Category Archives: Owl Banding

Spring is Here… Owl Style

Spring is here! 

Hello once again fellow MSRW supporters and followers! My name is Nick Alioto and I will be the lead owl bander for the spring 2019 season. For those of you who do not know me let me give you a rundown of my experience here with MSRW as this is not my first rodeo here!  It all started in 2017 when I was hired to be the assistant bander for the spring season. I loved it so much I decided to come back again to be the lead bander for the fall 2017 season! I then took a brief hiatus in 2018 to take on a new adventure in Canada. That being said I still thought about Northern Michigan and knew I would like to do one more season here and I am thrilled to be back yet again in an area that I consider to be my second home. Now enough about me let’s talk owls and migration shall we.

Checking the band number on the foreign recap.

Our protocol officially began on March 20th but me and my assistant (Andy) arrived here on the 18th to get settled in and set-up.  Now I would be lying if I said setting up was a little tougher than normal and this was due to all the snow accumulation here in the park. Nonetheless we persevered and had all the nets set up in a mere couple of hours and were ready to go. The first night of banding we were only able to stay open until 11:30 due to rain  but still managed to capture our first Northern saw-whet owl on the first day of spring… Coincidence I think not! On the 21st we were able to stay open almost the whole night until strong winds picked up round 4am. However while open we were able to capture 5 new NSWO and 2 Recaps. Then on the 22nd we were once again forced to shut down early due to strong winds however we managed to capture 3 more new NSWO. March is always unpredictable but we are certainly off to a good start despite it still being very early and having to deal with adverse weather every night that we have been open thus far. 

Now you must be thinking what about those recaps I mentioned earlier? Well lucky for you I have the information on both of them due to my diligence and commitment to doing a good job along with providing all the information to you fine folks who read this! Our first recap turned out to be a bird that was originally banded here in Cheboygan State park in the Spring of 2018 as a third year female, we aged it and sexed it as after third year female. The second bird we captured was our first foreign recapture for the season and this bird was originally banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Paradise Michigan in 2017 as Hatch year unknown bird. We aged and sexed it as a third year female; it is always exciting to capture other bander’s birds. Tonight looks like the first night that we will be able to be open all night and we are hoping that we will get a good push of migrants. Stay tuned for more updates from yours truly,

Nick Alioto

Season Totals:


Recaptures: 2 NSWO

Total: 11

Owls: Season Summary

Fall owl banding at Point LaBarbe in St. Ignace began on September 17th and finished up on November 10th. Although we faced many nights of adverse weather, mainly heavy precipitation and fierce winds, we managed to open our nets for 38 nights this season. Throughout that time, 282 owls were captured. A total of 280 were Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus), while one Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) and one Barred Owl (Strix varia) were also captured.

As suspected, the main movement of Saw-whets occurred in mid- October, more specifically from Oct 9th to Oct 24th. We managed to catch 126 owls in that time. Our best night occurred on Oct 13 when we captured a season best of 28 Saw- whets. A highlight from the season was capturing 16 Saw-whets that were already banded, which we call foreign recaptures. Two notable recaptures were: one Saw-whet from Fairfield, Ohio and another from Wabasha, Minnesota. We also had a recapture that was banded at Point LaBarbe in Oct 2014 and was aged at that time as an after second year (ASY) bird. We caught this bird October 11th 2017 and also aged it as an ASY. This means that this bird is at least 6 years old!

Another exciting development is that two owls we banded this fall have already been recaptured further south. One Saw-whet was banded by us on September 29th and was recovered on November 4th in Ridgway, PA, a journey over 600 miles from our St. Ignace location. Another Saw-whet we banded on October 13th was recaptured in Chesterton, IN on November 11th. This bird managed to fly over 375 miles in just under a month. Despite many nights of unfavourable weather, the fall 2017 owl banding season ended up being quite successful. Owl capture rates were unusually high last fall, yet we still managed to capture 282 owls this fall, the second most abundant yield since owl banding began at Point LaBarbe in 2014. This fall has been fantastic and thank you to everyone who kept up with our blogs. Until next time my fellow strigiphiles, good owling !


Owl: Winter is coming…

The fall owl banding season here at St.Ignance is almost over… as the cold winds of fall turn into snow we are going to depart soon just like our feathered friends. That being said from Nov 6th until last night we were able to band 6 more new Saw-whets. However tonight is our last night of banding and the weather does not look favorable to open but we will have to wait and see. Stay tuned for a final blog post and some pictures of some diurnal raptors we caught. Season totals stand at:

280th Saw-whet of the season!


NSWO: 280                



Total owls: 282

Owl Update: Gales of November

As we know from Gordon Lightfoot’s infamous song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, the gales of November are not good for freighters… or owl movement in this case. From November 1st-6th the number of captures have decreased exponentially. This is not for a lack of trying as we have been open most nights this past week and captured only 4 more Saw-whets. One was a foreign recap and 3 were newly banded birds. The only owls that presumably remain are those that have decided to leave later and wait last minute before embarking on their migration.

In other news we have received information that a Saw-whet we banded here on September 29 was recaptured just a few days ago in all the way in Du Bois, Pennsylvania! From St. Ignance, that is approximately 600 miles away, quite the journey for this small owl to do in about a month. Our season here is almost over, as banding duties finish on November 10th. We stay positive that these last few days will bring in a few more owls. Season totals are as follows:

NSWO: 274



Total owls: 276


Owl Update: Happy Halloween

The mix of rain and wind continue to persist here in St.Ignance in varying degrees each day. Therefore it is has not been great for owls but we have managed to catch some over the last few days. Since the 23rd we have banded 22 new Saw-Whets, 15 of these were banded on the 24th. And one was banded on the 26th. From the 26th to the 31st it has been slow but we still managed to bring in another 6. Frances and I have also started seeing small flocks of Snow buntings and Dark-eyed juncos which usually signals the onset of winter because these birds migrate down from their summering grounds in northern Canada and the arctic to lower warmer latitudes for the winter. Their arrival also is also a good indicator that the migration season is coming to a close … We still are hopeful to break 300 owl captures though before we are done.

Stay tuned for information on the diurnal raptor trapping that took place at the station along with some end of the season updates. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Season totals:

NSWO: 270



Total owls: 272

Owl update: Flood zone

The wind and the rain finally (hopefully) subsided here in St.Ignance. After being cooped up in the trailer for three days Frances and I have emerged  like bears awakening from hibernation. The weather looks like it should continue to clear and allow us to band tonight! We are eager to get back to work and catch more . Stay tuned…

Owl update: rain rain go away…

As October slowly winds down, we have noticed that our nightly average of Saw-whet captures has decreased. This makes sense as the peak movement for Saw-whet migration usually occurs mid-October. That being said, morale is still high here at the station and we are hoping that before the season is up that we can break 300 owls.

On the 21st we were expecting a big night after catching three owls by 8:30, however things slowed down and by the end of the night we only had 8 newly banded birds. The 22nd brought constant rain throughout the day and night and therefore were not able to open. Today also looks like rain may persist throughout the night but we will just have to wait and see. Season totals are as follows:

NSWO: 247



Total: 249 owls

One of our most recent Saw-whets.


Owl Update: Still going strong

A quick update on what has been going on here at the owl banding station. October 17th turned out to be a nice cool, clear night and we were able to net 13 new Saw-whets. Unfortunately on the 18th and 19th we were not able to open due to  heavy winds that never seemed to die down.

After two consecutive nights of no owls or banding both Frances and I entered into a withdrawal over Saw-whets. Lucky for us we got our fix and were able to open on the 20th which brought 11 new Saw-whets and 1 foreign recapture. This puts us at 13 foreign recaptures for the season pretty amazing! We will be open again on the 21st and hope to keep catching more owls as we near the end of October and our season. The season totals are as follows:

NSWO: 239



Total: 241 owls

Stay tuned for what diurnal banding activities have been happening here at the station.

200 owls and counting!

After sitting out a rainy night on the 14th , Frances and I were eager to break the 200 owl mark for the night of the 15th. This held true as the weather was nice and cool with clear starry skies. We managed to capture 17 Saw-whets, 16 newly banded and 1 foreign recapture. On the night of the 16th we were once again closed unfortunately due to strong winds that persisted all night from the south east. That being said,  tonight looks likes it will be a really good night! Our season totals are as follows:

NSWO: 214



Total; 216 owls

Owl Update 10/14/2017

Yesterday evening winds died down and despite threatening clouds, it only sprinkled briefly before clearing up. 1 previously banded Saw-whet and 27 new owls were captured. Our night of (28) birds brings are Saw-whet total to 197 and our season total to 199 birds. We were once again visited by a group of Sault college students from Ontario. This group also managed to spot 4 blue spotted salamanders, a leopard frog,  a roosting american woodcock, and a plethora of plants.

As well we also received information on another foreign recapture. This bird was originally banded on November 11, 2014 near Fairfield OH, as a HY/F. Then this bird was captured by Whitefish point in Paradise Michigan on May 17 2016. It appears that this owl likes to be captured! We aged it as a after second year (ASY) female. Tonight the wind and rain will keep us closed here. We hope to break 200 owls the next day! Stay tuned friends.