Author Archives: Selena Creed

MSRW Fall Press Release by Kathy Bricker

On the heels of a record spring of research and public education, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch (MSRW) announced that its fall studies are also successful. Until November 10, contracted biologists are counting migrating waterbirds and catching and banding owls as they head south for the winter.

Jason Newton from Aurora, Illinois works from dawn to mid-afternoon, intently scanning the cold waters of Lake Michigan from the vantage of McGulpin Point near Mackinaw City. “The most interesting part of the job is the discovery of new information about how waterbirds utilize the Straits. Thousands of Long-tailed Ducks stop here during spring migration. This fall, I have seen thousands of Redheads (a species of duck) lingering here.” The Redheads are so rare that the Michigan Audubon Society declared the Straits as an Important Bird Area, worthy of a high level of environmental protection.

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Redheads (Image by Steve Baker)

Nearly 30 species of waterbirds can be seen using the Straits, making it a popular destination for birders from around Michigan and nearby states. Said Newton, “We have all three species of Scoter, a deep-water duck never seen on inland lakes. Plus all three species of Mergansers and two different types of Loons, Swans, and Grebes. Each day here is exciting, because you never know what will show up.” Newton has recorded jaegers, kittiwakes, Great Egrets, Bonaparte’s Gulls and other rarities, making the Straits a mecca for birders.

Water bird counter, Jason Newton, recording data on the water birds seen migrating through the Straits of Mackinac.

Water bird counter, Jason Newton, recording data on the water birds seen migrating through the Straits of Mackinac.

Kim Edgington from Port Angeles, Washington pulls the night shift, capturing, measuring, and releasing owls from sundown to sun-up at a research site near St. Ignace. In the News blog of October 18 at www.mackinacraptorwatch.org, Kim said “After a night off due to bad weather, we had a fantastic night, 56 birds. As soon as nets were open we were drowning in Northern Saw-whet Owls. There were 16 birds in the first net run, which is very unusual.” Since September 20, she has caught and studied more than 445 owls. In this fifth year of fall owl research, the previous high number of birds was 328.

Kim Edgington (me) attaching a band onto the Saw-whet's leg

Kim Edgington (me) attaching a band onto the Saw-whet’s leg

Banding is the most cost-effective way for biologists and conservationists to learn about the birds’ movements and age and sex. Explained Kim, “For instance, on October 13, I caught a bird that already had been tagged by someone else. Its large size and feather growth marked it as an older female. When I submitted the band number, she turned out to have been banded in Duluth, Minnesota in October 2014. It’s interesting and useful to know that owls don’t always fly the same way south every year.”

Northern Saw-whet Owl being banded, photo by Rebecca Jackson

Northern Saw-whet Owl being banded, photo by Rebecca Jackson

Protecting forested habitat and reducing light pollution aids owls and other wildlife. MSRW recently supported a grant proposal to allow the Little Traverse Conservancy to protect a key parcel of wild land along the Lake Huron shoreline southeast of Mackinaw City.

For the public to experience birds first-hand, Ed Pike, MSRW Chair, announced two upcoming field trips. “We want to share the thrill and beauty of observing these long-distance migrants.”

On Saturday, October 29 from 6:30 pm to as late as people would like to stay, the owl research station near St. Ignace will be open. Target species are Northern Saw-whet Owl and Long-eared Owl.

Migrating waterfowl will be viewed on Saturday, November 5. meeting at 8:30 am. To see the most birds, people will join a carpool and travel to different sites around the Straits, starting at the waterbird research site in Mackinaw City. The trip will last most of the day. Target species are several species each of loons and scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Redheads.

Both trips cost $15 per person and are free to contributors. To learn more and register, contact leader Ed Pike, 231-758-3319 (afternoons), or edandanne6750@gmail.com

Free Guided Waterbird Field Trip

Hello, all.

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Ed Pike will be leading an introduction to waterbirds at McGulpin Point in Mackinaw City. This is a free event and all are welcome.

This field trip will help people observe and identify waterbirds that migrate through the Straits of Mackinac. Come to McGulpin Point on Saturday, September 10 at 7:30am. Participants will watch for waterbirds, including Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, and White-winged Scoter as well as other species. They will see how the count is conducted, what kinds of birds have been seen so far, and what birds are expected. The trip will last one to two hours, depending on the weather and number of birds. This field trip is good for beginners through expert birders. The field trip is stationary so people may leave at any time even though the count goes on all day. The trip is offered jointly by Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and Petoskey Regional Audubon Society.

tinidazole over the counter walgreens Resources Directions: From Mackinaw City, travel west on Central Avenue about 2 miles, turn north on Headlands Road. Park in the lot across the road from McGulpin Lighthouse. Remember the shoreline of the Straits is often windier and colder than areas nearby. Dress for the weather and bring an extra layer. Loaner binoculars and a spotting scope will be provided at this field trip. No pre-registration is necessary. If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Datlen at tadatl@live.com.

MSRW Takes Flight and Plans Next Phase

Earlier this month, we announced plans for new research starting in Mackinaw City and released our final spring 2016 report. Besides core work with hawks and owls in the last three years, we have added a survey of waterbirds migrating through the Straits of Mackinac. This will run from August 20 through November 10. In addition, owl research will be conducted from September 20 through November 10 near St. Ignace.

Chair, Ed Pike, said “We welcome the public to come and see loons, grebes, ducks, and other waterbirds in migration. The observation site is McGulpin Point, two miles west of Mackinaw City near the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. Bring binoculars and a spotting scope if possible, as some of the birds fly at quite a distance.” During the first spring survey of waterbirds this year, paid counter Jason Newton tallied more than 10,000 waterbirds of 38 species, including two species of Loons and three species each of Scoters, Mergansers, and Grebes. He confirmed that both Redheads and Long-tailed Ducks stay for long periods of time in the Straits, apparently resting and feeding there. Newton’s highlight was a Black-legged Kittiwake spied at close range on April 12. Pike explained that gathering accurate base-line data on the use of the Straits by waterbirds is vital to understanding the biological importance of the area. “This was significant as the first spring count, especially since it tallied 570 Common Loons, a bird of concern to conservationists due to its generally declining numbers in Michigan.

Pike continued, “Our sixth spring Hawk Count in Mackinaw City also was successful, with a total of 47,090 daytime raptors of 18 species. This is roughly the same number as last spring. The highlight came April 13 when we set a record among dozens of other hawk counts in the country. Professional counter, Kevin Georg, tallied 4,966 Red-tailed Hawks that day, following a stretch of wintry weather that held up migration.” Site records include Turkey and Black Vultures, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, and the first-ever Gyrfalcon. The Straits continues to hold the record for the most Golden Eagles seen east of the Mississippi.

Other important research findings came from the owl survey done at Cheboygan State Park where professional banders caught 76 Northern Saw-whet Owls and 6 Long-eared Owls. Five of the saw-whets already wore bands, placed on them by biologists at Whitefish Point; St. Ignace (banded by MSRW fall 2015); Silver Islet (Ontario), Indiana, and Cheboygan State Park (which Pike banded years ago). Pike is proud of this bird: “I banded this female in spring 2011. We now know that she has lived at least 6 years and is using the same migration route. We hope to see her again, as they can live about 9 years.”

More guests visited MSRW events than ever before. After Secretary, Kathy Bricker, entered the guest list data, she found 1,326 recorded outdoor guests from five countries, 13 states, and 139 Michigan cities. Eleven indoor talks by volunteers were attended by another 333 guests. Bricker added “The first Mackinaw Raptor Fest, funded largely by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, drew 81 fully-paid registrants. We were thrilled that 281 others enjoyed free portions of the weekend, including a program with live hawks and owls.” People may see photos, learn early plans for the April 7 to 9, 2017 Mackinaw Raptor Fest, and watch the fall research results come in at www.mackinacraptorwatch.org.

Rebecca Lessard holding a Peregrine Falcon rehabilitated by Wings of Wonder.

Rebecca Lessard holding a Peregrine Falcon rehabilitated by Wings of Wonder.

Elder, Tony Grondin, honors eagles at first Mackinaw Raptor Fest in Mackinaw City

Elder, Tony Grondin, honors eagles at first Mackinaw Raptor Fest in Mackinaw City

Record number of Golden Eagles seen at Mackinaw City Hawk Count. Image by Steve Baker.

Record number of Golden Eagles seen at Mackinaw City Hawk Count. Image by Steve Baker.

Guests enjoy watching hawks in Mackinaw City with hawk counter, Kevin Georg.

Guests enjoy watching hawks in Mackinaw City with hawk counter, Kevin Georg.

Water bird counter, Jason Newton, recording data on the water birds seen migrating through the Straits of Mackinac.

Water bird counter, Jason Newton, recording data on the water birds seen migrating through the Straits of Mackinac.

 

 

Final Post of the Season

We did it!

At 0200 hours on the last night of owl surveys, the 250th Northern Saw-whet Owl of the season was captured and banded and it also happened to be the very last bird of the season, too. What a great way to end the 8-week season.

I want to thank MSRW for the opportunity to run the banding station again this fall. I am beyond grateful to had been a part of another successful season on Pointe La Barbe. Of course, this position would not have been possible without the generosity from our donors, which is definitely worth mentioning. Thank you so much for your support!

Lastly, thank you to the many visitors who helped make this a memorable season. Perhaps, I’ll see you all again in the future or run into you on the trail somewhere. Cheers.

Season totals:
NSWO: 250
LEOW: 3
BDOW: 1

 

Owl News: 8 November and 9 November

Wind, wind, and more wind. On Sunday night, the winds were out of the southwest and were pretty relentless the whole night. Down on the point, they stayed at a steady 8 mph with gusts as high as 16 mph. I could see the tops of the spruce trees swaying like crazy and I’m willing to bet the winds were stronger up on US-2. Even though the winds were strong, protocol states that as long as they aren’t exceeding 15 mph, the station must be opened and that it was. I kept my fingers and toes crossed from dusk to dawn, but never caught a single owl. At about 0400 hours, I heard one Northern Saw-whet Owl calling near the audio lure, but it never came in to visit. Sunday night, skunked.

Last night, the winds were calm out of the south/southwest and I was hopeful we’d catch a few. My goal this season is to reach 250 saw-whets and I guess I might be pushing it with so little time to reach that goal. Three saw-whets were captured and banded last night bringing our count to 245 (not including the three long-eareds and one barred owl).

Tonight, the final night of the banding season, the winds are predicted to be light out of the south/southeast. I think a few more birds will move through, but it will likely be another slow night. Stay tuned.

 

Final Saturday of the season brings???

Absolutely nothing.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s update, the winds were due to die down around midnight. They slowed down enough by 2230 hours that I was able to open them up, but by midnight they were blowing at around 15 mph out of the west. That was enough to keep the birds from flying, I guess, and the nets remained empty until I closed the station at 0630 hours.

I’m still hoping to reach 250 by the time we wrap the season up in a couple of days. Tonight doesn’t look promising with the predicted 10-15mph SW winds, but I’ll give it try. Monday and Tuesday, the winds are predicted to be light from the south, which looks a little better. Fingers crossed for a few more birds.

Night of 6 November

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Photo by Emily Grasch. Selena and Ed with the 2100 hour captures. Take note of the slight color differences in each owls’ head and face.

The saw-whets are still on the move and we saw a nice push during the first few hours of the night. Between 2000 hours and 2330 hours, seven saw-whets were captured and banded. The winds really picked up around 2130 hours, which slowed the movement down quite a bit. The last two birds came in at 0330 hours and 0530 hours. I really tried to reach double digits last night, but nine is a great number!

The winds are still pretty strong out of the west at the moment, so I have yet to open the nets. They’re due to die down sometime around midnight, so we’ll give it a shot then.

NSWO: 242                                                         LEOW: 3                                                               BDOW: 1

 

 

 

 

 

Owl update: Night of 5 November

I did finally end up catching that noisy saw-whet from two nights ago. It was the last capture of the night making our total on Wednesday a whopping two birds. Still pretty exciting with that Long-eared Owl that came in.

Last night started off looking really promising with four saw-whets captured in the first few hours after setting nets. Unfortunately, the winds picked up and I had to shut the banding station down at 2330 hours. Rain followed at around 0200 hours. We’re seeing some pretty impressive winds here on the point today, but it looks like they’re starting to die down with a current west wind of 17 mph with gusts at about 28 mph. We’ll have to see how things look around dusk.

Five nights left of the season and our totals are:
NSWO: 233
LEOW: 3
BDOW: 1

Owl Update: 3 November-4 November (partial update)

It wasn’t too long after opening the nets that the fog lifted and the sky cleared. The east winds switched over to the southeast sometime around 0100 hours and died down quite a bit. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was captured at 2100 hours and the nets remained empty for the rest of the night. Perhaps I should have said in my last blog update that I would be happy with twenty?

Slow as it was, I’m glad we had the one come through, but I’d say the most exciting part of the evening was watching the northern lights. They were quite low in the horizon and the lights along US-2 drowned them out a bit, but they were still beautiful. The display showed some beautiful reds-my first time seeing that color in the auroras.

Tonight (4 November) started off just like last night. The fog was super dense and I, again, couldn’t see the bridge from our furthest net. I planned on keeping the nets open until around midnight or 0200 hours and shutting down if I hadn’t caught anything by then. Sure enough, at about 0030 hours, the fog lifted and exposed the bright, star-lit sky. A half hour later, our first owl of the night was captured in the Long-eared Owl audio lure net and it was a…..wait for it……a Long-eared Owl! Our third of the season and our first one in the LEOW audio lure location.

As of 0345 hours, there have been no other captures, though I just heard a saw-whet talking over by the NSWO nets. We’ll see what the next net check brings.

 

 

Slow night

Four Northern Saw-whet Owls were captured and banded last night. The first owl came in at around 2100 hours and the last owl of the night was captured around 0300 hours just before the dense fog rolled in. One of the females from last night-a second year bird- weighed in at an astonishing 120 grams. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had one that heavy before. I actually had to weigh her twice because I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just a fun little tidbit for you.

By dawn, the fog had moved off of the point and settled over the Straits, which probably made things interesting for Ed during his waterbird count this morning. The freighters were busy blowing their fog horns all day, which will likely continue throughout the night as conditions haven’t improved. In fact, the point is socked in again and I can’t even see the bridge from the passive net. Having said that, I’m not expecting much action from the owls tonight. Plus, we currently have a lovely 12 mph east wind, which should switch to the southeast at some point. I’ll consider it a good night if I can just get one by dawn.