Category Archives: Owl Banding 2018

Owl update: October 16 – 20 Tuesday night, October 16, saw quite a bit of action at the set with 8 unbanded owls, as well as a hatchyear female who was banded at Hilliardton, Ont.  It’s wonderful that this bird is so inclined to get caught, because it tells us a great deal about her stop-by-stop pathway as she heads south.

buy viagra online pay with paypal Also!  Take a look at the odd pupil distortion in this After Second Year saw whet.  Apparently it hasn’t hindered her any given her good condition and ripe old age!

I was able to open the nets every day except Thursday night, as I was stymied by high winds.  The weather still hasn’t been favorable, yet I’ve played with 2 owls every night so far and I’m certainly very happy about that!  Since Wednesday I caught 6 owls, with 4 of those being hatchyear birds.  I am glad to see more babies moving through.

Weather conditions look… OK for tonight.  Supposedly it’s going to be cloudy and calm later with a chance of owls, so we shall see about that.

Until next time,


Owl update: October 13 – 15

On the night of the 13th, our fellow owl banding neighbors from Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Ceeanna and Tori, joined Ed and me for an evening around the fire.  As has been the trend this week, it was super windy; yet, throughout the night, the nets yielded 6 unbanded saw whet owls.  Half of these were birds hatched this year, so hip hip hooray for babies moving out on their first migration!

I’m trying to improve my artistic photography skills by modeling the bird in front of a blanket.

And then the night of the 14th came!  I was so stoked to meet some new birds, send them on their way equipped with a unique band — wee fluffy stewards of migration science!  But then???!!!!  Rain.  I didn’t set the nets this night.

It was clear earlier in the day that I wouldn’t be able to operate the station, so I instead spent the extra free time visiting my peers at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory.  The Point itself is a fun spot and totally brimming with birders pursuing birds in defiance of the blustery conditions.

Speaking of, our most recent recaptured bird (see previous blog post) was banded at Whitefish Point last spring.  Another saw whet showing migration route fidelity to the Straits.

Last night I tried opening again even though the winds were going crazy and making the nets flap like Marilyn Monroe’s famous flying skirt… somehow I caught 2 second year female saw whets, before closing early at 5 am.  The winds had shifted to the southwest, straight into my trio of nets and it was just a ridiculous wind tunnel.

I would like to conclude this post with a piece of special artwork (via photo reference) submitted by my friend Alma Schrage, who is currently part of the raptor banding project at the Cape May Bird Observatory.

“Fluff of the woods”, by Alma Schrage. A juvenile California spotted owl clad in down.

Prior to arriving in Michigan for this owl banding project, I monitored California spotted owls in the northern Sierra Nevada region.  My supervisor and I banded this young spotted owl this spring with a standard US Fish and Wildlife lock-on band, as well as a color band to help us recognize her should we encounter her again next year in the field.   Thanks Alma for the artwork!  I can’t deal with the excessive cuteness of the down poking out around her emerging facial disc.

Until next time,


Owl update: October 12

Greetings All,

On the night of the 12th, we once again had the pleasure of hosting a batch of wildlife techniques students from Sault College, but sadly the weather got fickle and slushy on us so we couldn’t open the nets.  Such is the tragic condition of weather-contingent field work, alas!   Regardless, I don’t think the snow-rain and lack of wee owls really dampened anyone’s enjoyment of the night, and much fun was had around the fire.

By 3 am I got to open the nets, and eventually caught 4 saw whet owls and 1 barred owl.

Mister 391. I admired his equanimity while I took measurements.

None of the saw whets were hatch years, which makes me concerned for the owl populations who tend to use the Straits for their migration routes.  Saw whets clutch between 3 and 7 eggs, meaning in a good baby year we would easily expect to see a 3:1 ratio of young birds to adult birds.

One of the saw whets was a foreign recapture, so as always – stay tuned as we uncover more tidbits about where this bird was originally banded!

Finally, I am delighted to share a special piece of artwork by MSRW Executive Director, Rich Couse.

“He captures well the quality of saw whet eyes that wobbles along the narrow edge of cute and the screaming abyss.” — critique by Alma Schrage, intern for Cape May Bird Observatory

Until next time,


Owl update: October 2 – October 7

This past week, the weather has been most dreary and unconducive to saw-whet movement. But movement does seem to be picking up, on the clear nights at least. For the last three nights of opening the nets, I’ve caught an average of 8 owls, which is great considering how slow the first two weeks have been.

On October 4, Ed, Rich, and I hosted a wildlife techniques class from Sault College, Ontario. Conditions were promising… it was nearing freezing, with a clear sky and mild winds… sure enough we totaled our standing best of the season, at 10 owls. It was so great to show the student how saw-whet owls vary in size and molt limit pattern.

As of now, we’ve banded 47 northern saw-whet owls, and caught 3 foreign recaptures. One long-eared owl and one barred owl have also graced us with their presence.

Until next time,


Owl update: September 28 – October 1

September 28 
Friday night was a real treat. Members of local Straits Area and Petoskey Regional Audobon Societies visited the station for a banding demonstration. Much fun and good company was had around the fire, and best yet, we got to see and learn about three saw-whet owls! I hope everyone went home dreaming of golden eyes and fluffy feet.

Golden peepers

Some time after folk departed and left me to my lonesome, a barred owl flew into the farthest passive net (~200 m from the main saw-whet audio lure nets). I’ve worked with barred owls in the field before, but never had the honor of having one in hand. She was incredibly calm while I took measurements. Wonderfully, this bird was a recapture who (hoo) was banded at this site last year on October 10. She was aged as an ASY then, confirming she is an After Third Year (~3.5 years or more) now. I was happy to learn from Ed that she has put on a good amount of weight over the past year.

Could she be a migrant showing site fidelity to this particular migration route, or could she be a resident who overwinters on the Straits?

Nick Alioto, the bander of yesteryear, holds Miss 386, as of October 2017 known as an ASY

I hold Miss 386, now considered to be an ATY

A beautiful bird; her eyes are a soulful abyss

On the night of Saturday, the 29th, Ed joined me for part of the evening where we had the pleasure of meeting our first recapture, a saw-whet banded this spring in Cheboygan State Park. Based on her flight feather molt pattern then, she was aged to be two years old, and now she has embarked on her third migration to the south.

The night of the 30th, October’s Eve, saw a season best of 9 birds. 7 of these were unbanded saw-whet individuals, but one was a foreign recapture (it was banded originally somewhere else) bearing a size 4 band of an antiquated series. This saw-whet was banded as a hatchyear bird in Hilliardton, Canada, and selected the Straits to be its migration route this year.  How cool!

The first morning of October was started in a very special way with our first long-eared owl. At a glance it’s quite easy to tell how old the bird is – there’s still baby fluff sticking to his head!  Did he fledge from the nest straight into my net?  Maybe so.  I’m very happy to have met this striking owl.

Until next time,


Skunks everywhere… but then?!

After a few nights of nothing but skunks, wind, and rain in the net, the weather turned favorable and finally elicited saw-whet owl movement. I caught 7 birds on the night of the 26th, with a solid mix of hatch year, second year, and after second year birds.

Apparently this off-and-on stormy weather isn’t usual for the upper peninsula at this time of year, which makes me wonder if one of three things will take place: 1. we’ll get an intense push of birds around the first week of october; 2. a higher than normal number of birds will continue to trickle in after peak season (into mid or possibly late November) before migration peeters out; or 3. the birds will decide to take a different migratory route this year. Time will tell, but I’m very curious to find out!

A hatchyear female ready to depart into the night

Until next time, take care


Alas, the storm fronts never did fizzle out, but despite the less-than-ideal conditions, we did catch one saw-whet owl on the night of September 22nd.

Richard Couse, MSRW Coordinator, holds Miss 094 – those are the last three digits of her unique band number.

After examining old and new flight feathers on her wings, I aged this saw-whet to be an after second year (ASY), meaning she is at least 2.5 years old.

Every year, saw-whets will symmetrically replace some old flight feathers with crisp new ones. Therefore, we can age a bird by the number of generations of flight feathers present. Just going off the naked eyeball, it can be tough to gauge which feathers are really old, old, and new! But fortunately, a pigment in flight feathers, called porphyrin, readily glows under black light. As feathers age, so does porphyrin, and thus older feathers glow dimly, whereas fresh feathers glow brightly.

ASY saw-whet. The flight feathers she replaced this summer glow hot pink; last year’s feathers glow warmly; and feathers retained from two years ago, possibly earlier, are cold.

It could be that Miss 094 was born in the spring of 2016, and in that summer fledged with her first set of flight feathers, which she has steadily replaced over subsequent summers.

As the season progresses, I’ll nab more black lighting photos to share! Precise aging of saw-whets by molt limits is still a developing science, which is very exciting!


And the first of the fall is…

A hatchyear female!

Not a particularly well composed post-release photo, but… it is endearing to me all the same

Despite not being able to operate in full capacity due to high winds and only one net location established, two saw whets visited me at the station last night. Equipped with their unique band number, hopefully these birds will get caught by other banding stations as they migrate south, thereby continuing to fortify our knowledge of their migration ecology.

It looks like we will be in for a string of good weather nights, so stay tuned for regular updates.


Another saw whet season begins

Greetings all!

My name is Maycee and I’ll be the owl bander on Point la Barbe for MSRW this fall. It’s been a long haul from my natal homeland of northern California to get here, and boy am I so, so excited to experience all the new sights and critters of the upper peninsula!

The weather at the station will be rather wet and cruddy till Friday night, but then Ed and I can start to run the nets in earnest and hopefully catch some early migrating saw whet owls. And hoo knows, perhaps we’ll nab a long-eared owl or barred owl passing through.

Since arriving on the 18th, I’ve been having much fun poking around the blooming plants. The goldenrod, in particular, is teaming with a menagerie of pollinators. I’ve already tallied 15 unfamiliar species of moths, flies, wasps, and bees.  I’m looking forward to identifying the insects and spiders!

Until next time! Take care.

This one was very busy, shoving her way past flies and bees to get at the best nectaries.



Her orange fluff is a handsome touch.

Vespid wasps are generally docile when going about their business outside of the nest. She toddled onto my hand before taking off.