In the home stretch! Raptor Banding update

As we approach the middle of May it is hard to believe that the Spring migration season is almost over mostly because it really feels like we only started yesterday. I guess the old adage is true that time really does fly when you are having fun. I mean the fun of monitoring and catching the migratory raptors of course, not the fun of sitting inside all day patiently awaiting the return to normalcy. Which is what I do when I’m not in the field by the way. Now let’s dive into a recap of what’s been going on over the past couple of weeks.

   Since I last left you, we stood at 97 birds captured of 11 species. Since then we have managed to add an impressive 45 birds which has now brought our season total to 142 birds of 11 species banded. This is a good number despite battling adverse weather and losing many days over the last couple of weeks. Add to that a lot of northerly winds and this has only helped supress migration. We still await more birds as a lot of them seem to be delayed, so we are hoping we will catch a decent number before our season ends at the end of the month. I’m an optimist though, and I like to set goals and right now my goal would be to reach 200 raptors captured which would be an amazing feat for an inaugural season. Let’s be honest though I’m super happy with where we are now, and more birds is just a bonus to show how good of a spot we are in to band diurnal raptors. A lot has happened in terms of captures recently so I will try to give you a summary of the best highlights.

   May 4th, or as many Star Wars franchise enthusiasts know it as (May the fourth be with you) turned out to be a great day despite what you may personally refer to this date as. Albeit cold we managed 1 RTHA, 3 SSHA and 1 Northern Harrier which was our 6th for the season and our first “Second Year” harrier. Meaning it had hatched in 2019 and survived its first migration. This young male is on his way to becoming an infamous “Gray ghost.” After that, on May 5th we were skunked in terms of raptors but managed to catch two Northern Flickers (Yellow-shafted) as incidental by-catch. These birds were banded and released. Then May 6th was also a great day as we managed 2 RTHA and the big surprise were two second year Northern Goshawks. This species is normally an earlier migrant in the spring but since these aren’t adults, they probably will not breed this summer, and that is potentially why they are returning later then usual. After that we had a stretch of bad weather and on days we were open we only caught a bird or two. The next highlight was on May 10th when we captured our second Cooper’s hawk of the season, and just like the goshawks it to was a young male. I guess I miss capturing these guys because out west in Idaho they were are second most captured species with well over 200 caught, so it was refreshing to see another one and add it to our spring totals. After this the next few days were relatively slow with all that north wind, except for one awesome highlight! Let me elaborate:

   On May 12th, at the end of a very slow day I managed to bring in a young red-tail. What was unique was that this bird was wearing a band already which was super exciting! The reason being is that there are such few raptor banders/stations that getting a recapture is quite uncommon. Probably less the 1% of diurnal raptors banded are re-trapped at a different station and most banded diurnal raptors are more likely going to be re-sighted or found dead. Still all valuable information no matter what the case. Anyways, this story takes a neat twist as it turns out this bird was banded April 2nd of this year at Detroit Metro Airport from MSRW’s former biologist Selena Creed! What a small world! This red-tail after being removed from the airport was then released in Holly Michigan. It then took over a month to meander 238 miles north to where our station is, an awesome recapture to say the least.

Right now I sit here and look outside waiting for the rain to pass patiently waiting to get back in the field and get more birds before I wave goodbye to the 2020 season…… Until next time as always, stay classy folks!

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

6   NOHA (Northern Harrier)

5   MERL (Merlin)

4   AMKE (American Kestrel)

3   NOGO (Northern Goshawk)

2   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

60 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

58 RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

2   RSHA (Red-shouldered Hawk)

2   BWHA (Broad-winged Hawk)

1   RLHA (Rough-Legged Hawk)

1   GOEA (Golden Eagle)

Total Birds: 142