Category Archives: 2016

Owl Banding Fall 2016 Season Summary

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI

What a season, I’m so glad I came back to The Straits for fall migration! We captured and banded 550 owls between September 20th and November 10th of which 541 were Saw-whets, 8 were Long-eared Owls, and 1 was a Barred Owl. The majority of Saw-whet owls captured were hatch year females. It is understandable why there were so many hatch years, as winter will be the first test of their fitness, but the jury is still out on why so many more females were caught versus males. Are male owls not attracted to the audio lure like the females, or do males stay on their territories all winter? Further research is needed to answer that question.

I would like to thank all the great people at the Mackinaw Straits Raptor Watch for the support and opportunity to participate in such an amazing experience and all the visitors that made it out to the station to see what we do. The company was greatly appreciated. It helped break up the monotony of living and working like a vampire alone in the dark! Also, big thank you to everyone who donated towards the new living quarters, your generosity made for a much more comfortable season for me and any future owl banders!


Waterbird Count, November 10 — Finale

The fall 2016 season has come to an end. Things were slowing down in the past few days and more birds were resting in the Straits than migrating. The last day was overall unremarkable, but at least it was warm despite strong SW winds. The highlight was probably 2 Black Scoters. This season brought more Black Scoters than I had anticipated. I suspect that Black Scoters may have surpassed Surf Scoters in total individuals. I will post a season summary once I have all the data compiled.

It was a very enjoyable season with many wonderful birds. This season’s data will tell us a lot about how waterbirds utilize the Straits in the fall. I’m grateful MSRW invited me to do the count!

Mallard – 3
Redhead – 53
Lesser Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 26
Black Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 291
Common Goldeneye – 8
Red-breasted Merganser – 14
Common Loon – 10
loon sp. – 1
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 4
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Bald Eagle – 4

First winter Ring-billed Gull, 11/09/16

First winter Ring-billed Gull, 11/09/16

Waterbird Count, November 9

Quite a good day of movement, especially considering it’s the penultimate day of the count. The first three hours were very productive, but it slowed down heavily afterward. There were many raptors moving south, but the west winds pushed most of them beyond my detection. Still, I had 3 Golden Eagles and 8 Rough-legged Hawks. In the morning, I also had a presumably local Merlin flying northward. I hadn’t seen a Merlin in a month or so prior to today.

Redhead – 1020 (all birds from east of the Mackinac Bridge moving west)
Greater Scaup – 4
White-winged Scoter – 70
Long-tailed Duck – 886
Bufflehead – 101
Common Goldeneye – 10
Common Merganser – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 38
duck sp. – 7
Common Loon – 7
loon sp. – 1
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Golden Eagle – 3
Bald Eagle – 8
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
Rough-legged Hawk – 8
Merlin – 1

Owl Banding 11/08/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 8th, 2016

The season is finally coming to an end. In the last 4 nights we’ve been averaging 2-3 birds a night and have even had a night with 0 birds. On the night of the 7th, high winds cut the night short and it was the first night we haven’t had any birds since the very first day of the banding season on September 20th! Last night was better; though numbers were low we were treated to a Long-eared Owl at 5 AM, a hatch year with sex unknown. We also caught 2 Saw-whets for the night, 1 after second year unknown and 1 hatch year female. There are 2 more nights left in the season, but high winds are in the forecast. We’ve caught 546 owls this season… can we make it to 550?

Waterbird Count, November 8

Strong NW wind made it feel much colder than it was, but it brought some decent movement. Aside from it being my best Bufflehead day, there wasn’t much of note. Overall, not a bad haul for the end of the season.

Gadwall – 11
American Wigeon – 1
Mallard – 6
Redhead – 257
Greater Scaup – 14
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 1
Aythya sp. – 1
White-winged Scoter – 21
Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 225
Bufflehead – 159
Common Goldenye – 22
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 2
Red-breasted Merganser – 32
duck sp. – 54
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 12
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 9

Bald Eagle – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

Waterbird Count, November 5 & November 7

November 5
A bit out of order, but November 5 was actually pretty productive. I had good numbers for all the usual species, especially Bufflehead for which it was my best day as of yet. Another highlight was an adult Golden Eagle migrating south near the bridge. I’m thankful to Darrell who covered for me on November 6 so Steve Baker, Jack & Bev Kirby, and I could go see the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI — the third state record!

Mallard – 3
Redhead – 185
Greater Scaup – 10
White-winged Scoter – 64
Long-tailed Duck – 463
Bufflehead – 80
Common Goldeneye – 19
Common Merganser – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 26
duck sp. – 193
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 6
Horned Grebe – 2
Red-necked Grebe – 7
Double-crested Cormorant – 2

Golden Eagle – 1
Northern Harrier – 4
Bald Eagle – 2
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

November 7
In contrast to the 5th, today was very slow. It reminded me of the days in early August in terms of slowness, but also in terms of nice weather. I still saw some nice species diversity, including my best day for American Black Ducks with an impressive 5 birds.

American Black Duck – 5
Mallard – 6
Redhead – 12
White-winged Scoter – 25
Black Scoter – 2
Surf/Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 133
Common Goldeneye – 3
Common Merganser – 2
Red-breasted Merganser – 20
duck sp. – 125
Common Loon – 3
Horned Grebe – 4
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Bald Eagle – 2

Photos of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher — not very relevant to the count or Straits area, but relevant for Michigan’s avifauna history.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Long-tailed Duck in Munising, MI, 11/06/16

Long-tailed Duck in Munising, MI, 11/06/16

Waterbirds – 11/6

I filled in for Jason today so he could have a rare day off and so he could go track down the Fork-tailed Kingbird that has been hanging out in the Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border.  It was a pretty slow day but had a few highlights.  There were two large flocks of Mallards that flew by to the east.  I know you’re thinking “big deal, Mallards?”  The thing is, Mallards are actually not all that common during the waterbird count.  One flock even had an American Black Duck with it.  Other unusual birds included a late Northern Harrier and a Hooded Merganser.  Other than that it was mostly the usual suspects: Long-tailed Ducks, Redheads, Red-breasted Mergansers and White-winged Scoters.  Here is the full list with some photos following.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  1
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)  1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  56
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  1
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)  15
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  4
Aythya sp. (Aythya sp.)  117
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)  59
Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)  1
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)  354
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  23
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  8
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)  36
duck sp. (Anatinae sp.)  93
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata)  2
Common Loon (Gavia immer)  3
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)  3
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)  3
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  3
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (borealis) (Buteo jamaicensis borealis)  1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  13
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  4
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  7
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  7
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  3
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  31


American Goldfinch


Black-capped Chickadee


Common Mergansers


Not a great photo, but Hooded Mergansers don’t fly by the count very often.  And why not show photos of all three Mergansers species?


Red-breasted Mergansers


This Ring-billed Gull kept me company most of the day.


Tufted Titmouse


White-breasted Nuthatch


White-winged Scoters flying behind a Horned Grebe with part of St. Ignace in the background.

Owl Banding 11/05/16

Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace, MI
Night of November 5th, 2016

High winds kept us from opening nets on the 4th, but the night of the 5th was a beautiful calm night even with the heavy fog that set in around midnight. There was a little migration movement happening last night and we caught 4 new Saw-whets and 1 repeat from the night of the 2nd. Of the new birds caught, all were hatch year birds, 3 were female and 1 was male. After several favorable nights with low numbers, I’m wondering if migration is finally coming to an end. Our season totals are now 532 Northern Saw-whet Owls, 7 Long-eared Owls, and 1 Barred Owl for a grand total of 540 owls so far!

Waterbird Tour, Nov. 5, 2016

On Sat. Nov. 5, 2016 the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch conducted a waterbird tour around the Straits area; starting at McGulpin Point with waterbird counter Jason Newton and then across the bridge to Saint Ignace area.  Sixteen people and the leaders Ed Pike and Steve Baker enjoyed great weather.

It was a beautiful day for Nov. 5 with temperatures starting in the forties and climbing into the sixties, sunny, with light to moderate westerly winds.  We observed 24 species of waterbirds and five species of Raptors with a few song birds mixed in giving us a total of 45 species for the day.

At McGulpin Point we had distant looks at Long-tailed Duck, Horned Grebe, Common Loon,  Red-breasted Merganser and Herring and Ring-billed Gull.

We then went across the Mackinac Bridge to the Saint Ignace area where we had great looks at Long-tailed Ducks, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Redhead Ducks (about 3000 in total), Red-necked and Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant, Common and Hooded Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Herring and Ring-billed Gull.   There was also a family of 2 adult and 2 young Sandhill Cranes on the beach at the north end of town.

After lunch we went to the Moran area and just east of Moran, Steve Baker observed a Rough-legged Hawk land in a tree.  We stopped to look at it and during the next 45 minutes were treated to several Rough-leg’s hovering with great looks at several light morph and one dark morph.  We saw a total of at least 10 Rough-leg, 2 N. Harrier, 2 Bald Eagle, 2 Red-tailed Hawk and to top it off had a great look at an adult Golden Eagle that flew over us.  We then went to Brevort Lake area and saw a Great Blue Heron, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Green-winged Teal.

Along the way in our travels we observed Ruffed Grouse, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Am. Crow, C. Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Am. Robin, European Starling, Am. Pipit, Snow Bunting and Am. Goldfinch.

A great day with great birds.

Ed Pike

Waterbird Count, November 4

Strong westerly winds all day brought some pretty good movement. It was my best day for Common Goldeneyes thus far. I saw a lot of raptors kettling across the Straits, but never ended up seeing many cross except a few Bald Eagles. Over the past few days I’ve seen some dead waterbirds floating in the lake, usually being picked at by Herring Gulls. It’s possible these birds are victims of botulism, or perhaps were killed by duck hunters — ideally the latter. The deceased birds have been primarily Long-tailed Ducks and a single White-winged Scoter.

American Black Duck – 2
Mallard – 3
Redhead – 110
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 5
White-winged Scoter – 86
Long-tailed Duck – 166
Bufflehead – 18
Common Goldeneye – 109
Common Merganser – 7
Red-breasted Merganser – 101
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 9
duck sp. – 467
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 16
Horned Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1

Bald Eagle – 9