Category Archives: 2017

Fall Hawk count summary 2017

It appears the fall Hawk Count has ended; I thought we would have a few more good days, but that has not happened. A few more observations may occur if there is a break in the weather and the skies clear over the Straits and the winds are not gusting 30 to 40 miles per hour. The last official day of counting was on Nov. 10. Since that date the weather has not cooperated. It has been cloudy, very windy or precipitating every day (some days it was clear south of Gaylord with heavy clouds over the Straits) which doesn’t lead to many raptors moving.
We feel we had a good preliminary count with a total of 241 hrs. of observation by Steve Baker and Ed Pike with assistance from Bruce Seeger, Jack and Bev Kirby, Sue Stewart, and Sue Bissell with many people stopping by to witness the migration. A number of comments were made that Point LaBarbe is a great place for a Hawk watch with many raptors flying low enough for good views. (There were also days when the Raptors looked like dots in the sky.) The count occurred from August 25 through Nov. 10. A total of 8719 individual Raptors were counted of 15 species (daily results can be found at Not many Broad-winged Hawks were observed which was expected since there are reports every fall of thousands of Broad-wings flying southwest along the Lake Michigan shoreline in the area east of Escanaba. We did count good numbers of Red-tails (2,451) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (1,985). On Oct. 11 a peak count occurred with 698 raptors counted. On Oct. 29 a one day record for Michigan in the fall; 86 Rough-legged Hawks were counted; with 46 counted on the 28 th giving a total fall count of 211 Rough-legs (our spring counts average 160 Rough-legged).
We hope to be able to continue the fall Hawk Count in the fall of 2018 conducting a full count possibly with a contract Hawk Counter.
Hope to see you for the spring 2018 Hawk Count at Mackinaw City.

Owls: Season Summary

Fall owl banding at Point LaBarbe in St. Ignace began on September 17th and finished up on November 10th. Although we faced many nights of adverse weather, mainly heavy precipitation and fierce winds, we managed to open our nets for 38 nights this season. Throughout that time, 282 owls were captured. A total of 280 were Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus), while one Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) and one Barred Owl (Strix varia) were also captured.

As suspected, the main movement of Saw-whets occurred in mid- October, more specifically from Oct 9th to Oct 24th. We managed to catch 126 owls in that time. Our best night occurred on Oct 13 when we captured a season best of 28 Saw- whets. A highlight from the season was capturing 16 Saw-whets that were already banded, which we call foreign recaptures. Two notable recaptures were: one Saw-whet from Fairfield, Ohio and another from Wabasha, Minnesota. We also had a recapture that was banded at Point LaBarbe in Oct 2014 and was aged at that time as an after second year (ASY) bird. We caught this bird October 11th 2017 and also aged it as an ASY. This means that this bird is at least 6 years old!

Another exciting development is that two owls we banded this fall have already been recaptured further south. One Saw-whet was banded by us on September 29th and was recovered on November 4th in Ridgway, PA, a journey over 600 miles from our St. Ignace location. Another Saw-whet we banded on October 13th was recaptured in Chesterton, IN on November 11th. This bird managed to fly over 375 miles in just under a month. Despite many nights of unfavourable weather, the fall 2017 owl banding season ended up being quite successful. Owl capture rates were unusually high last fall, yet we still managed to capture 282 owls this fall, the second most abundant yield since owl banding began at Point LaBarbe in 2014. This fall has been fantastic and thank you to everyone who kept up with our blogs. Until next time my fellow strigiphiles, good owling !


Waterbird Count – 9 November

Crazy snow and wind today! I started the count at ten twenty once the snow stopped, and even without the busier hours this morning it was still a pretty active day for the count. Heaviest winds of the season (gusting over 35mph) were shaking my car on the beach and making for some pretty intense waves, but lots of goldeneyes on the move despite that.
White-winged Scoter – 15
Scoter sp. – 6
Long-tailed Duck – 16
Common Goldeneye – 72
Common Merganser – 9
Red-breasted Merganser – 1
Duck sp. – 33
Ring-billed Gull – 4
Herring Gull – 5
Other species:
Bald Eagle – 3
American Crow – 2

Waterbird Count – 8 November

Similar weather today to the last few days, but a bit more activity in terms of duck movement. It was mostly Mergansers and Goldeneye moving again, but the first Greater Scaup that I’ve had in a couple weeks flew by as well. My personal highlight for the day was watching two adult Bald Eagles tussle in mid-air as they passed through the straits, frequently doing complete somersaults in the air to bare their talons at each other.
Greater Scaup – 1
Surf Scoter – 7
White-winged Scoter – 7
Long-tailed Duck – 19
Common Goldeneye – 26
Common Merganser – 4
Red-breasted Merganser – 38
Loon sp. – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 3
Herring Gull – 2
Other species:
Bald Eagle – 2
American Crow – 15

Owl: Winter is coming…

The fall owl banding season here at St.Ignance is almost over… as the cold winds of fall turn into snow we are going to depart soon just like our feathered friends. That being said from Nov 6th until last night we were able to band 6 more new Saw-whets. However tonight is our last night of banding and the weather does not look favorable to open but we will have to wait and see. Stay tuned for a final blog post and some pictures of some diurnal raptors we caught. Season totals stand at:

280th Saw-whet of the season!


NSWO: 280                



Total owls: 282

Waterbird Count – 7 November

The wind quieted down a bit since yesterday, but it was still pretty breezy out of the west today. It was another pretty quiet day for ducks despite that, and unfortunately the Harlequin didn’t make a reappearance.

Redhead – 5

White-winged Scoter – 36

scoter sp. – 8

Long-tailed Duck – 1

Bufflehead – 2

Common Goldeneye – 11

Common Merganser – 6

Red-breasted Merganser – 17

duck sp. – 13

Ring-billed Gull – 2

Herring Gull – 2


Other species:

Bald Eagle – 1

American Crow – 4

Hawk Count Nov. 7

Today Ed Pike, Steve Baker and Bruce Seeger counted raptors with Jack and Bev Kirby stopping by for a visit. It was cold (28 at 8:30 and 38 by noon) with northwest winds, peaks of sunshine. Few raptors were flying with those that were flying were very high. We did see one Golden Eagle and a few Red-tails. 4 “V’s” of Sandhill Cranes flew south across the Straits. Still hoping for more Rough-legged Hawks and Golden Eagles; maybe a Snowy Owl.
Golden Eagle 1
Bald Eagle 3
Red-tailed Hawk 5
Unidentified Buteo 2
Sandhill Crane 69

Waterbird Count – 6 November

Strong northwest winds today and colder temps than the last few days brought more activity through the straits today, but the primary species present was again Red-breasted Mergansers. After five days with no sign of the Harlequin, I was thinking that it had moved on, but I was pleased to see it land right out from the beach again this morning. It spent about an hour loafing on the water before flying off right as Carol showed up to see it. Glad to see that it’s still alive and well!
Mallard – 1
Redhead – 30
Harlequin Duck – 1
White-winged Scoter – 6
Long-tailed Duck – 11
Bufflehead – 3
Common Goldeneye – 18
Common Merganser – 7
Red-breasted Merganser – 17
duck sp. – 50
Horned Grebe – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 2
Herring Gull – 1
Other species:
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 3
American Crow – 1

Owl Update: Gales of November

As we know from Gordon Lightfoot’s infamous song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, the gales of November are not good for freighters… or owl movement in this case. From November 1st-6th the number of captures have decreased exponentially. This is not for a lack of trying as we have been open most nights this past week and captured only 4 more Saw-whets. One was a foreign recap and 3 were newly banded birds. The only owls that presumably remain are those that have decided to leave later and wait last minute before embarking on their migration.

In other news we have received information that a Saw-whet we banded here on September 29 was recaptured just a few days ago in all the way in Du Bois, Pennsylvania! From St. Ignance, that is approximately 600 miles away, quite the journey for this small owl to do in about a month. Our season here is almost over, as banding duties finish on November 10th. We stay positive that these last few days will bring in a few more owls. Season totals are as follows:

NSWO: 274



Total owls: 276


Waterbird Count – 5 November

Another rainy, foggy day today. It was pretty quiet again, with light south winds and low visibility throughout the count until it eventually got hazy enough in the afternoon that I called it a bit early. More stuff was moving today than yesterday, with several small groups of Buffleheads  and Common Goldeneye moving, and a larger flock of White-winged Scoters heading west. Bruce stopped by for a few hours, since it was too foggy for much to be happening over at the hawk watch. Looks as if the weather tomorrow might kick some ducks up, so we’ll see what happens! Hoping the last week of the count is a busy one.


Mallard – 2

White-winged Scoter – 21

Long-tailed Duck – 36

Bufflehead – 36

Common Goldeneye – 25

Common Merganser – 4

Red-breasted Merganser – 41

Common Loon – 1

Horned Grebe – 2

Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Ring-billed Gull – 2

Herring Gull – 1