Category Archives: Owl

First LEOW of the Season!

Last night was an excellent night of owl banding.   It was partly cloudy with temperatures in the 30’s and winds of 5 to 10 mph out of the south.

We captured a total of six Northern Saw-whet Owls, two of which were already banded.  All were female and of various ages. We also banded our first Long-eared Owl of the season!  The LEOW was an after second year female.

It was nice to hear some Sandhill Cranes calling as we closed up nets this morning, along with a bunch of singing Song Sparrows.

Rain is in the forecast tonight.


Owl News: 8 November and 9 November

Wind, wind, and more wind. On Sunday night, the winds were out of the southwest and were pretty relentless the whole night. Down on the point, they stayed at a steady 8 mph with gusts as high as 16 mph. I could see the tops of the spruce trees swaying like crazy and I’m willing to bet the winds were stronger up on US-2. Even though the winds were strong, protocol states that as long as they aren’t exceeding 15 mph, the station must be opened and that it was. I kept my fingers and toes crossed from dusk to dawn, but never caught a single owl. At about 0400 hours, I heard one Northern Saw-whet Owl calling near the audio lure, but it never came in to visit. Sunday night, skunked.

Last night, the winds were calm out of the south/southwest and I was hopeful we’d catch a few. My goal this season is to reach 250 saw-whets and I guess I might be pushing it with so little time to reach that goal. Three saw-whets were captured and banded last night bringing our count to 245 (not including the three long-eareds and one barred owl).

Tonight, the final night of the banding season, the winds are predicted to be light out of the south/southeast. I think a few more birds will move through, but it will likely be another slow night. Stay tuned.


Owl update: Night of 5 November

I did finally end up catching that noisy saw-whet from two nights ago. It was the last capture of the night making our total on Wednesday a whopping two birds. Still pretty exciting with that Long-eared Owl that came in.

Last night started off looking really promising with four saw-whets captured in the first few hours after setting nets. Unfortunately, the winds picked up and I had to shut the banding station down at 2330 hours. Rain followed at around 0200 hours. We’re seeing some pretty impressive winds here on the point today, but it looks like they’re starting to die down with a current west wind of 17 mph with gusts at about 28 mph. We’ll have to see how things look around dusk.

Five nights left of the season and our totals are:
NSWO: 233

Owl Update: 3 November-4 November (partial update)

It wasn’t too long after opening the nets that the fog lifted and the sky cleared. The east winds switched over to the southeast sometime around 0100 hours and died down quite a bit. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was captured at 2100 hours and the nets remained empty for the rest of the night. Perhaps I should have said in my last blog update that I would be happy with twenty?

Slow as it was, I’m glad we had the one come through, but I’d say the most exciting part of the evening was watching the northern lights. They were quite low in the horizon and the lights along US-2 drowned them out a bit, but they were still beautiful. The display showed some beautiful reds-my first time seeing that color in the auroras.

Tonight (4 November) started off just like last night. The fog was super dense and I, again, couldn’t see the bridge from our furthest net. I planned on keeping the nets open until around midnight or 0200 hours and shutting down if I hadn’t caught anything by then. Sure enough, at about 0030 hours, the fog lifted and exposed the bright, star-lit sky. A half hour later, our first owl of the night was captured in the Long-eared Owl audio lure net and it was a…..wait for it……a Long-eared Owl! Our third of the season and our first one in the LEOW audio lure location.

As of 0345 hours, there have been no other captures, though I just heard a saw-whet talking over by the NSWO nets. We’ll see what the next net check brings.



Slow night

Four Northern Saw-whet Owls were captured and banded last night. The first owl came in at around 2100 hours and the last owl of the night was captured around 0300 hours just before the dense fog rolled in. One of the females from last night-a second year bird- weighed in at an astonishing 120 grams. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had one that heavy before. I actually had to weigh her twice because I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just a fun little tidbit for you.

By dawn, the fog had moved off of the point and settled over the Straits, which probably made things interesting for Ed during his waterbird count this morning. The freighters were busy blowing their fog horns all day, which will likely continue throughout the night as conditions haven’t improved. In fact, the point is socked in again and I can’t even see the bridge from the passive net. Having said that, I’m not expecting much action from the owls tonight. Plus, we currently have a lovely 12 mph east wind, which should switch to the southeast at some point. I’ll consider it a good night if I can just get one by dawn.


Owls: Night of 25 October

Well, I wasn’t bombarded with owls last night. I know it’s getting a little late in the migration, but I figured with as hot and cold as the migration has been this fall we’d see a couple more good pushes of birds. Last night was not one of them and I couldn’t help but wonder why. Ed thinks that the lack of wind kept the birds from moving much and I tend to agree with him. Of course, this is all just speculation, but perhaps the owls prefer to move when there is a bit of a wind for them to take advantage of. That way they conserve a bit of energy on their journey south versus flapping the entire time. Last night was dead calm for the most part and the big lake was like glass.

Eight new Northern Saw-whet Owls were captured and banded last night and all three net locations saw a little action from the birds. Most interesting, in my opinion, was a saw-whet captured in the Long-eared Owl audio lure location directly below the audio lure. This is the second saw-whet capture in this location, so perhaps the audio lure doesn’t deter saw-whets from moving through that area like we had wondered.

Tonight looks like a wash with the rain/drizzle predicted. It looks like it could clear up after midnight, so, if that happens, the nets will be dropped and we’ll give it a try. Winds are predicted to be light SSE.

East winds AND saw-whets

The night started off clear with light winds from the east. Between 2000 hours and 0030 hours, eight new saw-whets were captured and banded. I was pleased to see a small movement of birds before the winds picked up. By midnight, the winds had increased to 12 mph, which pretty much shut the movement down. No other owls were captured between 0030 hours and dawn, which made for long stretch. Still, not a bad night considering the east winds, eh?

Total NSWO count: 181 and counting.

I’m hoping for a few birds tonight with the predicted northwest winds ahead of us. It’s supposed to be rather windy (15-20) with gusts as high as 30 mph, but, as usual, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

18 October Owl Update

Winds were strong from the southwest all night and not much was moving. The first of two saw-whets came through at 0330 hours and the second was captured at 0630 hours just before the winds hit 15 mph (although they were gusting higher than that all night).

We just had a little drizzle move through the point and the winds are exceeding 18 mph from the west. We’ll see how the night goes. For now, the nets will remain closed until these winds die down, which they’re predicted to do. Fingers crossed for a push of birds once this weather settles.

Night of 15-October

Well, the rain showers missed us last night, but the winds were strong out of the northwest for much of the night. I didn’t expect much to be moving with 12 mph winds and was, again, surprised with how the evening went. Twelve NSWO were captured; nine were new captures and three were repeats we had banded earlier in the month (two hatch year birds banded on the 7th and one after second year banded on the night of the 13th). The repeats will not be added again into our total count, but I find it interesting to note that these birds were still hanging out on the point. One of the saw-whets originally banded on the 7th had gained 3 grams and the other had lost 2 grams. Are they sticking around to fatten up before crossing the Straits? Who knows.

Total NSWO count: 157

As for tonight, things are extremely slow. With this clear night and north wind, I figured the owls would be moving, but alas.

I do know of at least one saw-whet hanging around though. In fact, while I type this the little guy or gal is screeching away from the cedars near the audio lure. Tease.

Continue reading

Owls move despite southwest wind

I was delighted to catch a few migrating Northern Saw-whet Owls last night. The winds were predicted to be southwest at 15+ mph, but the night actually started off with light west winds that never exceeded 10 mph even after they switched around from the southwest. Seven saw-whets were captured, banded and released, which makes our official count 117 NSWO with 30 days left of the season!

I’m still waiting for that long-eared to show up. Maybe if our readers keep their fingers and toes crossed?

West winds 10-15 mph are predicted for tonight with 80% chance of rain after 11 pm. I’m hoping for a good movement of birds before the rain moves in…

Another great night in the books

We had a great night of banding last night with 27 saw-whets captured. We banded 26 new saw-whets and had one foreign retrap that was a hatch year bird with no info at this time (probably banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory this past summer).

That’s puts us at 102 Northern Saw-whet Owls so far.

It’s currently drizzling over the Straits, but is forecasted to clear any time. As soon as the weather improves, the nets will be opened and surveys will commence.

Retraps, recaptures, and aurora borealis

The night was off to a slow start due to the 10 mph SW winds. Shortly after 0130 hours, the winds were out of the west and the owls started to move. Eight NSWO were captured last night with the first capture being at 0230 hours. Of the eight captured, three were already wearing bands (two foreign retraps and one recapture); one was banded on 10-18-14 at Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Manitowoc, WI, there was no info at this time for the second retrap, and the third was a recapture I banded here on Pointe La Barbe last fall on 10-11-14. That makes two recaptures from last season so far this fall.

Total NSWO captures: 75

On a side note, I saw a beautiful display of the northern lights at around 0530 hours while walking back from checking the nets. Despite the slow start, it was a great night.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s update, rain is predicted for Thursday, so with that in mind-as well as the clear, calm night predicted for this evening-I think we’ll see some good numbers.

Second Biggest Night

After the last few gusty nights in the Straits, a calm night was just what the doctor ordered.

We started off with one Northern Saw-whet Owl on our first net check of the night and remained fairly steady until dawn. Fifteen NSWO were captured; we banded fourteen of these birds and had one recapture from Babcock, Wisconsin that was banded on October 18, 2014 as a hatch year female. That makes 67 total NSWO captures so far this season with seven total recaptures.

A huge thank you to my dear friend, Diane Backlund, for being a rock star assistant last night!

Northwest winds at 5-10 mph are predicted for tonight along with clear skies. Rain is predicted for Thursday, so there could be a good movement of birds between tonight and tomorrow night. Stay tuned.



Unexpected early morning rain

I just walked in out of the rain after wrapping up the nets, which means my night/morning of banding is complete.

It was a calm and cloudy evening across the Straits and a few saw-whets stopped by on their journey south. The first capture came in at 2200 hours followed by a second at 2300 hours and one about every hour after that. Not a very busy night, but a total of six new saw-whets were caught and banded before the rain came in from out of nowhere. The official count is 52 NSWO.

Saturday night  (10-3-15) was a long night with the stiff east wind not letting up until about 0500 hours. We saw no evidence of owls moving across the Straits, i. e. no saw-whets were captured, with the gusting east winds and storm moving up from the south.

If the weather forecast remains the same for the next couple of days, we should have some good nights.

Second night of high winds

The night started off looking good, but before too long the winds kicked up and forced me to close the nets at midnight. In fact, the winds were worse last night than they were the night before, which left the nets full of leaves and tangled in nearby conifers.

I did, however, start off with three NSWO at 2100 hours; two males and one female (all after second year birds). At the time of said captures, the wind was around 8mph and rapidly began to build leaving the nets void of owls for the following few hours. By midnight, the northeast (originally predicted to be east) wind had climbed to 18 mph-gusting to 23-requiring me to close the banding station.

NOAA is predicting winds to be east at 5-15 mph with gusts as high as 25 mph tonight. We’ll give it a go for a while and see what tonight brings.

Here are some lovely images from a week ago taken by Kathy Germain:

Newly banded Northern Saw-whet Owl. Image by Kathy Germain

Northern Saw-whet Owl at MSRW banding station on Pointe La Barbe. Image by Kathy Germain

NSWO wing under black light. The newly molted feathers show up pinkish in color, which assist in ageing the bird. Image by Kathy Germain

North Winds Bring Owls

We had a good number of owls move through the point last night. A total of 20 NSWO were captured and five of them were already wearing bands. Of these banded birds, one was banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory (WPBO) on 8-9-14; one was banded at Steven’s Point, WI on 10-11-14, and one was a recapture we banded at Pointe La Barbe last fall on 10-19-14! There was no information available at this time for the other two birds, but they were both hatch year birds likely banded at WPBO this past summer.

Northeast winds are predicted for tonight as well as cooler temps (43 F). Hopeful for another busy night.

Night of 26 September 2015

Four more NSWO were captured and banded on the point last night. The captures included 2 second year females, 1 hatch year female and 1 after second year female. So far, we’ve banded 13 NSWO since 20 September and only three of those have been hatch year birds. I know we can’t conclude anything regarding age class with so few numbers and with how early it is in the season–just an observation that has me intrigued. It’ll be really interesting to see what the coming weeks will show as far as age class goes; such data can give us an idea as to how successful this breeding season was for the species.

On a side note, I’m really looking forward to tonight’s Supermoon eclipse. I just read that it’s the first one since 1982 and that the next one won’t occur until 2033. Right now,  it’s pretty overcast in St. Ignace, but fingers crossed things open up as the evening progresses! Here’s to hoping you have clear skies, too.

Winds are predicted to be southwest at 5-10 mph tonight, but with a chance of rain showers moving through tomorrow, there could be a push of birds tonight. As always, time will tell.


I wish.

On two separate net checks last night, I discovered a lump of something at the far end of the LEOW audio lure net. It was enough to get me excited for a moment, but both times the mysterious lump turned out to be an Eastern Cottontail mowing the vegetation directly under the net. Luckily, I learned my lesson last fall about the dangers of having the nets open just above the ground when I caught a snowshoe hare. As some of you might remember, said hare did quite a number on the net, so I’ve since kept the net about a foot above the ground to avoid catching small mammals.

NCMC biology professor (and longtime friend), Kathy Germain, stopped out last night with two bio students. The first six net checks were empty and I was beginning to wonder of it would be another night of no-shows. However, we were all pretty excited to finally have one NSWO in the net at the 11:30 pm net check.

It’s always a delight to show someone their first-ever Northern Saw-whet Owl and I’m so happy I could be a part of the students’ experience–just one of many reasons why I love doing what I do.

The second year female NSWO was the only owl of the night.

The weather tonight is more of the same. Winds are predicted to be east until after midnight at which point they should switch over to south winds.





Last night Ed Pike set the nets for Owl Surveys from 9:30 pm till 2:30 am.  During that time 4 N. Saw-whet Owls were captured, banded, and released back on their way.   Friday night is predicted to have rain and snow showers so surveys will not be conducted.

Spring Owl Surveys/Banding

We started our Owl Survey/Banding at Cheboygan State Park on Wed. March 18, 2015.  Ed Pike and Dave Mayberry checked nets from 9:15pm till 4:30 am.  We captured 8 N. Saw-whet Owls and placed bands on their legs and sent them on their way north.  A good start to the season.  Ed Pike

Final Post of the Season


The photo above was taken on the last night of banding (9-Nov) on Pointe La Barbe. I’ve enjoyed this beautiful view of the straits for the last several weeks and, I have to say, I’ll certainly miss it. If you didn’t have the chance to make it up to visit the banding station this season and see the view with your own eyes, I certainly hope you can stop out next season and see it in person. Not to mention, there is a good chance you’ll get to see a northern saw-whet owl or two on your visit, as well.
We weren’t as busy on our last night as we had hoped. It was such a clear night with light winds from the north, but the owls-as they often do-surprised us and we received a visit from only one northern saw-whet. Still, it was great to wrap up the season with one, lone owl instead of zero.
The season total was 235 northern saw-whet owls and four barred owls. We captured eight foreign retraps (owls that already had bands placed on them by other banders). Four of those saw-whets were banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory during their spring banding program; one in 2011, two in 2013, and one in 2014. One of the saw-whets was banded north of Duluth, Minnesota in the fall of 2013 and one was banded near Newark, Indiana in the fall of 2011. No information is available at this time for the other two banded birds.
I’d like to thank everyone that came out to the banding station during the season. It’s been such an honor to be a part of the raptor watch fall program and I hope to contribute again in the future.

All the best,

Night of 8 November

We froze our little toes off last night, but it was worth it. We caught and banded another six saw-whets, which puts us at 234 (230 saw-whets, 4 barred owls) for the season so far.

Tonight (9 Nov) looks like it could be a good night. There is a storm system moving down from the northwest, which should push some owls our way.

Stay tuned!

Night of 1 November

Remember a while back when the score between the mammals and the mist nets was 3-0, respectively?  Well, score change!

On the very first net check, we had a northern flying squirrel in the audio lure net. I’ll admit, when I saw the red, beady eyes looking at me, I had mixed feelings. While flying squirrels are beautiful little creatures, I find their incisors to be a bit intimidating as well as their clingy, little appendages. Again, I’m grateful for gloves for this little guy was pretty feisty. It only took a minute or two before he was released and happily on his way. Luckily, no damage was done to the net, which often occurs when something other than a saw-whet lands in the net. Therefore, the score is now 3-1.

We’d caught three saw-whets last night by 0100 hrs and then the winds switched around to the southwest. This, not surprisingly, slowed everything down to a screeching halt and we didn’t catch anything else between 0100 hrs-0700 hrs.

We’re up to 224 saw-whets and 4 barred owls for the season. We’ll see what tonight brings!

Night of 30 October

No banding due to rain/snow throughout the evening.

Below is a picture courtesy of North Central Michigan College biology professor, Kathy Germain. This photo was from last weekend (24 October) when she visited the banding station with four of her biology students.


Owl Banding at Point La Barbe Selena and Students 10-24-14
Owl bander, Selena Creed, points out a northern saw-whet owl’s facial disk and ear openings to NCMC biology students. Photo by Kathy Germain

Night of 29 October

Another seven northern saw-whets were captured at the banding station last night. Six were banded by yours truly and one was a foreign retrap (previously banded at another location). I’ll work on getting the info on that bird later this weekend and will, of course, share it here.

What I find interesting is that many of our foreign retraps were captured in the passive net and not the audio lure net. Ed and I briefly talked about this today and think it’s a possibility that previously banded saw-whets might avoid the audio lure all together. It’s an interesting thought.

So, as far as numbers go, I’m impressed that we’re at 200+ owls-especially with how many rain/high wind nights we’ve had all season. We’ve had only one really big push of birds where we caught 40 owls and the rest of the nights ranged anywhere from 0-20 owls. A part of me really hopes to see a couple more big nights, but it’s getting late in the migration, so that might not occur. Still, I’m happy to be catching a few here and there. Its hard to believe things will be wrapping up in just 11 more days. If you haven’t had the chance to come up, hopefully you find some time between now and our end date. I can’t guarantee any owls, but the view here sure is something else.

Stay tuned.

Nights of 26-28 October

Things at the Straits have been rather uneventful lately as far as the owl migration goes. Ed and I were hopeful that the night of the 26th would be busy due to a break in the weather, but the winds swung around to the south and the owls quit moving after 0030 hrs. That made for a bit of a long night as I’m sure you can imagine. I do net checks every half hour and every half hour until 0700 hrs my hope was crushed (the drama!). Sometimes, with owl banding, a little self-torture is involved, which is fine. When the owls do cooperate, though, it’s totally worth it. Anyhow, we ended up with nine more saw-whets that night.

We didn’t open the nets on the 27th or 28th due to rain and high winds. Tonight, however, looks good and we’re hoping for a big push of birds before the next batch of rain and, dare I say, snow. Stay tuned.


Night of 23 October

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I have to say it again: catching a banded bird is so exciting!

We captured another 14 northern saw-whets last night and, you guessed it, one was banded. Her band was really dirty and needed to be wiped down before I could make out any digits. Evidence of a breeding bird, which makes me happy. After a few minutes of scrubbing, I retrieved the band info and submitted it to the banding lab. She was banded on 1 November 2012 near Newark, Greene County, Indiana as a hatch year bird. Last night,  she weighed in at a healthy 99 grams and we aged her as an after second year bird, which means that she’s older than two years.

The official count is 204 northern saw-whets and four barred owls. (In case anyone noticed, there was a bit of an adding error on my behalf from earlier in the week. It has been corrected and the above numbers are up-to-date.)

Tonight doesn’t look all that great. There is currently a stiff south wind that is supposed to increase to around 10-15 mph. We probably won’t catch many owls, but I’m hoping for a few since we have a small group coming out tonight.

Stay tuned.

Night of 22 October

We caught another 10 northern saw-whets last night.  Not the busiest evening, but definitely a beautiful one. There were still a few meteors lighting up the sky-remnants of the Orionids, I suppose.

NOAA is calling for a chance of drizzle tonight after midnight,  so we’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed that we catch a few.

Night of 20 October

The weather started off a little iffy, but it ended up being a fairly decent evening. We caught 19 saw-whets last night-two of which were already banded! Its such a treat to catch a banded bird.

One of the two banded saw-whets we caught a couple of nights ago was banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory on 25 April 2013 as a second year female. There is no info on that second bird yet.

It’ll be interesting to see where the two from last night were banded and, as always, I’ll try to relay the info.

I’m predicting a busy week with all of this clear weather ahead of us. It’s evident that the birds are starting to move more and more, so things could get exciting. I know I’m not the only one hoping for a long-eared. Maybe this will be the week!

Night of 18 October

Last night was awesome.

A cold, dry (finally) night with northwest winds was the perfect weather to get the owls moving. We had one saw-whet on the first net check and then seven on the second net check. After that, it was busy, busy, busy. Our last owl of the night (Er, morning?) was banded at 0615 hrs leaving the last two hours a little quiet.

We caught a total of 38 northern saw-whets and two barred owls. Of the 38 saw-whets, two were already banded. Ed is working on getting the info on those birds, which I’ll write about a little later.

Photo by Ed Pike

Little Brown Bat captured a few nights ago. BEAUTIFUL creatures (Photo by Selena Creed)


Night of 16 October

Fourteen more saw-whets were banded last night before the rain moved through at 0115 hrs. The nets were closed for the night at 0130.

We also caught our second healthy little brown bat of the season.

Official count is 111 northern saw-whets and 2 barred owls.

Another visit from a Barred Owl

12 October 2014

We had a little bit of a slow start to the night, but ended up banding 10 more saw-whets and one more barred owl. There was a time when I thought barred owls were docile birds, but I have completely changed my mind after handling the last two really grouchy ones. Nothing really compares to saw-whets and their sweet disposition, I guess.

The official count so far is 85 northern saw-whets and 2 barred owls!

I’d like to thank the Straits Area Audubon for coming out last night. What a great turn out with 20 people! I’d also like to thank Darrell Lawson for all of his help, moral support, and good conversation last night and into the early morning hours. He stayed until we wrapped up the nets!

Photo by Darrell Lawson


Is that a long-eared in the net?

Well, yes. Yes, the being had long ears. However, it wasn’t an owl at all; it was a snowshoe hare of all things. One can imagine my excitement as I approached the net and saw that something was in it. The excitement quickly subsided when I saw that it had fur instead of feathers. The snowshoe was released unharmed, but I cannot say the same for the net.

All in all, it was a pretty good night having banded a total of nine saw-whets with the last one coming through at around 0600 hrs.


Slow start to the Northern saw-whet migration

After a few days of inclement weather, we were finally able to start the season off last night and what a beautiful evening it was. It remained calm and clear into the early morning hours with a low of about 50 degrees. It was great to begin the season with a few owls, but the night was definitely slow having banded only six Northern saw-whets. Still, we didn’t get skunked, which is always a good thing.

We’ll see what tonight brings.