Category Archives: Owl Banding 2014

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!

3-7 November

The weather at the Straits has been rough over the last handful of days. We’ve received rain, sleet, snow, and/or high winds, which have made it impossible to band.

When the mist nets are wet, they cling to everything-almost becoming a sticky mess. They cling together, to your skin, clothes, grass, leaves, sticks…and, yes, they, especially, cling to feathers. Since the safety of the bird is our first priority, we absolutely do not band in the rain.

On evenings when the winds are blowing 15 mph or greater, we generally do not open the nets for a couple of different reasons. First, when the winds are really blasting, the nets are blown open and become taut, which make it relatively easy for a bird to pop right out. Secondly, depending on the wind direction, we don’t expect owls to be moving much on evenings with high winds. North winds in the fall, however, are the exception.

Having said that, the winds are blowing at about 10-15 with gusts as high as 20 from the north tonight, which is why I’m out here right now hoping to catch any stragglers as they make their way south. (Cold fingers and toes crossed)

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 25 October

Another blustery fall evening at the Straits. The winds were supposedly going to die down as the night progressed, but they actually continued to build.

 You’ll never guess what we caught on each net check though. Cedar leaves! And lots of them. We cleaned the nets out on each net check and made the call to close around 2100 hrs. The west winds were gusting to over 25 mph and continued to blow into the early morning.

The weather forecast for tonight looks great with light NW winds and clear skies. It could be a good one!