Owl Banding Updates

Good evening loyal blog followers. After having to close early on the night of the 20th, Frances and I were able to keep the nets open all night on the 21st. The night was good as it yielded 5 newly banded Saw-whets despite very foggy and warm conditions which are not the most favourable weather conditions to elicit Saw-whet movement.

The highlights of our banding night included catching 2 second year (SY) male birds. This means both these boys hatched the spring/summer of 2016. Tonight looks like the weather will be good to be open all night again. We hope the owls are plentiful and look forward to sharing all the excitement that ensues!

One of the Second year (SY) males caught
The typical molt pattern exhibited by SY birds. Here the pink feathers are new feathers replaced this year, and the non-fluorescent, dull feathers are feathers retained from last year. In SY birds the outer primaries and innermost secondaries is the pattern of replacement seen.


Tis The Season!

Hello everyone and welcome to the MSRW owl banding blog for this fall.  My name is Nick Alioto and I will be the head owl bander this season for MSRW. I can’t begin to emphasize how excited I am to be back and banding! My assistant this fall will be Frances Whalen who, as a lot of you may remember, was the Naturalist this past spring at the Hawk Watch.

Frances and I arrived in St.Ignace on September 18 in order to get settled in and get used to being nocturnal. Our official starting date to band is September 20, but we have banded on both the 18th and 19th to see if any owls were moving. On the night of September 18 the weather was perfect with clear skies and no wind. We were excited to capture 2 Northern Saw-Whet Owls. Both of these birds were hatch year (HY), meaning they were just hatched this spring/summer. One was female and the one was unknown but was likely a male due to its small size.

On the 19th we once again opened nets and caught 1 Saw-Whet, an HY female. Although it was a slow night, catching just one owl makes the long hours worthwhile. Unfortunately, last night we were unable to stay open long and caught no owls due to a thunder and lightning storm. Be sure to check back for regular updates on the progress of the season.

HY Female Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Hawk Count for Sept. 21

Today Ed Pike and Sue Stewart observed and counted Raptors crossing the Straits. It was very warm with a lite wind from the south and the Straits were very hazy, which slowed the Raptors from crossing. When they did cross they were very high, barely visible to the naked eye. Can’t beat the warm weather but it certainly has slowed migration. Our list is below:
Turkey Vulture 21
Sharp-shinned Hawk 50
Bald Eagle 22
Broad-winged Hawk 9
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Am. Kestrel 3
Peregrine Falcon 1
Unidentified Falcon 1

Monarch Butterfly 14

Waterbird Count – 21 September

After heavy thunderstorms for much of last night, I came to the beach this morning anticipating that the storms may have pushed some ducks around. That was in fact not the case, and aside from a large group of Blue Jays and a single White-winged Scoter, it proved to be the quietest day this week for both waterbirds and raptors. The weather was still unseasonably warm and calm, and looks to stay that way through the weekend and the beginning of next week. I’m not the sort to complain about beautiful weather, but I will say that after seven and a half hours of watching a near empty lake, a single White-winged Scoter is deeply exciting.

It’s always interesting to see how different species respond to weather conditions during migration, and how timing for migration can differ annually in response. While our observations of waterbird movement in the straits barely scratch the surface of the complexity of migration, it’s great to be able to contribute to greater understanding of local bird movement, and of migration as a whole.

White-winged Scoter – 1
Common Merganser – 35
Duck sp. – 1
Common Loon – 3
Horned Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 35
Ring-billed Gull – 37
Herring Gull – 5

Other species:
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
Bald Eagle – 4
Belted Kingfisher – 1
American Kestrel – 1
Blue Jay – 101
Black-capped Chickadee – 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Monarch Butterfly – 2

Waterbird Count – 20 September

It was a very foggy day today, and that combined with the warm, still weather made for a slow day, but species diversity is still pretty good compared to last week. A Blue-winged Teal and a Redhead flew by together shortly after dawn, and a handful of Redheads later in the day and the usual merganser activity were the extent of the duck activity for the day. Red-necked and Horned Grebes were loafing on the lake throughout the foggy morning, and the weather didn’t seem to deter raptor movement, with a Peregrine and a good number of Sharp-shins passing over as well.

Blue-winged Teal – 1
Redhead – 5
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 10
Red-breasted Merganser – 4
Duck sp – 1
Common Loon – 3
Horned Grebe – 3
Red-necked Grebe – 10
Double-crested Cormorant – 31
Ring-billed Gull – 7
Herring Gull – 4

Other species:
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 12
Bald Eagle – 4
Pileated Woodpecker – 1
American Kestrel – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 1
Blue Jay – 3
American Crow – 1
Black-capped Chickadee – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1
American Pipit – 3

Waterbird Count – 19 September

Ducks are on the move! A flock of about 200 Aythya ducks flew east shortly after sunrise, which is the first real duck flock that I’ve seen. Common Mergansers are grouping up, and I saw flicks of up to sixty flying back and forth throughout the day. Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles were coming over in the late morning.

Aythya sp. – 200
Common Merganser – 107
Duck sp – 2
Common Loon – 6
Double-crested Cormorant – 41
Ring-billed Gull – 11
Herring Gull – 4

Other species:
Turkey Vulture – 48
Osprey – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 4
Bald Eagle – 6
American Kestrel – 4
American Crow – 2
Common Raven – 8
Monarch Butterfly – 1

Waterbird Count – 18 September

Had a cold front last night that kicked some waterbirds into action this morning. High numbers of Common Mergansers and a Greater Scaup were the highlights, but had some decent eagle movement into the afternoon as well.

Greater Scaup – 1
Common Merganser – 63
Duck sp. – 1
Common Loon – 5
Double-crested Cormorant – 27
Ring-billed Gull – 30
Herring Gull – 10

Other species:
Turkey Vulture – 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 1
Blue Jay – 1
American Crow – 2
Common Raven – 2
Black-capped Chickadee – 2
American Pipit – 1
Monarch Butterfly – 16

Hawk Count Sept. 18

Today Ed Pike counted raptors migrating across the Straits as well as some other species. The count occurred from 12 pm till 4 pm; it was sunny and very warm with light winds from the southwest slowly switching to the west as the afternoon went on; a beautiful day at the Straits. There was a high layer of clouds moving Northeast and a lower layer moving south. Most birds were flying very high barely visible to the naked eye. Right after arriving I heard Sandhills calling to the east and to the west but I was unable to locate them. Then I heard another group calling and finally saw them, 16 sandhills that flew right overhead. They were so high to be barely visible to the naked eye which explained why I could not locate the other 2 groups at a distance. Several more flocks flew by all really high. The raptors were also very high and were seen best when right overhead looking more like dots than raptors; mostly singles with some 2’s and 3’s. Another good day of counting. The list of sightings are below.
C, Loon 1
Turkey Vulture 27
N. Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned 22
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 3
Broad-winged Hawk 8
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Sandhill Crane 61
Am. Kestrel 4
Peregrine Falcon 1
Monarch Butterfly 14

Waterbird Count – 17 September

Today I once again provided Aspen with a much deserved day off.  It was rather interesting in terms of weather.  It seems that at least three different fronts came through with each changing the wind direction slightly.  The first change was the most exciting as it brought a small flurry of Common Loons flying in front of it.  Of course, the sudden changes in the wind and wave activity that can take place on the great lakes is probably one of the reasons that you rarely see this:

Freighter with piles of dirt.

I can’t imagine that would be much fun if the seas really get big, but hopefully they were not going far…

Anyway, other than the major shifts in wind, today was unseasonably warm.  This  may explain why many of the birds flying by today had their bills open.

Herring Gull
Common Loons

Birds often do this on warm days, so I assume it helps them thermoregulate.

Despite the frequent changes in the direction of the wind, it primarily had a strong southern component to it all day long, which meant that it was overall a pretty slow day at the count.  Loons, all Common, and raptors moved through in decent numbers prior to the first shift in the wind.  The most exciting bird of the day came through early when a distant but unmistakable jaeger flew south along the bridge.  Unfortunately, it was far too distant to determine species with any certainty.  Three species of falcon migrated south today also, including Merlin, American Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon.  Unfortunately, once the wind changed, the flight shut down entirely.  This happened about halfway through the day, so the last four hours were pretty dull.  Here are a few photos from the first few hours followed by the daily totals.

American Crow enjoying the beach
An American Kestrel that came through in the first hour.
The same kestel as above
A small flock of Common Mergansers were floating offshore for bit today.
First cycle Herring Gull
In the fall, we also keep track of Monarch Butterflies that we see flying south across the straits.
Bright, male Northern Harrier.
A Tufted Titmouse that came in looking for food.

Canada Goose 108

Mallard 1

Long-tailed Duck 2

Common Goldeneye 1

Common Merganser 7

merganser sp. 5

Common Loon 22

loon sp. 1

Horned Grebe 3

Red-necked Grebe 4

Double-crested Cormorant 99

Osprey 3

Northern Harrier 1

Sharp-shinned Hawk 4

Bald Eagle 4

jaeger sp. 1

Ring-billed Gull 11

Herring Gull 19

gull sp. 8

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1

Belted Kingfisher 1

Downy Woodpecker 1

American Kestrel 3

Merlin 1

Peregrine Falcon 1

Red-eyed Vireo 1

Blue Jay 33

American Crow 8

Black-capped Chickadee 8

Tufted Titmouse 3

Red-breasted Nuthatch 1

American Pipit 7

Monarch Butterfly 5

Waterbird Count – 16 September

Really warm and still all day today. Harriers, kestrels, Sharp-shins, and monarch butterflies were all trickling over the straights, along with a few small flocks of geese, but very little else was happening in the waterbird department.
Canada Goose – 20
Mallard – 1
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 10
Common Loon – 3
Red-necked Grebe – 4
Double-crested Cormorant – 20
Ring-billed Gull – 120
Herring Gull – 20
Other species:
Turkey Vulture – 5
Osprey – 1
Northern Harrier – 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 1
American Kestrel – 2
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 3
Common Raven – 1
Black-capped Chickadee – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Monarch Butterfly – 8