Welcome back raptor enthusiasts to another update for the spring owl banding blog!
The saw-whet migration is definitely coming to an end. Our recent nights of banding have been relatively slow, but we’ve continued to have pleasant weather most nights.
May 6th – 2 saw-whets
May 7th – 1 saw-whet. We also had some guests visit the banding station which I will get to later.
May 8th – 3 saw-whets, 1 barred owl
May 9th – no owls. We had to delay opening until midnight due to rain in the area.
May 10th – 1 saw-whet
May 11th – 2 saw-whets
As you can see from our totals we are on the tail end of the saw-whet owl spring migration. We did catch another barred owl on May 8th, a second year (SY) male. We have also surpassed last spring’s total of 175 saw-whets. This spring’s total is currently at 178.
On the night of May 7th we had a group of MSRW committee members and friends come out to the banding station to join us for a night of owl banding. We had great weather, clear skies, no wind and relatively warm temperatures (in the 40’s). Luckily on our second net check we caught a saw-whet (our only one of the night) for all to see up close. We demonstrated our banding procedures and released it to continue on its migration. Thanks to all those who came out, we certainly enjoyed having some guests for part of the night!
Thanks for checking in and be sure to come back for more updates!
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Northern saw-whet owls: 178
Barred owls: 2
Long-eared owls: 1
Sharp-shinned hawks: 2
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!
Northern saw-whet owls: 169
Long-eared owls: 1
Barred owls: 1
Sharp-shinned hawks: 2
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!
Northern saw-whet owls: 164
Long-eared owls: 1
Sharp-shinned hawks: 2
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.
Northern saw-whet owls: 149
Sharp-shinned hawks: 2
Greetings once again raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back for another spring owl banding update. The saw-whet migration has slowed down a bit the past few nights. The weather has been pleasant lately, with temperatures dropping to only about 30 degrees at night with mainly clear skies and little to no wind. We have a bright waxing moon currently leading up to a full moon in a few nights.
On the night of the 22nd we caught 8 saw-whets, but we had another surprise waiting in one of the nets as we were closing up in the morning. A sharp-shinned hawk found its way into the net as dawn broke! We observed 2 other sharp-shinned hawks fly over a nearby net prior to us finding the third caught at the next net location.
This is a second year female sharp-shinned hawk. Hawks in the genus Accipiter display a drastic, but beautiful change in the color of their iris as they age. They start off with a bright yellow iris, which turns to orange and finally a deep red. It was certainly a treat for us to capture, band and photograph this amazing bird before releasing her to continue her migration.
On the night of the 23rd we caught another 5 saw-whets, with no other surprise guests in the nets. On the 24th our nets remained empty and we had to close two hours early due to some rain moving into the area. Last night (25th) we captured 1 more saw-whet which brings our total for the season up to 117 saw-whet owls banded.
As I mentioned in my previous post we capture owls that were previously banded at a different banding station or by the MSRW in a previous year. We also have owls that we banded earlier the same night or banded on a previous night fly into the nets as well. We refer to these owls simply as “recaptures” and they are not counted with our total number of owls as they were counted when we first banded them. This happen more often than capturing the “foreign retraps” I talked about in my previous post. A few nights ago we had one saw-whet fly back into the net 6 more times after being banded! These instances of owls returning to the nets demonstrates that using mist nets is a safe way to capture birds without causing them any undue stress that would be detrimental to their health. As always, the safety of the birds is our top priority!
Thanks for checking in and be sure to stop back often for more owl banding updates as well as updates from the hawk and waterbird counts!
Northern saw-whet owls-117
Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back to another update for the spring owl banding blog. The saw-whet owl migration is starting to pick back up in Cheboygan State Park!
When we opened the nets on the night of the 20th we were hoping to avoid another night of empty nets and we were not disappointed. We caught 3 saw-whets throughout the course of the night, but that wasn’t all we caught! On our final net check at dawn we walked up to our furthest set of nets and accidentally flushed a woodcock into the net! It was quite a surprise to have something other than an owl in the nets, but still a very cool experience.
Last night (21st) was even busier than the previous night with 12 saw-whets captured. This puts our total owl count at 103! To commemorate the event we snapped a picture of our 100th owl, a third-year (TY) female.
We often get asked if we catch owls that have already been banded elsewhere and the answer is yes! Although it is much more likely to catch an unbanded owl, we do catch some owls that already have bands. We call these owls “foreign retraps” which means that the owl was banded at a different banding station or was banded by MSRW in a previous year. It is important to collect data on every owl that we catch and band. However, it is equally, if not more, important to collect data on these foreign retrapped owls because it allows us to learn a great deal of information about them. We can learn where the owl was originally banded and how long ago it was banded. This gives us an idea of how far the owl traveled and where it traveled to. It can also gives us a confirmation of how old the owl is. For example, earlier this season we caught a saw-whet that was previously banded as a hatch year (the owl was in its first year of life) by the MSRW owl banders in 2014. This means that the owl is now 5 years old! How cool is that?! There are many different things that we can learn from these owls which is why it is very important that we continue to do this research every year.
This spring alone we have caught foreign retraps from the following locations:
Cedar Grove Hawk Research Station near Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Point La Barbe, Michigan (Fall MSRW owl banding location)
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory near Paradise, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula
Thanks for checking in and be sure to come back for more updates regarding the spring owl banding as well as updates from the hawk and waterbird counts!
Northern saw-whet owls-103
Good afternoon fellow raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back to another update for the spring owl banding blog. It seems, for the moment anyway, that spring has FINALLY arrived here in the straits. I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures as much as we are. Although most of our waking hours are spent checking nets at night Connor and I have some time at dawn and in the late afternoon to see our surroundings during the daylight hours. This is our time to make trips into town to stock up on groceries, connect to the internet and do some birding.
With that being said we’ve been somewhat stranded at the cabin since the last snowstorm came through. When we last left you it was Saturday the 14th and there were strong winds blowing through that prevented us from opening the nets that night. Then the following two nights, the 15th and 16th, the snowstorm rolled through which again prevented us from opening the nets and leaving the cabin. Tuesday came around and Ed Pike met us at the nearest plowed road (a 1.5 mile hike from the cabin) and drove us into town to buy some groceries and stop for some fast food. Upon returning to the cabin we attempted to open the nets for the first time since Friday the 13th, however the nets were still iced up so we couldn’t open them. We’d also like to give a shout out to Kathy Bricker and her husband Jim. They were kind enough to let us come over to their house and shower, do laundry, charge electronics and eat a meal. Thanks so much to Ed and Kathy and Jim for helping us out!
Finally on Wednesday (18th) the ice had melted off the nets and we were able to open for a full night of trapping. Unfortunately we didn’t catch any owls. Last night (19th) was more of the same, a full night of checking empty nets. However, around 2am while we were doing a net check we happened to look to Northwest to see the northern lights glimmering in the night sky! This was the first time either of us have seen the northern lights, so we grabbed our cameras and snapped a few photos to capture the event.
In the photo we’re looking Northwest with the lights on the far left being those of the Mackinaw Bridge.
With more pleasant weather on the way we’re hopeful that the saw-whets (and possibly long-ears) will start moving through again. Thanks for checking in and be sure to come back for more spring owl banding updates as well as updates from the hawk and waterbird counts!
Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts! Welcome to another owl banding blog update.
The saw-whet owl migration has been relatively slow lately. We didn’t catch any owls on the nights of April 8th and 9th. Then on the nights of April 10th, 11th and 12th we caught 4 owls each night and finally last night, April 13th, the nets remained empty once again.
With high winds and another spring snow storm on the way it is likely that we will keep the nets closed tonight and tomorrow night. However, with a full month of banding operations left we are hopeful that many more saw-whets will make their way through our area. We are still anticipating the arrival of the long-eared owls as they should make their way through later this month.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for more owl banding updates!
northern saw-whet owls: 88
Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts! I’m here with another owl banding update from Cheboygan State Park!
Our nights have been up and down recently in regards to both owls and the weather. We’ve been lucky enough to have a few nights with 10 or more owls. Our best night being the night of March 30th with a total of 19 owls! Our cumulative total so far for the season is 76 saw-whet owls. We have yet to capture any other species, however, we are optimistic that soon we’ll be able to capture and band long-eared owls as they begin their migration back north. Also on the night of April 2nd while walking back to the cabin from a net check we heard a male and female great horned owl calling back and forth to each other for about 5 minutes.
As I mentioned earlier the weather hasn’t been the best lately with a big snowstorm blowing through the on April 3rd and 4th with high winds continuing the night of April 4th/5th. For those reasons we kept the nets closed and let the storm pass. Now the winds are calm and we’re back in business and eager to band more owls!
Thanks for reading and remember to check back often for more owl banding updates as well as hawk and waterbird counts!
saw-whet owls: 76
Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts and welcome to another spring owl banding update!
Connor and I have been much busier the last few nights as the spring migration of the northern saw-whet owl has finally kicked off here in Cheboygan State Park. In our first update we had caught and banded only 1 owl in our first 10 nights of banding operations. However, things quickly picked up. The night of March 24th we banded 1 more owl and the next night ( March 25th) we banded 5. The following night our banding operations were cut short due to rain moving into the area, so we closed at 3 a.m. but not before catching and banding 2 more saw-whets. The night of the 27th saw us catch 7 more saw-whets bringing our total for the season up to 16. However, last night (March 28th) we more than doubled our total for the season in a single night by catching 20 owls!!! Our current season total is 36 northern saw-whet owls.
Aside from the rainy night of the 26th the weather has been great. Most nights we’ve had clear skies with little to no wind which makes for some excellent star gazing I might add.
We’re hoping for more of the same success going forward, so be sure to check back for more updates on the spring owl banding operations as well as the hawk migration counts and waterbird counts!