Monthly Archives: October 2018

Waterbird count 10/27-10/31

The http://click.marissa-lynn.com/the-profitable-editors-kit/clkn/http/edit.marissa-lynn.com/product/the-profitable-editors-kit-exclusive-access?buy-now Long-tailed Ducks are still migrating through the area.  On the 27th there was another impressive day total of 1,178!  Only 6 were counted on the 29th, 57 on the 30th, and 157 on the 31st.  After kind of a low period, species diversity went back up today.  Today 8 follow link Greater Scaup, 1 source Black & 22 White-winged Scoters, 4 buy ashwagandha walmart Common Goldeneye, 47 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Common Loon, 2 Horned & 6 Red-necked Grebes and an adult Great Black-backed Gull were counted; a pretty good mix compared to earlier this week.

96 Sandhill Cranes were counted on the 27th & 89 on the 29th.

Also seen today was this local pair of Bald Eagles, one of which is carrying what appears to be the remains of a dead duck that was floating out in the straits.

Passerines:  Snow Buntings are seen almost daily at McGulpin Point.  On the 29th, the first Common Redpoll of the season landed on the beach.  On the 30th there was a pretty good morning flight of finches, which included (probably many more than): 7 House Finches, 1 Purple Finch, 10 Common Redpolls, 1 Pine Siskin, & 122 American Goldfinches.

Recent lists via eBird can be found below…

10/27      10/29      10/30 (morning)      10/30 (evening)      10/31

Happy Halloween everybody!

Owl update: October 27 – 30

What could be under the handkerchief?

it’s probably an owl

It’s a big, beautiful red-tailed hawk!  Such fluff and prominent markings.

This is a young bird; red-tail eyes can darken to a deep chestnut with age.

Reminds me of that scene in The Titanic but with less romance and more hawk

Recently, Ed and I set up a special trapping set designed to lure and safely net diurnal raptors.  Right now, diurnal raptor trapping isn’t a dedicated operation with MSRW but perhaps it will be someday!  Even still, it’s wonderful to capture and learn more about just a few of these hawks, falcons, and harriers as they pass through.

On the owl banding front, well… things are slowing down.  Nighttime weather has been clear and quite pleasant lately, but I only caught two birds on the 29th and was skunked last night.

Despite the paucity of saw whets, I met face to face with a bird I’ve been waiting for all season.  The White-Toed Saw Whet.

The leucistic toe is something else!  Perhaps it’s a birth mark?  All owls are special but this one was super special.

In honor of Halloween I’ll share this photo of a spooky saw whet owl.

Although… even being dramatically lit by the lantern, it’s not that spooky.  Saw whets are perhaps the least concerning creature to encounter in the heart of the wood at night.  They don’t really hoot, they toot.  In the spring, males will advertise their territory with a flutey toot-toot-toot call, and occasionally will mew (like a cat) and yap at trespassers in agitation.   These owls are a delight to find and hear while I do my springtime spotted owl work.

11 nights left!  I look forward to what the night brings.

Until next time,

– MH

Hawk Count-October 25th-30th-Golden Eagles

One of twenty-one Golden Eagles on the 29th

Raptors have slowed down quite a bit during the period, with the first half of it once again impacted by poor weather.  The 29th was by far the best day for raptors.  Thanks to Steve and Ed for covering on the 27th and 28th.

10-25: A drizzle in the morning gradually turned into rain at 1:00, at which point it rained the rest of the day.  Just 1 Red-shouldered and 1 Rough-legged were tallied.

10-26: Rain throughout the day.

10-27:  A drizzle to light rain all day resulted in just 4 Sharpies, 20 Red-taileds, 2 Rough-leggeds, and a Merlin being tallied.  One “dark morph” Red-tailed was also tallied.

10-28: Forty-six raptors were tallied, the highlights being 2 Harriers, 1 Red-shouldered, and 8 Rough-legged Hawks.

10-29:  A high-quality day with nice numbers of the “later” migrants.  Golden Eagles were moving through most of the day, the best of which was when 3 were seen simultaneously crossing south in different flight paths.  All Goldens crossed with virtually no hesitation, most of which were adults.  At  the end of the day a rather nice total of 21 Golden Eagles were tallied.  Rough-legged Hawks had their first push of the season, with 19 birds, and Red-shouldered Hawks continued in good numbers, with 11 birds.  The accipiter hat trick was completed for the 3rd time this season, the best of which was an immature Northern Goshawk.  Bald Eagles finally made a decent push, with 13 birds.  Surprisingly, this is the largest number seen in a day this month.  An American Kestrel was the first in 9 days.

10-30:  An overcast day, with moderate southeast winds led to a small movement of raptors.  Two Golden Eagles were the best of the 49 raptors tallied, with 5 Red-shoulderedsa Rough-legged, and a “dark morph” Red-tailed nice as well.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Non-raptors have been rather great lately, with a much more “wintery” feel to them.  The best of the period has been 77 Snow Buntings on the 25th, 112 Sandhill Cranes on the 27th, 566 Sandhill Cranes on the 28th, 166 Sandhill Cranes on the 29th, a Sharp-tailed Grouse on the 28th and 29th, 46 Rusty Blackbirds on the 28th, 18 American Tree Sparrows on the 28th, an American Pipit on the 28th, a Northern Shrike on the 29th and 30th, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the 29th, a White-winged Crossbill on the 29th, 722 Long-tailed Ducks on the 30th, a Great Blue Heron on the 30th, a White-crowned Sparrow on the 30th, a Common Redpoll on the 30th, and 645 American Goldfinches on the 30th.

Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks were flying west over the woods on the 30th

A Northern Shrike has been around the past couple of days

Thursday through Saturday look really good for raptor migration and this period is very likely the “last hurrah” of any sizable migration of raptors for the season.  Friday and Saturday are likely to be the best of the three.  Large numbers (for Pointe LaBarbe) of Red-shouldered Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, and Golden Eagles are likely to pass through this period.  The last remaining big Red-tailed days are likely to be during this period as well, with 400-1,000 birds likely moving through during these three days.  Northern Goshawks should be daily, and their biggest day of the season is likely to occur during this period.  If there are any 20+ Bald Eagle days left this season, they should occur during this periodHundreds of Sandhill Cranes, thousands of finches, and hundreds-thousands of ducks are all likely as well.  Thousands of birds should move through these three days, and it’ll be a great finale to the season.

Grant it, the season goes until November 14th, but after November 3rd hawk migration will be rapidly winding down, and the theme of October will continue into November: bad weather for raptor migration.  Of course, the forecast will change many times between now and the end of the season, but the forecast image below is incredibly ominous.  There should be a few nice days of raptor migration left after November 3rd, but it’ll greatly pale in comparison to October (or earlier).

If the forecast significantly alters for Thursday through Saturday, updates will be posted here.

The most disheartening forecast of the season for Pointe LaBarbe but it will undoubtedly change and not be as bad as is currently predicted…right???  (Image courtesy of weather.com)

Owl update: October 21 – 26

The night of the 21st was windy and extra no good with a southwest wind.  Not only is the southwest wind non-conducive to owl movement, it exposes my nets particularly well, rendering them less effective.  Regardless, 4 saw whets flew into the nets anyway!  Below is a noble cutie-pie.

Can you feel the autumn ambiance?

The night of the 22nd was a special day for me because it was the eve of my birthday!  Members of MSRW stopped by and we celebrated with weenies and chestnuts roasted over the fire and homemade birthday cake!  I was gifted with a wonderful b-day barred owl card as well as some extra firewood.  Thank you everyone for the occasion.  This night I caught 7 saw whets before being greeted by the beautiful dawn.

Richard Couse, Executive Director, makes up for the lack of candles by holding a faintly smoldering twig over the cake.

On an aside, with this work I play with plenty of owls, which is wholeheartedly enriching in itself, but the other wonderful aspect is watching the night unfold and moon and stars crest over the sky.  I walk several miles a night to check nets and this is a calming activity to reflect on life while listening to Scandinavian folk metal.  It’s getting colder so I watch the frost accumulate over moss and puddles freeze.   Below are photos from the morning of the 24th.

Moonlight over lake

This sunrise deserves to be on a cereal box.

The night of the 23rd was quite productive with 8 brand-spanking-new owls (that is to say they were all unbanded).  The night of the 24th was our last night of clear weather conditions, but even so, following a brief push of 4 owls in the early evening, movement seemed to stop after 1 am.  Perhaps the birds sensed the weather process coming in and so have hunkered down to wait it out.

What a lucky owl to get to model in front of my favorite handkerchief!

It is now the 26th and we’ll be in for some iffy weather the coming days.  I opened the nets for four hours last night, and wasn’t surprised no body was moving in the dense fog.

I am happy to announce we have broken the 100-owl mark.  As of tonight we stand at 100 northern saw whet owls, 2 barred owls, and one long-eared owl.  Stay tuned for a report of our NSWO foreign retraps.  I won’t spoil anything but one bird was banded far far away, so get HYPED.

Historically, these are low numbers for the saw whets.  Some stations in Ontario and Quebec provinces have also reported low owl numbers, with a few stations doing very well.  Interestingly, I’m still seeing some hatch year birds mixed in with adults – I would have expected the youngin’s to be in lower supply given it’s late season and they tend to migrate in advance.  As the season comes to a close, more owls will trickle in and hopefully grant us a better idea of what’s going on.  It could be the adults had a poor reproductive year (there’s been some anecdotal evidence of low small mammal populations, particularly red vole, which are integral to fuel good saw whet breeding effort in the north); or, in the face of ongoing unfavorable weather, owls have re-routed or could still be delayed.

Until next time,

-MH

Hello!

Executive Director, MSRW, Richard Couse

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. I am Richard Couse, the new, and first, Executive Director here at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. I’m incredibly humbled and honored to have the opportunity to advance MSRW’s mission to conduct scientific studies of hawks and owls and waterfowl migrating through this region of northern Michigan and educating the public about the birds and their migration.

As a lifelong lover of nature, the principles of responsible stewardship, ethical conservation and mindful leadership are tenets that I value highly. I see these tenets strongly reflected in the work MSRW has done in its few short years of operation. And now, there could not be a more exciting time to begin a journey as equally compelling as the journeys of the birds we seek to understand and protect.

A little about me, for years I worked in the field of Human Services advocating for troubled teens, first as a counselor, then as a grant writer and eventually as program coordinator. The one common thread I saw in all my work was that these children had no connection to nature. I worked to develop experiential outdoor programs and learned that nature had the power to heal broken lives.  This gave me a mission and I returned to school to attain my Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. I focused on conservation biology, writing and photography and my work became about creating meaningful connections to nature through research, stewardship, education, and the arts.

It has been a rewarding career. Beginning in graduate school, I became interested in herpetology and conducted my own research on microhabitat preferences of lizards in the coastal region (Sea of Cortez) of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. Using radio-telemetry, I also researched the spatial ecology of the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) defining the differences in the daily movement patterns of male and female Eastern Hognose Snakes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Over the past two years I have spent time  working with farmers in the Netherlands to alter when they harvest hay to help protect the Bar-tailed Godwit and other field nesting birds, and most recently I have worked with Conservación Panamá, focusing my attention on the Glow-throated Hummingbird (Selasphorus ardens), a Panamanian endangered endemic species with a declining population due to habitat loss. With a goal of creating the first conservation area for this species that is operated solely by native people, this research has far reaching implications for bird conservation and indigenous communities.

Presently, I couldn’t be any more excited than I am right now to be calling Northern Michigan my new home. The Mackinac Straits certainly deserves it’s designation as an IBA (Important Bird Area). There are thousands of birds who use this flyway to return to and from home every year, and it is a wonderful and iconic place to observe this natural phenomenon! On any given day in the spring or fall, one will see Golden Eagles soaring, Peregrine Falcons gliding, and Sharp-shinned Hawks powering their way across the Straits, and to sum it up in one word, it is – Magical.

I am lucky to be joining a dedicated team and an inspiring community. I am excited to get to know the places, meet the people and explore the challenges that can make a true difference and to show that these birds are worth protecting. Your support has been crucial to MSRW’s growth and success, and as we set forward into new era of leadership your support is even more important to us. Please keep us in mind during your year-end giving, either by check to P.O. Box 465, Petoskey, MI 49770 or by clicking http://usinc.org/donations/.

I sincerely welcome you along for what will be a very engaging and fulfilling journey. I look forward to watching the skies with you.

Richard (Rich) Couse

Executive Director, MSRW

Rcouse.msrw@gmail.com

Waterbird Count 10/25 & 10/26

The past two days have been rather slow.  This is however an interesting time of year when even on the unfavorable days Long-tailed Ducks and Rough-legged Hawks are found daily.  30 Long-tailed Ducks were counted yesterday and 91 today.  Whenever these birds think conditions are more to their liking again (probably any day now) there could likely be another day with a count of LTDU’s that resembles the 21st, and hopefully good numbers of other species too!

Here are the recent lists via eBird…

10/25

10/26

Hawk Count-October 20th-24th

One of three Goshawks on the 23rd

Red-shouldered Hawk

The past 5 days has been rather nice for raptor migration, with no weather significantly impacting the count.  In fact, more than 1,000 raptors have passed through, or 15% of the season’s count.  The typical late-season raptors have been picking up quite a bit, especially Red-shouldered HawksSeventy-four have been tallied in the last 5 days, with a peak of 25 on the 20th.  Nearly all have been adults.  Turkey Vultures have dropped off significantly, with only a modest peak of 67 on the 22nd.  It appears they may be done with big numbers for the season, which is rather surprising given the weather this season.  Likewise, Bald Eagles have occurred in much smaller numbers than expected for October and no double digit days have occurred since the 2nd.  Also following suit slowing down are Sharp-shinned Hawks with a very small peak of 7 on the 22nd.  Northern Goshawks have been nice to see, with an adult on the 20th and 2 adults and an immature on the 23rd.  Red-tailed Hawks have been moving through in consistently moderate numbers, with a few hundred most days now.  The peak of the period (and season) occurred on the 22nd, with 335 birds tallied.  “Dark Morph” Red-tailed Hawks have occurred on a few days, with a peak of 4 on the 22nd. We are in Rough-legged Hawk season now and 2-5 birds have been daily.  The start of peak Golden Eagle migration is upon us, with lone birds tallied on the 21st and 22nd, and four on the 24th.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

We have definitely shifted more towards “quality raptors” vs. big numbers at this point in the season.  It was hoped that with the poor weather this month, large numbers of Turkey Vultures and moderate numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks still would have continued, particularly the last 2 days.  Additionally, it seemed set up for a monster Red-tailed day on either of the last 2 days, but that has not occurred.  With a fair amount of rain now forecast through the rest of October, it’ll be really interesting to see what Red-taileds do through the rest of the month and season.  Have they already peaked?  Regardless, it’s still an exciting 3 weeks ahead of us, with Rough-legged Hawk and Golden Eagle peaks still ahead of us, and possibly Goshawks as well.

Recent non-raptor highlights have included over 500 Sandhill Cranes, dozens of White-winged Scoters, hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks, daily Horned Grebes on the lake, a Sanderling, Greater Yellowlegs, a  Great Black-backed Gull, hundreds of Crows, dozens of Chickadees, and the (presumed) long-staying Carolina Wren.  Snow Buntings and Redpolls arrived on the 21st, and American Tree Sparrow on the 24th.

Great Black-backed Gull

Recent sightings at the Waterbird Count.

In the past week, the main highlight would have to be the Long-tailed Ducks.  On the 20th, 172 were counted.  On the 21st, an amazing flight of 1,833 were counted.  18 of them flew east and all the rest were flying west.  In just the 3rd counting hour alone, 845 flew by.  It really was incredible to see single flocks of 100+ LTDU’s many times over.  Hopefully there will be another day or few that are similar to this during this fall season.

Several White-winged and a few Black Scoters have been added in the past few weeks too, as well as a decent number of Redheads.  Also on the 20th there was 1 Red-throated & 3 Common Loons that flew by.

Despite the wind appearing to be very favorable for migration today, it was a very inactive day for waterbird migration at McGulpin point compared to most of the days this week.  Likely the highlight today was a total of 3 Snow Buntings.

Another close up passerine was this White-breasted Nuthatch.  It’s nice to have some little birds keeping you company.

Below are the recent lists via eBird…

10/20 (A.M.)

10/20 (P.M.)

10/21

10/22

10/23

10/24

Owl update: October 16 – 20

Tuesday night, October 16, saw quite a bit of action at the set with 8 unbanded owls, as well as a hatchyear female who was banded at Hilliardton, Ont.  It’s wonderful that this bird is so inclined to get caught, because it tells us a great deal about her stop-by-stop pathway as she heads south.

Also!  Take a look at the odd pupil distortion in this After Second Year saw whet.  Apparently it hasn’t hindered her any given her good condition and ripe old age!

I was able to open the nets every day except Thursday night, as I was stymied by high winds.  The weather still hasn’t been favorable, yet I’ve played with 2 owls every night so far and I’m certainly very happy about that!  Since Wednesday I caught 6 owls, with 4 of those being hatchyear birds.  I am glad to see more babies moving through.

Weather conditions look… OK for tonight.  Supposedly it’s going to be cloudy and calm later with a chance of owls, so we shall see about that.

Until next time,

-MH

Waterbird Count October 18th & 19th

Winter ducks are moving in.  The Long-tailed Duck numbers have been going up every day.  LTDU’s and scoters are passing McGulpin Point daily.  Also there has been an increase in Common Goldeneye & Buffleheads.  Highlights from the 18th include some Sanderlings, a total of 31 American Pipits that crossed the strait, and 7 Red-necked Grebes (I guess they’re not all done yet.)  On the 19th, the 1st Great Black-backed Gull of the season flew to the west, a 1st cycle individual.

Below are the complete lists via eBird…

10/18

10/19