Today was the warmest day I’ve ever experienced in Mackinaw City, as far as I can recall. It was in the 70s most of the day with a light breeze. These conditions managed to produce the second best Broad-winged Hawk day of the season, thus far. It was relieving to see that there are still birds on the move. In past years, the hawk watch has had multiple day of 1000+ Broad-winged Hawks, but I have yet to break 1000 in a day.
May 24 and 25 were essentially rained out, but a few hours during clear periods netted some birds. May 26 was the first nice day in a while. There was also finally westerly winds. The movement wasn’t all that impressive in the end, but it was the best day since May 15. The forecast through the end of the count has a few days of potential rain, but hopefully the remaining nice days will fill out our low Broad-winged numbers.
The Killdeer nest that was at our primary hawkwatch site hatched either before or on May 22 and the entire family has left the area now.
After 2 days of being rained around, I thought migrants might be bottled up and ready to move on Tuesday (May 23). Unfortunately, there was an immense fog throughout the morning. It finally cleared around 12:30 and a modest number of birds passed by. The variety was pretty nice for this late in the season, including a Cooper’s Hawk.
Birds were flying incredibly high in today’s clear blue sky. It was a struggle to find them and keep track of them. Thankfully, these birds were largely crossing the straits without fuss. There was a relatively good movement of Broad-wingeds, but we have still not achieved the numbers we should have had by now. Tomorrow has strong, easterly winds in store….
Highlights: A single American White Pelican and 2 local Peregrine Falcons hunting together.
Rain plagued the count today and I only managed a short watch in the morning and then again in the afternoon. A few birds came by in that time, at least. Most notable was a Peregrine Falcon flying north as I pulled in to start watching again after the rain subsided. Also of note was a Northern Mockingbird hanging around in the morning at our main watch site, behind the Recreation Center. Coincidentally, two days ago there were two Northern Mockingbirds at our other site in Darrow’s field.
The Broad-winged Hawks keep trickling in. The weather was quite nice, but the wind was predominantly north. There was a nice push of around 200 Broad-wingeds between 12:00pm and 2:00pm, but besides that it was fairly slow.
The final day of the waterbird migration season, and unfortunately it was not one to go out with a bang. The weather was relatively cold and overcast throughout the day, with moderate winds and episodes of rain in the afternoon. Today marked the first day since April 7th to have a daily count to not include a Common Loon, and the first one since April 16th to have no White-winged Scoters. If that isn’t a sign that migration is drawing to a close I don’t know what is. Although a pair of both Buffleheads and Peregrine Falcons were seen resting near McGulpin Point and moving south across the bridge respectively. Comparisons between last years season totals yielded some surprising consistencies as well as dramatic differences- for full details, refer to the soon-to-be-completed report. It has been a pleasure and honor to be the waterbird counter for the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, as it has allowed me the opportunity to not only incorporate my hobby into work, but meet many people with similar interests and aspirations. I’d like to thank Ed Pike for providing me the opportunity of a lifetime, as well as to the Bakers, Lawsons, Kirbys, Brickers, Grafs, and Jason Newton for sharing with me the splendor of Michigan’s wilderness and its animals. From here, I will be returning to California to work in the Sierra Nevadas for the Institute for Bird Population’s Southwestern Willow Flycatcher study. Working as a waterbird counter in Mackinac City ranks as one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I hope future waterbird counts will be even more successful.
Despite owl banding and the waterbird count coming to an end, the hawk watch continues on until June 5. Today had some dramatic shifts in weather. I went from 3 coats to no coats to 1 coat throughout the day. The pressure dropped fairly dramatically and it also rained briefly. How this affected migration — I don’t know. There was a fairly small movement but some nice kettles accumulated since most of the birds came through in a short time frame. The most notable highlight was the two Northern Mockingbirds that were hanging out throughout the afternoon near the hawk watch.
MSRW blog followers, Arthur and I would first like to apologize for not informing you as to what has been happening these last few weeks with owl banding. We have been busy with owl banding and diurnal raptor trapping.
One of our last blog post featured some amazing release videos but had failed to mention the owl activity that occurred during the last week of April, which brought Arthur and I some exciting stuff! First, between the nights of April 29 – 30 we caught two long-eared owls (Asio otus). Both were aged as Second year birds and each of them were recorded as unknown for their respective sexes. We were also excited to have two more recaptured Saw- whet owls. One of these birds came all the way from Brown County Indiana, which was our second bird of the season that came from this area. We aged and sexed it as a second year female, and it was banded last fall as a hatch year female. Thus Arthur and I were correct with both age and sex, but this is usually the case. Then a few nights later we had another recaptured Saw-whet this time a familiar bird that was banded by MSRW last fall at Point La Barb on the Upper Peninsula. This bird was originally banded as a hatch year female. We aged and sexed it as a second year female. God we‘re good, 2 for 2 or 100 % on our recap birds! The remainder of this week included some more Saw-whet captures but nothing out of the ordinary.
As we entered May, the main trend we saw was that owl migration was beginning to slow down as we were only averaging 1 to 2 owl captures a night, if we were lucky. From May 3 until our closing day which was May 15 we caught a grand total of 15 owls. 14 of these were Northern Saw – Whet Owls and thrown into the mix another Eastern Screech-owl (Megascops asio asio) which is the red morph sub-species. This was very cool, not only to catch our second Eastern Screech, but also that both individuals were the rufous morph, which is uncommon in Northern Michigan.
As the last week of Owl banded carried on we started having what seemed to be long nights but in actuality only felt long because of the absence of owls. Throughout this last week we even had a few nights with no owl captures. Then on May 10 at 11:00 p.m. we had a treat, we netted a recaptured Saw-whet owl, and like the other recaps, we were super curious to see where this bird had came from. It turned out this bird had flown all the way from Arrow Rock, Missouri and more specifically from Saline County, quite the flight for such a small owl only weighing 86 grams. In conclusion we closed nets for the last time this morning and it was bitter sweet. We have had a great season with an abundance of astonishing birds. We really enjoyed our time with the MSRW and we are sad that we must depart. We hope you enjoyed our blogs and until next time, good birding my friends!