Author Archives: Kim Edgington

Owl Banding Fall 2016 Season Summary

11/12/16
Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI

What a season, I’m so glad I came back to The Straits for fall migration! We captured and banded 550 owls between September 20th and November 10th of which 541 were Saw-whets, 8 were Long-eared Owls, and 1 was a Barred Owl. The majority of Saw-whet owls captured were hatch year females. It is understandable why there were so many hatch years, as winter will be the first test of their fitness, but the jury is still out on why so many more females were caught versus males. Are male owls not attracted to the audio lure like the females, or do males stay on their territories all winter? Further research is needed to answer that question.

I would like to thank all the great people at the Mackinaw Straits Raptor Watch for the support and opportunity to participate in such an amazing experience and all the visitors that made it out to the station to see what we do. The company was greatly appreciated. It helped break up the monotony of living and working like a vampire alone in the dark! Also, big thank you to everyone who donated towards the new living quarters, your generosity made for a much more comfortable season for me and any future owl banders!

 

Owl Banding 11/08/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 8th, 2016

The season is finally coming to an end. In the last 4 nights we’ve been averaging 2-3 birds a night and have even had a night with 0 birds. On the night of the 7th, high winds cut the night short and it was the first night we haven’t had any birds since the very first day of the banding season on September 20th! Last night was better; though numbers were low we were treated to a Long-eared Owl at 5 AM, a hatch year with sex unknown. We also caught 2 Saw-whets for the night, 1 after second year unknown and 1 hatch year female. There are 2 more nights left in the season, but high winds are in the forecast. We’ve caught 546 owls this season… can we make it to 550?

Owl Banding 11/05/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 5th, 2016

High winds kept us from opening nets on the 4th, but the night of the 5th was a beautiful calm night even with the heavy fog that set in around midnight. There was a little migration movement happening last night and we caught 4 new Saw-whets and 1 repeat from the night of the 2nd. Of the new birds caught, all were hatch year birds, 3 were female and 1 was male. After several favorable nights with low numbers, I’m wondering if migration is finally coming to an end. Our season totals are now 532 Northern Saw-whet Owls, 7 Long-eared Owls, and 1 Barred Owl for a grand total of 540 owls so far!

Owl Banding 11/03/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 3rd, 2016

Unfavorable weather conditions over The Straits made for another slow night of banding with little migration movement. Winds were mostly calm at the banding site but wave noise was consistent all night, leading me think it would not be a good night to cross. We caught a total of 5 new Saw-whets last night, all of which were hatch year birds, 4 of the birds were female and 1 was unknown.

Owl Banding 11/02/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 2nd, 2016

A calm night, with very little wind, made for a decent night of banding. Weather conditions were great for migration and there was a nice push of birds, totaling 17 new birds caught last night. 16 of the birds caught were Saw-whet Owls and 1 of the birds was a Long-eared Owl! The Long-eared Owl was aged as a second year bird, and the sex was unknown. Of the Saw-whets caught, 12 were female (11 hatch years, and 1 after second year), 2 were male (1 hatch year, 1 after second year), and 2 were unknowns (both hatch years). On another note, we got some good news recently about some of our previously banded birds. We learned that two of our Saw-whets made it to Indiana, and were caught at a banding station at the Indiana Dunes State Park. They were banded here October 2nd and October 7th, and were recaptured on October 28th, about 3 weeks later!

Owl Banding 11/01/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 1st, 2016

There were rather high winds while opening last night, but an hour into the night winds dropped from 7-13 mph to a low around 3 mph and changed direction from west to north for the rest of the night. While it was a nice and calm night with favorable winds, there was little migration movement going on. We caught 5 new Saw-whet owls. 4 were females (2 hatch years, 2 after hatch years), and 1 was an unknown sex (hatch year). The season is definitely slowing down, but we did finally pass the 500 mark on Saw-whet owls banded! The season totals are now 507 Saw-whet owls, 6 Long-eared owls, and 1 Barred owl.

Owl Banding 10/30/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of October 30th, 2016

A clear and calm night made for good stargazing but again, owl movement was low. We caught a total of 9 owls, one of which was a Long-eared owl! It’s always exciting to deal with the bigger owls, but this one looked me in the face and let out the most hair-raising wail while I was untangling it from the net. I had no idea they made sounds like that since their normal call and their whole demeanor is usually pretty quiet, but when it howled at me I almost jumped out of my skin! The rest of the night was slow but steady, with 8 Saw-whets caught for the night. Of the birds netted, 7 were female (5 hatch years, and 2 after second years) and the other 1 was a male (hatch year). The Long-eared caught was aged as a hatch year bird, and its sex was unknown.

Owl Banding 10/29/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of October 29th, 2016

Things are definitely slowing down for the season, and the owls didn’t cooperate for the group of visitors at the station for the night. While the guests were troopers, battling the cold and checking the nets for several hours, I didn’t end up catching any birds until around 1 AM after everyone had gone home. I guess it was a good taste of what really happens at a banding station… I ended up netting 8 new birds that morning, most birds coming between 3 and 5 AM. Of the new Saw-whets banded, 6 were female (2 hatch years, 1 second year, and 3 after hatch years), and 2 unknowns (1 was a hatch year and the other was an after second year).

Owl Banding 10/27/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of October 27th, 2016

After a night off due to heavy rain and winds, movement was still pretty low and I caught only 7 Northern Saw-whets last night. The night started calm, with winds low until around 4 AM, it increased quickly from 2-3 mph up to an average of 9 mph with gusts up to 18. A light rain started at 6 AM, causing me to close a little early for the night.  I only totaled 6 new birds and 1 repeat from 27 days ago. Of the new birds caught 4 were female (1 hatch year, 2 second years, and 1 after second year), and 2 were males (1 second year, and 1 after second year).

Owl Banding 10/25/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of October 25th, 2016

It was a beautiful but cold night last night; the ground glittered with frost, I saw a number of shooting starts, and was even treated to a short but intense show of Northern Lights. A north breeze turned into some pretty heavy winds after midnight, which ramped up the chill factor and slowed migration activity down for the night. I totaled only 8 total birds all night, but one of the owls caught was a long-eared owl, our 5th of the season! The other birds were all Saw-whets, 6 were female (2 hatch years, 1 second year, and 3 after second year), and 1 male (hatch year). The Long-eared owl was aged as an after second year, sex was unknown.

Photos courtesy of MSRW’s waterbird counter Jason Newton

Northern Saw-whet Owl Taking a wing cord (un-flattened wing) measurement helps determine sex

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Taking a wing cord (un-flattened wing) measurement helps to determine sex

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Long-eared Owl Taking a tail measurement, which helps determine the sex

Long-eared Owl
Taking a tail measurement helps to determine sex

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl