Category Archives: Images

Waterbird Count, August 30

Had another Jaeger today and managed some photos. Upon review, structure and plumage seem to point to an immature Parasitic Jaeger, which is the most probable species of Jaeger at this time of the year. Another highlight was a single flock of 40 Bonaparte’s Gulls — the largest flock I’ve had on the count thus far. Aside from that, it was a fairly slow day.

Mallard – 5
Blue-winged Teal – 2
teal sp. – 4
Common Loon – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 14
Double-crested Cormorant – 41
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 4
Bonaparte’s Gull – 40
Parasitic Jaeger – 1

Bald Eagle – 1

Monarch – 2

Parasitic Jaeger 8/30/16

Parasitic Jaeger 8/30/16


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

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.



Owl Banding, End of the Season

Northern Michigan weather is not being cooperative as our season is coming to an end.  A combination of rain/snow, and strong winds are creating less than ideal conditions for owl banding.  We are hoping to get at least a few hours in tonight, and a full night tomorrow for our last night.

I wanted to share this photo taken by Al Moberly of this spring’s seasonal workers.  Fom left to right: Kim Edgington (owl bander), Kevin Georg (hawk counter), Jason Newton (waterbird counter), Emily Wilmoth (owl bander).


I will post a brief end of the season summary early next week!

Owl Banding, May 8/9

Despite a fairly strong northwest wind last night, we banded 7 saw-whets!  All of the birds were female, with the exception of one “unknown”.  3 of the birds were second years, and the rest were after third years.

We had another great look at the northern lights last night.

Tonight should be clear had with winds out of the southeast.  We hope to continue to see a push of owls coming through as we approach the end of our season.


Band on Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Owl Banding, May 5/6

Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were banded last night.   Both owls were female.   One was a second year bird and one was a third year bird.

We stayed open a little later than usual this morning to see if we could catch any Sharp-shinned Hawks.  We were successful, and banded one second year, female sharpie.

Other recent bird sightings around the banding site include Osprey, American Kestrel, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper, and Eastern Whip-poor-will.

We should be able to band for most of the night tonight before a storm rolls in.


Banded Sharp-shinned Hawk.


Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Waterbird Count, April 29 – May 2

It’s been business as usual for waterbirds for the past few days. There hasn’t been much of a discernible decrease in activity for most species. The main thing I’ve noticed is fewer Common Goldeneye, non-Mallard dabbling duck species, and Canada Geese. It seems like Common Loons may have passed their peak, but I’m still getting 10 or so every day. It’s looking pretty grim for getting more Red-throated Loons, Black Scoters, or any Surf Scoters this season, but I’m still optimistic. On April 28 I noted how I had few Red-breasted Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks — I thought perhaps they may be winding down, but that did not continue. Red-breasted Mergansers have returned to their average of 100 or so per day, and today I had my highest count of Long-tailed Ducks of the entire season — 2945!

The best highlight of the past four days was a Say’s Phoebe at the hawk watch on April 29 and 30. According to the Michigan Bird Records Committee, this is the 23rd state record.

Highlights of April 29 – May 2:

April 29
Redhead – 108
White-winged Scoter – 58
Long-tailed Duck – 543
Common Loon – 15
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 4

Golden Eagle – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 1

April 30
Redhead – 75
Lesser Scaup – 2
White-winged Scoter – 66
Long-tailed Duck – 886
Common Loon – 7
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 7

May 1
Redhead – 7
Greater Scaup – 13
Lesser Scaup – 7
White-winged Scoter – 18
Long-tailed Duck – 166
Common Loon – 15
Horned Grebe – 5

May 2
Redhead – 45
White-winged Scoter – 19
Long-tailed Duck – 2945
Common Loon – 15
Horned Grebe – 13
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1

Common Redpoll – 1 (getting late)

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe – April 29, 2016

Owl Banding, April 27/28

One Northern Saw-whet Owl and one Long-eared Owl were banded last night.  The saw-whet was a third year female.  She had fresh blood on her feet from a recent meal when we caught her.  After hearing scurrying under a nearby bush, we found several mice in the area.

We were unable to determine the sex of the Long-eared Owl, but it was an after second year bird.  Another LEOW was seen taking off toward the north at dusk.

We heard the howl of a coyote in the middle of the night, and observed a Great Blue Heron fly by during an especially beautiful  sunrise.

Colorful sunrise this morning.

Tonight should be cloudy with a northeast wind.


Owl Banding, April 18/19

There was a very light drizzle early in the evening, but the weather quickly cleared up for the remainder of the night.  Although we did not catch any owls, there was quite a bit of excitement.

We enjoyed listening to a couple of Wilson’s Snipes making their “winnowing” sounds while flying over our heads.  At dawn, we had two Sharp-shinned Hawks in our nets.  We also had a Hermit Thrush.

We are hoping that tonight will bring us some owls!  It should be partly cloudy with light and variable winds.


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Sharp-shinned Hawk.


Photos From Waterbird Count

Hello all,

If you read Jason’s most recent post, then you know that I filled in for him yesterday so that he could have a well-earned rest.  He already summarized much of what happened, but I thought I would share a few photos that I got from the count yesterday.  You will notice that despite the fact we were conducting a waterbird count, many, if not most, of these photos will be of raptors and songbirds.  There is a good reason for that.  Most of the waterbirds that we count are probably a mile or more off of shore, which means they are well out of camera range.  The raptors are often times flying directly overhead, which makes them much easier to photograph.

Red-tailed Hawk 2

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk 3

Red-tailed Hawk – sometimes the birds watch you too!

Red-tailed Hawk 4

Young Red-tailed Hawk

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters – notice the heat distortion in the background.

Red-breasted Mergansers

Red-breated Mergansers


Distant Northern Pintail – look closely and you can see the “pin” tail.

Pied-billed Grebe

Somewhat unusual for the location , a Pied-billed Grebe.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser – swimming just offshore.

Northern Harrier

One of a few Northern Harriers that flew to the Upper Peninsula on Sunday.

Belted Kingfisher

This Belted Kingfisher flew down the beach. Two others flew directly across to the Upper Peninsula.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

And for fun, here is a video of a female Red-breasted Merganser being chased by four males.  Notice the funny head movements of the males.  This is courtship behavior.

After the count was over, Jason and I headed up to the Hawk Watch for a few minutes, where we found this rather cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

First Savannah Sparrow of the year.

Jason and I then made a trip to nearby Dingman Marsh to look for Ring-necked Ducks.  There were many there and we also found this Singing Pine Warbler.