I’ll start off by saying that the night of October 27th was exceptional because it surpassed our previously most productive night of the fall (39 birds), with 42 birds. I think it is quite remarkable that so many birds are moving this far into the season, however it could be the birds were pinioned by rough weather and were forced to exodus en masse through our area when the weather cleared.
On October 28th, an incoming rain necessitated that I closed up the set around 10 pm, but before that I got to enjoy the presence of this barred owl. All of the barred owls captured thus far have been juveniles, presumably passing through the area as they search for a suitable territory to call home.
October 29th was calm and steady, at 13 saw-whet owls… until a snowshoe hare got tangled up in one of the nets. It was an awful doozy getting that animal out. But it came out regardless and we were both unharmed in the process!… except for the nets, the hare did some decent damage to the nets…
The following night (October 30) was a short night by virtue of the rain, but we still sent two saw-whet owls on their merry way.
Halloween was quite peaceful; I couldn’t operate the station at full capacity because of the off-and-on sleet, so instead I kept a watchful eye on the nearby nets. I captured four saw-whets; the little company was nice, considering no trick-or-treaters decided to brave the bitter winds of Pt. laBarbe. But that was probably for the best anyway, as I only had one piece of candy to give out. I guess I could have fell back on my supply of brussel sprouts, but I suspect that wouldn’t have gone over well.
And as for last night – the station was completely shut down due to wind and rain.
Tonight, weather conditions look… OK for movement, not ideal but hopefully the saw-whets will get their little feather-butts in gear before nightly weather conditions worsen.
As an aside, from my previous post I mentioned that barred owl waddling around my saw-whet owl set. A volunteer, Brenda Summers, was with me that morning and would like to share her photo of me taking this glamour shot (or a mug shot?) of the owl:
Not much has been going on at the station this week. The weather hasn’t been cooperative; the owls apparently aren’t big fans of all the wind, rain, and extra high humidity, and I can’t blame them!
On the morning of the 25th, I walked out of the station to check the nearby nets, and found a barred owl waddling around the set. When it noticed me, it took a fright and flopped into the net. I rushed over and grabbed it before it could shrug out of its predicament. Anyway, one band and a few measurements later, the barred owl was on its way. Hopefully it won’t be snooping around anyone’s saw-whet owl net arrays again!
Last Sunday (Oct 20), a saw-whet owl wearing an old band came to visit. The band number, 1104-43093 was familiar to me so I did a bit of sleuthing in the database from last fall. To my immense delight, this bird was actually the second saw-whet owl I banded. She had first arrived at the station on September 22 as a hatchyear bird. Now she is considered a secondyear bird, taking on the second southbound migration of her life. It is a very special experience for a bander to meet with a bird they previously banded. Of course when I release these young-of-the-year birds I wish them well and hope to see them again. The world is fraught with dangers for these small owls, and young birds learn through experiences they may not survive. 1104-43093 survived and even put on weight. I hope I or another bander will meet her again.
Last Thursday (Oct 10) Rob brought along another cohort of his students from Sault College. Conditions weren’t looking good for owl movement given the blustery southeast winds, so in the meantime we poked around the bush for critters, and enjoyed the fire while gorging on candy. To my surprised delight, a saw-whet appeared at the midnight hour. One banding demonstration later, the owl fled into the night, donning a new band and the name “Licorice”
The following three nights (Oct 11-13) were quite dull. Either my efforts were stymied prematurely due to high winds/heavy rain, or the station was completely shut down. I did have a smidge of owl action on the morning of the 14th once the winds settled, with a single saw-whet. It only takes one owl to boost morale at the station in the face of fickle fall weather.
I was relieved when Monday rolled around for a brief respite from the rain. After a spectacularly warm and gooey sunset with rainbows, the owls were ready to move. We captured and processed 18 owls.
The weather has brought some mixed results this past week.
On October 5th and 6th, the station was paralyzed due to high winds. However, the following night a gentle west wind brought 22 owls, as well as the first barred owl of the season. Ed and I were very busy!
Since then it’s been eerily slow, despite the aid of the new net array bringing in a few more owls. On Tuesday (Oct 8) we had six saw-whet owl visitors and another barred owl visitor to the station. Last night we encountered 9 more owls, but 6 of those were new; two of the others were banded a few days prior, and one was banded back in September! Most of the repeat birds had put on weight; evidently, they’re unwilling to migrate and are opting to fuel up on prey. I suspect the low movement has something to do with unfavorable southeast winds and the incoming storms.
Tuesday night we had some extra human visitors to the station, Rob’s cohort of students from Sault College. It’s always a joy to share an upclose encounter of the secretive and highly nocturnal saw-whet with folks.
Thus far we have encountered 69 newly banded saw-whet owls and four foreign recoveries, owls which were originally banded outside of our fall station. Two of the birds were banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory back in 2017: one was a hatch-year then (she hatched in the spring of 2017) and the other was a second-year, so re-capturing them in fall 2019 has confirmed their ages to be about 2.5 years and 3.5 years, respectively. We’re still waiting to hear back on the other recoveries.
Alas, the weather looks uncooperative for the foreseeable future. We’ll see how it goes.
Welcome back to the banding station. Since my last update, owls were at a paucity, but now over the past week, movement has been picking up.
Back on Tuesday (Oct 1) I enjoyed the company of six owls, which was the season’s best night. This isn’t a particularly impressive number for early October, but I still felt like a lucky lady rich in owls after nearly two weeks of effort running the banding station with hardly any activity. Thursday night was similarly bountiful, at five owls.
Thanks to special permission from TC Energy and a little extra funding, last night we manned a new saw-whet owl audio lure net array one mile northeast from our original site. There was certainly some difficulty in running a second productive net array, but it did pay off with higher numbers of saw-whets and the first long-eared owl of the season. October 4th now holds the season best at 14 saw-whets, one long-eared, and one woodcock.
Sooooo~ we’ll see how this new net array goes! The habitat is open woodland, so there’s higher potential for the nets there to yield long-eared owls and barred owls.
Season totals are as such NSWO 37 LEOW 1 Other guys: 1 woodcock, 1 whip-poor-will
I suspected that Saturday night would bring a big push, as conditions were optimized for migration relative to these past warm and windy nights; at last, a night with temperatures dropping into the crisp 40’s and a gentle wind blowing from the north.
Instead, the most productive night of the season occurred on Wednesday, the 25th, with three owls. Since then, it’s been just a wee smattering of an owl or two each night, bringing our current total to eight owls.
Apparently, it’s been rather slow for other stations in the great lakes region. I wonder if the saw-whets are biding their time at a stop-over site somewhere, fueling up on prey items. Or have they hardly budged from their breeding grounds?
Monitoring movement trends over time is why dedicated biologists run banding stations. I look forward to learning more as fall migration unfolds.
I am happy to introduce our first netted critter of the season: an eastern whip-poor-will, met Monday night.
This one hatched this spring, indicated by its set of juvenile flight feathers and wide buffy tinge to tail. I found it at the net array where the saw-whet owl audio lure is place – I wonder if the nightjar was attracted to the call as well, or just happened to amble along into the net by happenstance.
I must take a moment to profess my profuse adoration for nightjars, goatsuckers, frogmouths, nighthawks and the myriads of quirky common names.
Anyway, without further delay, I am also happy to introduce our first saw-whet owl, a girthy female (102 grams, an excellent weight) who also hatched this spring and is undertaking her first migration.
Alas, these are the only two captured avians to report as of late. I believe migration is delayed this season due to the balmy weather, but perhaps a few more owls and friends will trickle into the station before cold fronts come and migration can start in earnest.
Last fall, there was speculation that it was a poor reproductive year because of regional population crashes of the red vole, which is a major prey resource for small owls. However, last night I encountered a small good omen:
I hope to see a higher proportion of healthy young owls stream down through the Straits.
September 20th was the first night of my second season running the MSRW owl banding station. I am very glad to share what I see and hear here at Point la Barbe until the fall migration season comes to a close on November 10th.
That said, it was an owl-less night. Dropping temeratures caused the 100% humidity index to descend upon the land as a soupy mist. This sort of weather is not ideal to the travelling saw-whet owl, who must take great care to prevent its poorly water resistant feathers from getting soaked. I got drenched just wading through some tall grass and juniper.
This afternoon I woke up to Ed preparing the diurnal raptor luring station, which was a nice surprise. A few hours of sweltering in the blind later, we were treated with 7 female sharp-shinned hawks and 1 red-tailed hawk.
There are lots of things to look forward to this autumn, such as mushroom and berry hunting, monarch butterfly tagging, ogling at hawks, and of course the owls. Perhaps even milking goats if Ed and Anne will indulge me.
Storms are forecasted for the weekend, but maybe there will be opportunity to open the owl nets in between intermittent showers.