Category Archives: Uncategorized

may 8

Today with the approaching front bought 7 Golden Eagles 4 in the air at one time with 4 Rough-legged Hawks. 678 Broad-winged hawks were seen today bringing the total so far at 25831,the count for Golden Eagles are 168 with 325 Rough-legged Hawks. AlsoEd Pike spotted a dark-morph Broad-winded Hawk a few days ago being the second of the season. Seven White Pelican were seen!

Tricolored returns!

5/2: Finally a more productive morning, with strong movements West. Slightly lighter winds than yesterday, but still out of the ESE, with light periodic rain and rolling banks of fog—essentially ideal duck conditions this season. Mysteriously, though, this wind direction meant that today essentially all fliers were riding with the wind—the opposite of most other days so far this season. Possibly a result of other environmental factors/weather patterns elsewhere. Started the morning with a good red-breasted merganser push, with 73 in the first hour, though many of these were either flying short distances or heading around the Headlands towards Trails End Bay, so may not have been migrants. Stronger migratory movements later on. Had some late-ish Aythya headed past by mid-morning: 4 redheads, a lone male greater scaup, and ten unidentified; and by late morning, the loons and grebes began to move in decent numbers, with 18 loons headed West in a sudden burst of activity just before fog rolled in at 10AM, and a min-fallout of 7 red-necked grebes just after the fog’s arrival. One Caspian tern headed West, and two great blue herons headed North. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55678090

Displaying male red-breasted mergansers, and a rather disinterested female preening above.

Evening count started slow, with notably fewer buffleheads, and at least one immature male in the mix (going to be a bit more precise sorting through female-type birds now that immature males have begun to come through). Some nice surprises near the end: a Caspian tern flyby, a calling sora (FOY), a calling Virginia rail (heard last night faintly, but called for sure tonight, FOY), and the third rarity on the season, a passing WILLET (Rare). The bird was first heard calling, and spotted in flight a moment later, winging East. The distinctive call and the bold black-and-white wing markings were a winning combination!

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55696105

5/3: Another productive morning. Light Northwest winds had held up a dense bank of fog when I arrived, but this began to lift around sunrise to reveal a dispersed but massive raft of several hundred long-tails and red-breasted mergs, a handful of loons, and many small groups of red-necked and horned grebes. As the fog continued to lift, more birds became visible, and the mergs and long-tails began to move (primarily West, and East, respectively). Grebes were only sporadically seen in flight, with most opting to drift West instead. Loons flew in good numbers, with 49 passing West (29 in the third hour). Still no red-throateds. Good shorebird/wader day, with three great blue herons, four killdeer, a FOY spotted sandpiper, and a lone sandhill crane. Small flock of Bonaparte’s gulls passed West near the end of the count.

eBird list:  https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55719100

Very slow evening, with only the pied-billed grebes and a single bittern of the usual marsh assortment calling. Bufflehead numbers much diminished, and no notable gulls/shorebirds/waders. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55739037

5/4: Glass-still morning, with temps around freezing early, but warmer air later on with a light breeze. Almost no movement: three greater scaup males (getting late), a couple scoter flocks, and a few loons flew, and little else. Big rafts of red-breasted mergs and long-tails continue. Notable pulse of passerines this morning, with pine siskin, goldfinch, blue jay, robin, red-winged blackbird, flicker, and grackle making trial forays Northward, but always returning. Of greater note were single flyovers of common redpoll (pretty late in a typical year, but not unreasonable given the very slow start to spring this year), and brown-headed cowbird (FOY), and a flock of (minimum) 60 black-capped chickadees, which made a couple trial forays but very quickly changed their minds. Wonder if this is a taiga-breeding group ready to migrate, esp. as numbers have been steadily increasing this past week, and the flock is very mobile. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55764281

Between the morning and evening count, I biked some of the trails around French Farm Lake, and turned up a whole assortment of long-awaited spring arrivals: several palm warblers, singing blue-headed vireos, and a single waterthrush all put in their first appearances, and purple finch, pine warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler were singing in good numbers. Still a big raft of buffleheads, a few lesser scaup, a group of ring-necks, both common and red-breasted mergs, and resident mallards, loons, wood ducks, and mute swans were all present on the lake. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55781567

Blue-headed vireo, French Farm Lake trails

Very productive evening count, with calm water and pleasant temps. Two soras heard calling, along with a ticking snipe, the usual pied-billeds, two bitterns, and a distant sandhill pair. Woodcock has been silent for two nights now. Big flock of rusty blackbirds (FOY) flew in to the tamaracks behind the count area, and stayed for about half an hour, and the female red-winged blackbirds had finally arrived back at the marsh, which set the local males into a frenzy of chases, displays, and songs. Stealing the show, however, was the night’s main surprise: the return of the TRICOLORED HERON from a few days ago. Managed to get pictures this time, so hopefully these will suffice for the Michigan Records Committee. The bird flew in from the West and landed East of the count location. Keep your eyes peeled if you’re in the area!

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55818992

Tricolored Heron (Rare), Trails End Bay, 5/4/19

Dour weather holds back waterbirds

4/29: Decent morning, finally with some lateral winds through the straits. These seemed to get the long-tails into more purposeful motion, with several hundred flying East through the morning, along with a few small white-winged scoter flocks, and the ever-present loons. Other species and all non-waterbirds in short supply. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55564621

Evening count dogged first by strong East winds, then snow, then rain as the night wore on, so very little in motion. A Caspian tern at the start of the count and an East-flying osprey were the two highlights. Present, too, was the usual bufflehead flock, though interestingly tonight twelve of these birds flew off West near to sunset—the first time I’ve seen a group in the act of leaving the Bay—so this may indicate individual turnover among the group despite essentially steady numbers. No tricolored, sadly. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55578100

Sunrise, McGulpin

4/30: Easterly winds continue, but to little effect. Steadier movements in early hours, particularly among long-tails far out in the straits, but almost no other species seen moving, aside from a few white-winged scoters, and the ever-intrepid loons. Some grebes resting, and plentiful cormorants, which now appear to be fully back and ready to breed (with at least 50 in the area, 30-40 of which are seen daily across the straits in the trees at their colony site). 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55589909

Another slow evening count, but with pleasantly milder temperatures. Breeding activity is picking up: there are two active Canada goose nests, a mute swan nest, and a very vocal pair of pied-billed grebes finally seen calling together tonight. Peenting and sky-dancing woodcock male continues nightly. Many of the mergs (both common and red-breasted) appear to have paired up as well, as I am far more often seeing them in solo pairs or groups of a few males and a female than earlier in the season. Sandhill crane pair heard distantly; snipe and bittern silent tonight.  

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55617194

Mating ring-billed gulls, McGulpin

4/31: Morning looked like it was going to be productive, with moderate winds from the East, a light rain, and fog a few miles distant (with the potential for fallout conditions), but numbers never materialized. First couple hours were decent, with Eastward movement among horned grebes, long-tails, red-breasted mergs, and common loons, but as the morning wore on the wind increased and the rain fell steadier, to the point that even the powerfully-flying large loons were struggling Eastward, with nearly all just above the water’s surface, and a few ditching out. Few other species besides.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55633687

Evening cold and clammy, with a shifting fog and strong, cold winds. Consequently, the marshes were pretty quiet. April (or maybe even March) is not giving up without a fight. Usual peenting woodcock and calling pied-billeds.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55655480

May 2

The last several day have been slow due to the weather. The last big day was on 4-27 during that day had a dark morph Broad-winged Hawk. So far this year the total number of raptors is 49066.

OWlTASTIC: Owl update x4

Hello everyone! If you have just finished reading my above blog on the diurnal raptor banding update and enjoyed it then you will for sure be interested in this blog post regarding what has been going on during the owl surveys/banding in Cheboygan State Park over the past week or so. Since I last left off we have continued to capture Saw-whets but things are beginning to taper off as we approach the end of the migration and subsequently the end of the spring banding season.

Over the past 10 days we have had to battle adverse weather conditions and had lost 3 full nights of banding. We have also been battling strong winds from the North, East and the combination of northeast which is just the worst… and with all of these variables combined it has not facilitated great owl movement. However despite all of this our season continues to be quite successful in terms of owl species diversity, number of recaptures and number of saw-whets which is our target species. As I titled my last blog (spring of the recaptures) that continues to hold true as we continue to catch more and more recaps! Let me get you all caught up;

Since my last blog we have added another 4 recaptures, 3 of which have been saw-whets annnddd get this one was a Long-eared owl which is incredible since so few are banded the chance of getting a recapture is very uncommon. First let me tell you about the saw-whets before we talk about the long-ear. One of the recaps came to us yet again from Whitefish point we always seem to catch a lot of their birds which is great, this shows us that these birds are using the same migration pathway through Michigan year after year. We also netted another bird from Hilliardton, ON that was banded just this past fall not by me but by one of my friends that was with me up north so this was very cool to say the least! Finally our last saw-whet also hailed from Ontario and was banded this past fall in a town called Wheatley. This bird was a Hatch year last fall so it is great that she has survived her first migration as she heads back to the boreal forest to breed. Now the Long-eared owl we recaptured was originally banded back in April of 2017 at Whitefish Point. This is pretty neat as at that same time this bird was banded I was working here in Cheboygan state park with my good friend Arthur as we ran the owl protocol for MSRW a few years back. Now what was really cool about this recap was that back in 2017 this owl was aged as an after third year/female which is the oldest age you can assign a long-ear with confidence meaning this bird is at least 3 years old but it could be older. When we captured this bird we also aged this bird that same and this was based off of various plumage characteristics including replacement patterns of feathers in the wing along with patterns seen in the tail. Then we determined the sex of the long-ear based off of the plumage coloration in the underwing feathers. Needless to say we know from recapturing this bird that she is at LEAST 5 years old which is amazing! This bird may take the cake for the most exciting recap this spring but who know there is still a fair amount of time left in the season. We will just have to wait and see! Until next time we hope that we get a last push of owls and I will like always do my best to keep all you fine folks updated!

The Foreign Recap LEOW from Whitefish, this lass is at least 5 years old!

Season Totals: Total Birds: 175

NSWO: 151

LEOW: 4 (1 Foreign Recap)

BDOW: 3

Recaptures: 17 (NSWO)

Trap City aka Mackinaw City: Hawk Update X2

Greetings yet again MSRW followers and supporters! It has been just over a week since my last blog regarding our raptor trapping side project and I thought now would be the perfect time to give everyone an update. Since the 23rd we have been able to make it over to Mackinaw on a few occasions and yes we have still been capturing birds and EVEN added a new species for the spring!

Adult Male Merlin Captured! What a Beauty

The highlight came on the 24th when we were expecting a big day but caught only one bird, however that bird was an after second year male Merlin! Now I would like to tell you that I was the great trapper that lured this bird into our set-up but it was quite the contrary. This merlin just seemed to be flying by to check out our set-up and passively got caught in our mist-net. Regardless of how it happened it was super exciting and made the day all worthwhile on what turned out to be a dead day with empty skies. Since then we decided to switch our trapping spot to a more open area in the hopes of increasing Buteo specie captures in this case we are primarily after Red-tailed hawks. Anyway our next day out was on the 26th and we managed to capture two new red tails! Winds were strong that day and we had over 8 red tails come into to check us out but none committed and instead perched in a nearby trees off and on throughout the day as if to tease us. The next trapping day occurred on the 30th and this day was different for a few reasons. First my assistant Chad had to depart back to his home state of Illinois to get ready for his next field job which coincidentally I will be working with him yet again for the summer! BUT I will tell all you fine folks about that next job as I get closer to my own departure date. Now back to the good stuff, since Chad was gone that meant that local legend and chair of MSRW Ed Pike was going to join me in the blind today, it is always nice to have his company. The change in personal must have brought us some luck as we managed yet another 2 new red-tails, we also had one get out of the net and had a few make passes but overall it was a very good day! Ed will be accompanying me in the blind for the remainder of the season as we will continue to trap this upcoming week as often as the weather permits us. Until next time keep your eyes to the sky and as always stay classy!

Ed got in on the fun and banded his first red-tail for 2019! Hopefully many more to come

Diurnal Raptor Totals:

SSHA (Sharp-shinned hawk) – 7

RTHA (Red-tailed hawk) – 11

NOHA (Northern Harrier) – 1

MERL (Merlin) – 1

Total Hawks: 20

Trails End Bay produces another rarity!

4/26: Another slow morning, with minimal breezes and periodic fog. A handful of ducks moved through, but the vast majority were loafing and calling on the still water—primarily long-tails and red-breasted mergs. Loons continued to move (they seem to be flying West every single day, regardless of wind and weather conditions), though in much smaller numbers. Couple Caspian tern flybys, and some tree swallows.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55439685

Evening count took place in wild conditions, with a howling North wind, six-foot-plus surf, and blowing sand. Consequently, very low numbers of everything, with half the number of buffleheads seen recently, three common mergs, and one calling pied-billed. The eared grebe was not observed but may have been loafing somewhere more sheltered. Only movers were four Caspian terns, headed West, and a surprise pair of greater scaup that flew off to the East end of the bay. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55446400

4/27: Wicked Wind of the West made for a positively oceanic morning, with high surf and strong winds off the water. Long-tails, red-breasted mergs, and loons were all taking advantage of the updrafts to make strong Westward movements in the first hour, yet these all but died down by 7:30 or so. A likely contributing factor was the increase in heat shimmer as the sun rose, which made spotting low-flying fowl all but impossible among the churning breakers several miles out. A few flocks were spotted as they rose briefly above the shimmer line, but I was probably missing many birds flying closer to the UP shore. Big flight of ring-bills and herring gulls, including several immatures, which I ended up relocating at Trail’s End Bay just after the morning count, where the high surf had washed up a noxious mass of pond-weeds that around 100 gulls were sifting through. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55490764

Wind once again slowed the evening count, with few birds on the marsh. Bufflehead numbers were back up, so I expected the eared grebe to show, but it was nowhere to be seen. Briefly caught a small grebe off to the West in the scope around sunset, but it appeared a better match for horned grebe. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55490612

Painted lady, Wilderness SP

4/28: Winds continued, with little movement in general. A pintail group, two small scoter groups, and a single greater scaup were the only duck migrants, with continuing steady movement among common loons, and a number of loons and grebes loafing with the red-breasted mergs in near-shore waters. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the arrival of a lone beaver, seen moving along the shore to the East in the predawn hours. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55521445

Evening began with steady winds, but these finally abated around 8PM, and produced a real surprise: a TRICOLORED HERON. I had just finished scanning the bay to count the small red-breasted merg flocks when the heron burst from the marsh edge, and offered great looks (see eBird list for more detailed notes). I followed it in flight, as it first powered Northward, then veered West around towards Cecil Bay and Wilderness SP. Trails End Bay is really becoming a rarity magnet!

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55537110

Foggy fallouts, eared grebe continues

4/23 Bumper morning, as dawn fog caused fallouts among early fliers, many of which ended up loafing relatively close in the straits. For the first time, movements were strong among all waterfowl groups, with multiple dabbler species, several bay ducks, and loons and grebes moving in the double figures. Nearly all were headed West, with the dabblers moving earliest after a brief lift in the fog, followed by a series of loons and Aythya flocks, and ending with a rise in grebe movement near the end of the morning, when the wind was strongest. Big numbers especially among wigeon (83), mallard (64), and ring-necked duck (63), including a single-species raft of around 30 ring-necks.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55309198

White-throated Sparrow, Wilderness SP

Many of the dabblers from the morning count likely ended up as part of a large loafing assembly seen at the evening count, with 30 mallards, 26 shovelers, 42 wigeon, 9 gadwall, 6 blue-winged teal, and 7 green-winged teal feeding frantically in a sheltered area to the West. Presented a real problem for counting, as many were obscured by vegetation, and I was racing the Sun setting directly behind them, but managed to find a good viewing location a bit up the road. The local calling marsh birds (woodcock, bittern, pied-billed grebe, sandhill), were all silent tonight, surely due to the wicked Northwest wind that was battering the marsh. No doubt this was the reason for the fallout, as well. 

The eared grebe put in an appearance for the fifth night in a row, and seems very content with its neighboring bufflehead flock. Sole Caspian tern flying West at sunset, and about 80% of the dabbler flock flew West around this time as well, though I would bet they settled in either Cecil Bay or somewhere off Wilderness SP that was more sheltered than Trails End Bay tonight. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55402051

4/24: Pretty slow morning, with only a smattering of ducks besides a large raft of long-tails out towards the UP. The big movers today were loons (76)—nearly all headed West—flickers (100), and sandhill cranes (54), plus the very beginnings of what would be a massive broad-wing day at the hawk watch, as a group of raptors and cranes was seen flying North alongside the bridge right at the end of the count.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55335305

Evening count saw the marsh really come alive with resident breeders: bittern, sandhill crane, and pied-billed grebe were calling, and both woodcock and snipe (FOY) were doing their displays. Large groups of buffleheads continue, and were joined yet again by the little eared grebe, still seeming perfectly healthy and diving regularly. Five Bonaparte’s gulls were probably the only migrants on the night, headed West at the start of the count. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55374340

4/25: Very slow morning, with almost nothing moving apart from a smattering of loons and white-winged scoters. Bonaparte’s gulls were the only migrants in large numbers, with a total of 60 headed West over the five hours. FOY pine warbler sang once from the hillside, and FOY barn swallow flew past.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55389625

Evening foggy and rainy, but the usual species were present, with a new high count for buffleheads (72). Notably, in these later stages of migration, the balance is way more heavily female, with a ratio of 25m:47f, the opposite of that earlier in the season. More female common mergs were present as well. Two great blue herons, calling pied-billeds, woodcock, and snipe (bittern silent tonight), and the still-continuing eared grebe, plus a couple loons and a horned grebe further out in the fog. Single Caspian tern flyby. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55410893

Hawk Mania 2K19!

Greetings yet again fellow MSRW supporters and followers! Now I know what you may be thinking after reading the title to this blog and let me assure that YES we have started trapping diurnal raptors this past week as a side project apart from our regular owl banding duties! With the number of hawks that have been migrating as of late it is definitely worth putting in the effort to try and catch some of these migrants and gather as much data as possible as they move though the area. The crazy part about doing diurnal trapping is that we have to attempt to catch them from the late morning to the early afternoon. If you are just “OK” at math like me then you would realize that by running owl nets all night then getting up relatively early to trap, this leaves little time for sleep and rest. If I were to calculate how much sleep we get on days when we have both banded owls and hawks I would have to ballpark that number to be between anywhere from 3-4 hours of sleep! This is very hard to do but totally worth it! I’m driven by my passion for studying raptors and who needs sleep anyways it is overrated if you ask me!
Now for the exciting part of this blog, we have trapped for only two days thus far but have had incredible results. The first day of trapping took place on April 19th and we managed to band 3 adult Red-tails. Our next day of trapping took place on the April 22nd and this was a big day by anyone’s standards. We managed 12 new birds of 3 species which included 7 sharp-shinned hawks, 4 more red-tails and drummmm rolllll please….. 1 adult female Northern Harrier which is just incredible and quite honestly left me speechless! These birds are incredibly aware and are usually quite difficult to catch; we are also running a simple set-up here which makes the task all the more difficult. However the exciting thing about banding is you really never know what you may catch you may think it is impossible but literally anything is possible! It also helps that I always have an optimistic outlook on whatever it is I may be doing which I think definitely helps! This was the first harrier caught by MSRW since 2013 so it’s been a while and the dry spell has ended hallelujah! Tomorrow we will hopefully be able do some trapping as well and as always I do my best to keep all you fine folks updated on the happenings of this spring season! Until next make sure you get your 8 hours of recommended sleep and stay classy.

Adult Female Northern Harrier Captured; What a beautiful bird


Diurnal Raptor Totals:
SSHA (Sharp-shinned hawk) – 7
RTHA (Red-tailed hawk) – 7
NOHA (Northern Harrier) – 1
Total Hawks: 15

April 24, 13444

13444 Broad-winged Hawks came past the watch today, highest total for a single day this early! 7 Golden Eagles all young birds and 10 Rough-legged Hawks bringing the total so far this season to 307.