

Double-crested Cormorant – 45

peep sp. – 1

Ring-billed Gull – 40

Herring Gull – 2

Peregrine Falcon – 1

list via eBird.

Another saw whet season begins

Greetings all!

My name is Maycee and I’ll be the owl bander on Point la Barbe for MSRW this fall. It’s been a long haul from my natal homeland of northern California to get here, and boy am I so, so excited to experience all the new sights and critters of the upper peninsula!

The weather at the station will be rather wet and cruddy till Friday night, but then Ed and I can start to run the nets in earnest and hopefully catch some early migrating saw whet owls. And hoo knows, perhaps we’ll nab a long-eared owl or barred owl passing through.

Since arriving on the 18th, I’ve been having much fun poking around the blooming plants. The goldenrod, in particular, is teaming with a menagerie of pollinators. I’ve already tallied 15 unfamiliar species of moths, flies, wasps, and bees.  I’m looking forward to identifying the insects and spiders!

Until next time! Take care.

This one was very busy, shoving her way past flies and bees to get at the best nectaries.



Her orange fluff is a handsome touch.

Vespid wasps are generally docile when going about their business outside of the nest. She toddled onto my hand before taking off.

Hawk Count-September 15th-17th

Raptors:  Raptors have continued to be steady these past 3 days.  Hardly any wind on the 15th and 16th resulted in nearly every raptor being high, while the moderate SW winds today resulted in nearly every raptor low.

The 15th had another nice day of diversity, with 10 raptor species recorded.  The bulk of these were Sharp-shinned Hawks (80) and Broad-winged Hawks (56).  All 3 falcon species were recorded, as well as 2 Osprey and a Northern Harrier.  Forty-five of the 56 Broad-wingeds crossed, as well as 8 of the 10 Turkey Vultures.

The 16th was similar to the 15th, although the Bald Eagle count was higher with 24 on the former and on the latter date.  Twenty Broad-wingeds crossed, as well as 16 of the 22 Turkey Vultures.

Today was mostly Sharpies attempting to cross (perhaps 2/3 unsuccessfully) before eventually heading east.  A brief pulse between 2:00 and 2:15 of 8 American Kestrels was just a tease before they quickly tapered off.

Non-raptors:  Highlights the past few days have included Green-winged Teal, Solitary Sandpiper, at least 14 warbler speciesPectoral Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Common Nighthawk, American Golden-Plover, American Wigeon, Redhead, Rock Pigeon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a probable Yellow-throated Vireo, and an increase in Blue Jays.

A pair of Parulas

Common Nighthawk

Best of the next 5 days:  While the next 5 days should be a nice stretch of raptor migration, it’s not as good or straightforward as it was just a few days ago.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, should be a great day, and the day most likely to be the best of the next 5, with hundreds of raptors likely moving throughWednesday and Friday are too tough to tell what will happen right now, but a couple hundred raptors should move through on each day, particularly on Wednesday.  Thursday looks like rain all day and Saturday should see a result similar to the last 3 days, or slightly better.