2018 Spring Owl Banding Update

Greetings once again fellow raptor enthusiasts! Welcome back to another update for the spring owl banding blog. We’ve had some very pleasant weather lately which we’re very happy about considering the extended winter we had to endure. Most nights have been partly cloudy to clear with a very bright full moon. At time we didn’t even need any headlamps to walk between the different net locations! The saw-whet migration has been fairly good still with us capturing an average of 5 owls per night for the past week.

Our owl count for the past six nights is as follows:

APR 26: 11 saw-whets

APR 27: 6 saw-whets

APR 28: 7 saw-whets

APR 29: 4 saw-whets, 1 Sharp-shinned hawk

APR 30: 3 saw-whets

May 1: 1 saw whet, we closed early due to thunderstorms moving into the area.

As you can see in addition to our saw-whets, we captured and banded another sharp-shinned hawk which flew into the net on our final check in the morning. This hawk was another second year (SY) female very similar to the first sharp-shinned hawk we caught a week ago.

We also have been hearing at least two boreal owls calling intermittently for the past 5 nights. We’ve attempted to lure them into the nets by playing their call on the audio lure, however, thus far we have been unsuccessful. Boreal owls are rare to have in the area and usually only move further south in search of more food when food is getting sparse in their normal range. In years where this happens it is known as an “irruption year” and usually follows a multi-year cycle. This also happens with other owl species such as the great gray owl from time to time. I can’t say for certain that this year is an irruption year for boreal owls, however it has been 3 or 4 years since any boreals have been observed by MSRW owl banders. In any case it is very exciting to experience new owl species!

Two nights ago we acquired another audio caller which we used to broadcast for the boreal owls at a different net location while still using our main audio caller for saw-whets. Last night (MAY 1) we switched the caller to play the long-eared owl call in hopes of attracting some long-ears to our nets. I believe we will continue to play the long-eared call on the second caller for the remainder of the migration with the hope of capturing and banding a few.

Yesterday afternoon (MAY 1) we had a group of 8th grade ecology seminar students from the Petoskey Middle School visit us. Connor and I gave a short presentation about the research we’re conducting and the banding techniques we use. We also took a walk out to a few of the nets so the students could see how they are set up and how they function. It was great having theses students and their teachers come out and learn about the important research that we’re doing.

Thanks for checking in and be sure to stop back often for more owl banding updates as well as updates from the hawk count and waterbird count.




Northern saw-whet owls: 149

Sharp-shinned hawks: 2

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