Category Archives: Hawk Banding

Buteo Mania 2K20: Hawk Trapping update 2

Greetings once again fellow supporters and followers of MSRW. Since my last blog post there has been a lot going in terms of bird movement, birds being captured and spring migration in general. Where to begin… Well since I’m the raptor trapper for the spring, I guess it makes sense to focus on the trapping, and this just also happens to be my favorite!

   On our initial day as I mentioned before we were not fully operational and were still figuring things out in terms of the actual set-up itself. Now we are fully set-up and have had some great days trapping despite it being quite early in the spring and migration is yet to reach peak. On April 1st we had anticipated it to be a slow day due to weather and wind and overall, it was just not great. Despite the poor weather we did manage to capture one bird on the day this being a Red-shouldered hawk. Now this is exciting for two reasons; firstly, they are primarily reptile and rodent predators and are not usually as interested in what we had to offer, European starlings and Rock dove “pigeon.” But sometimes these birds will take a chance on different prey items if the opportunity presents itself. Little do they know that the lure birds are protected by leather vests.  It should be noted that only invasive species in North America are used to lure raptors. The second reason I wanted to mention why this was also super exciting is because this was the first Red-shouldered captured for MSRW! It was great to be part of history no matter how small the feat. Note the lighter color in the outer primaries. This appears as a translucent comma when you see Red-shouldered hawks soar overhead.  All ages and sexes show this pattern.  The red on the ‘shoulder’ of the bird is not always visible.

   We then trapped again on the 2nd of April and managed to capture 6 birds, 2 Sharp-shinned hawks and 4 Red-tailed hawks and it was a great day all around. That being said in the game of trapping it is always a good day when you at least catch one bird and do not get skunked. Coming into the 3rd we expected a good day as the winds seemed favorable and our optimism was high. To start we captured an adult female Rough-legged hawk early in the morning. Once again, an uncommon catch as they prefer a more rodent based diet. These birds are also stunning and each one shows so much individual variation they are truly breathtaking and by far my favorite hawk species. It is also always a treat to get to see one in hand! After that the day was slow and I assumed all our good karma had been used up on that early “gourmet” bird. Then in the late afternoon things picked up again and we captured 8 adult red-tails in the span of a few hours.

   We will not be trapping on April 4th due to the rainy weather as that is the forecast. However, we hope to be back out there on the 5th and are hoping that the only rain we get will be in the form of raptors falling from the sky and subsequently being captured! Until Next time as always stay classy.

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

5   SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

15 RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

1   RSHA (Red-shouldered Hawk)

1   RLHA (Rough-Legged Hawk)

Total Birds: 22

Raptor Trapping 2020: Kicking the Season Off!

   As the snow begins to melt and the ice breaks up over the straits, we now hear Red-wings and Robins singing daily, signaling that spring is here! This means that many birds are starting their journey north to return to their breeding grounds for the summer. We here at MSRW are excited about documenting the ongoing raptor migration in a new way this spring.

   As some of you may remember in past seasons, we had mentioned capturing diurnal raptors on occasion. Usually it was when we owl banders thought we had enough energy to stay up even longer during the day than normal. We would then set up a trapping rig and attempt to catch whatever diurnal raptors may be flying over, usually with pretty good success.

   After leaving Michigan last spring I accepted a job with Intermountain Bird Observatory in Boise, Idaho. Now this is one of the premiere raptor trapping spots in the country and I was fortunate enough to be trained and eventually became one of their lead trappers at their primary trapping site. After that job had finished, I knew that I needed to use what I had learned and bring it here to MSRW and combine that with all the knowledge Ed Pike, the chair of MSRW has and bring to fruition a full-time spring trapping station here! We both knew of the potential due to how spectacular the spring migration is in these parts and from how well we had done trapping in previous years.  Well we have done it! We have designed a whole station set-up to catch raptors. This will occur from April through to May. We got a head start and set-up partially on March 27th and hopefully everything will be up by Monday March 30th weather permitting. With only two mist nets, the 27th was a very successful first day with 3 adult Sharp-shinned hawks and 2 adult red-tailed hawks being captured. We hope you stay tuned to future blog posts as migration heats up and things get better and better. Until next time, stay classy folks


Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

3 – SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

2- RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

Total Birds: 5

Fall 2019 owl and hawk banding

Hello again everyone!

September 20th was the first night of my second season running the MSRW owl banding station. I am very glad to share what I see and hear here at Point la Barbe until the fall migration season comes to a close on November 10th.

That said, it was an owl-less night. Dropping temeratures caused the 100% humidity index to descend upon the land as a soupy mist. This sort of weather is not ideal to the travelling saw-whet owl, who must take great care to prevent its poorly water resistant feathers from getting soaked. I got drenched just wading through some tall grass and juniper.

This afternoon I woke up to Ed preparing the diurnal raptor luring station, which was a nice surprise. A few hours of sweltering in the blind later, we were treated with 7 female sharp-shinned hawks and 1 red-tailed hawk.

Adult sharp-shinned hawk in her second year of life.
Young red-tail who hatched this spring is on its first migration. Good luck out there!

There are lots of things to look forward to this autumn, such as mushroom and berry hunting, monarch butterfly tagging, ogling at hawks, and of course the owls. Perhaps even milking goats if Ed and Anne will indulge me.

Storms are forecasted for the weekend, but maybe there will be opportunity to open the owl nets in between intermittent showers.

Let’s see what the night brings.

Until next time,


Banding Am. Kestrel nestlings

Nesting season is well underway and the Am. Kestrels are, in a few cases, still sitting on eggs; while most are busy feeding young. Some nest boxes that were active in 2018 are empty, some that were empty in 2018 now have nests. Sadly a few reports have come in that, the Am. Kestrels appeared at the nest boxes this spring, but for unknown reasons left the area.

Some Little Traverse Conservancy nest boxes are again occupied with 3 nests totaling 14 nestlings banded so far.

Jim and Kathy Bricker have 2 nest boxes out in Cheboygan County which are occupied, one with 4 eggs and the other with 4 young which were banded on June 19.

For the third season, I am again working with Arnie Pokorzynski. Arnie is checking nest boxes he has placed in the Alpena County area over a number of years. Arnie thinks he has about 40 nest boxes scattered around the county. On June 20, I met Arnie and we returned to 7 nest boxes Arnie had found with young and banded 30 nestlings.

That makes a total of 48 nestlings and one adult female banded so far. Hopefully this next week we will be banding more nestlings.

1 unhatched egg and 4- 4 day old nestlings
Arnie getting nestlings from box

3 – 15 day old Am. Kestrel nestlings

Hawk trapping season wrap up:


Unfortunately our time hawk trapping in Mackinaw has ended. However that being said the last week of trapping produced some very interesting captures and good numbers. Since my last update on the 30th we were able to get in four more sessions of trapping before I departed Michigan on May 9th. Our first session occurred on May 3rd. This day was very slow except for one capture and no it wasn’t a red-tail hawk which is our most prevalent species captured but instead we caught a PEREGRINE FALCON!!! Now this was exciting not only because it was the first PEFA ever caught by MSRW but because it was already banded. Now mind you most Peregrines are already banded due to their population numbers being so low, therefore most breeding pairs and chicks are monitored and all banded. Now the guy we captured has quite the story. He was originally banded in June of 2015 as a nestling at the international bridge in Sault St. Marie and they named him Frank. Now I am not sure what side of the bridge he was on but since I’m Canadian I am of course bias and hope that this bird is a fellow Canuck like me! Anyways, Frank now currently resides on the Mackinaw Bridge and is reported to be nesting there which is awesome. I guess he decided to move to Northern Michigan like myself. Needless to say Frank is 4 years old now and all of us at MSRW hope he has a successful nesting season.

Frank the Foreign Recapture Peregrine Falcon

Out of the 4 trapping sessions that occurred during the last week on two separate occasions we got skunked meaning we caught nothing which was very disheartening but that’s the name of the game and good days come with slow days. However on our last day we had a fantastic day which occurred on May 5th.  We managed to capture 7 red-tailed hawks in just a few hours which was a great way to end the trapping season. Out of these 7 tails 6 were second year birds and 1 was an adult with the beautiful red tail. Also during my last two nights of owl banding I passively caught 2 more Sharp-shinned hawks so they were added to this specific diurnal raptor list! In conclusion I bid all you fine people of Northern Michigan a fine farewell for now as I continue on to my next field job in Central Illinois where I will be monitoring Eastern Whip-poor wills with the University of Illinois over the summer and luckily enough my assistant from Cheboygan Chad will be with me here as well… what a small world. Until next time stay classy and hopefully I will be back in the North sooner rather then later!

Diurnal Raptor Totals:

SSHA (Sharp-shinned hawk) – 9

RTHA (Red-tailed hawk) – 18

NOHA (Northern Harrier) – 1

MERL (Merlin) – 1

PEFA (Peregrine Falcon) – 1

Total Hawks/Falcons: 30

Trap City aka Mackinaw City: Hawk Update X2

Greetings yet again MSRW followers and supporters! It has been just over a week since my last blog regarding our raptor trapping side project and I thought now would be the perfect time to give everyone an update. Since the 23rd we have been able to make it over to Mackinaw on a few occasions and yes we have still been capturing birds and EVEN added a new species for the spring!

Adult Male Merlin Captured! What a Beauty

The highlight came on the 24th when we were expecting a big day but caught only one bird, however that bird was an after second year male Merlin! Now I would like to tell you that I was the great trapper that lured this bird into our set-up but it was quite the contrary. This merlin just seemed to be flying by to check out our set-up and passively got caught in our mist-net. Regardless of how it happened it was super exciting and made the day all worthwhile on what turned out to be a dead day with empty skies. Since then we decided to switch our trapping spot to a more open area in the hopes of increasing Buteo specie captures in this case we are primarily after Red-tailed hawks. Anyway our next day out was on the 26th and we managed to capture two new red tails! Winds were strong that day and we had over 8 red tails come into to check us out but none committed and instead perched in a nearby trees off and on throughout the day as if to tease us. The next trapping day occurred on the 30th and this day was different for a few reasons. First my assistant Chad had to depart back to his home state of Illinois to get ready for his next field job which coincidentally I will be working with him yet again for the summer! BUT I will tell all you fine folks about that next job as I get closer to my own departure date. Now back to the good stuff, since Chad was gone that meant that local legend and chair of MSRW Ed Pike was going to join me in the blind today, it is always nice to have his company. The change in personal must have brought us some luck as we managed yet another 2 new red-tails, we also had one get out of the net and had a few make passes but overall it was a very good day! Ed will be accompanying me in the blind for the remainder of the season as we will continue to trap this upcoming week as often as the weather permits us. Until next time keep your eyes to the sky and as always stay classy!

Ed got in on the fun and banded his first red-tail for 2019! Hopefully many more to come

Diurnal Raptor Totals:

SSHA (Sharp-shinned hawk) – 7

RTHA (Red-tailed hawk) – 11

NOHA (Northern Harrier) – 1

MERL (Merlin) – 1

Total Hawks: 20

Hawk Mania 2K19!

Greetings yet again fellow MSRW supporters and followers! Now I know what you may be thinking after reading the title to this blog and let me assure that YES we have started trapping diurnal raptors this past week as a side project apart from our regular owl banding duties! With the number of hawks that have been migrating as of late it is definitely worth putting in the effort to try and catch some of these migrants and gather as much data as possible as they move though the area. The crazy part about doing diurnal trapping is that we have to attempt to catch them from the late morning to the early afternoon. If you are just “OK” at math like me then you would realize that by running owl nets all night then getting up relatively early to trap, this leaves little time for sleep and rest. If I were to calculate how much sleep we get on days when we have both banded owls and hawks I would have to ballpark that number to be between anywhere from 3-4 hours of sleep! This is very hard to do but totally worth it! I’m driven by my passion for studying raptors and who needs sleep anyways it is overrated if you ask me!
Now for the exciting part of this blog, we have trapped for only two days thus far but have had incredible results. The first day of trapping took place on April 19th and we managed to band 3 adult Red-tails. Our next day of trapping took place on the April 22nd and this was a big day by anyone’s standards. We managed 12 new birds of 3 species which included 7 sharp-shinned hawks, 4 more red-tails and drummmm rolllll please….. 1 adult female Northern Harrier which is just incredible and quite honestly left me speechless! These birds are incredibly aware and are usually quite difficult to catch; we are also running a simple set-up here which makes the task all the more difficult. However the exciting thing about banding is you really never know what you may catch you may think it is impossible but literally anything is possible! It also helps that I always have an optimistic outlook on whatever it is I may be doing which I think definitely helps! This was the first harrier caught by MSRW since 2013 so it’s been a while and the dry spell has ended hallelujah! Tomorrow we will hopefully be able do some trapping as well and as always I do my best to keep all you fine folks updated on the happenings of this spring season! Until next make sure you get your 8 hours of recommended sleep and stay classy.

Adult Female Northern Harrier Captured; What a beautiful bird

Diurnal Raptor Totals:
SSHA (Sharp-shinned hawk) – 7
RTHA (Red-tailed hawk) – 7
NOHA (Northern Harrier) – 1
Total Hawks: 15

Spring of the Recaptures


Hello once again followers and supporters of MSRW! I’m back again to give all you fine folks an update on what has been going on at the banding station this past week. I have to start by mentioning that it is starting to feel like spring at the park. That is because 95% of the snow is now gone which is quite exciting to us and we are also starting to see more and more songbirds show up. Some of the notable sightings have been Belted Kingfisher, Winter wren, Song sparrow, American robin, Merlin, Sharp-shinned hawk, Yellow-shafted flicker, Brown creeper, Golden-crowned kinglet, Eastern phoebe, Yellow-bellied sapsucker and one of my personal favorites the American Woodcock aka the “Timberdooodle”. Now apart from the songbirds the owls have also continued to move through but it has definitely been slower this past week as we have only been averaging between 3-5 a night. It also has not helped that we haven’t had favorable winds or the best weather but we stay positive nonetheless and have still been doing very good.

Now the crazy thing is the amount of recaptured saw-whets we seem to be continually getting so let me get you caught up on the new birds from this past week! Since my last blog I left you with one bird on which we were waiting to get news on. Well we got the information and it turns out this NSWO was originally banded at Whitefish Point as a second year female in the spring of 2017. Therefore this bird would have hatched in 2016 which means this bird is in its 4th calendar year of life! Lucky for us we aged her as ATY (after third year) which means we assigned her the right age! Also in this past week we managed to catch an additional 3 recaptures and have info on two of the three. The one NSWO had no information available on it meaning that it probably was just banded this past fall and wherever it originated from the data has not yet been entered. The other owls turned out to be both Canadian birds one was originally banded in Malden Centre, Ontario which is also known as a banding station called Holiday Beach. The last recapture was very interesting as this bird was originally banded in D’alembert, Quebec and the distance from here to Cheboygan is about 500 miles! This owl was banded as a hatch year female this past fall, which means she is still a young bird and far from where she originally called home. Sometimes younger birds take different routes as they try and navigate their way back north to their breeding grounds. This is one reason we love recaptures to see how and if migration routes are changing for these birds. All we can say is that we wish her all the best on the rest of her journey and hope she makes it back to the boreal forest! Until next time keep your eyes to the sky and stay classy I will as always do my best to keep you all updated as the season continues to progress and hopefully will have more exciting news in the upcoming week.

Season Totals: Total Birds: 150

NSWO: 131



Recaptures: 14

If Birds are Business then Business is Good!

If Birds are Business then Business is Good!

Greetings yet again fellow MSRW followers and supporters! Now usually I would not post a blog so soon after just recently publishing one based on the fact that I like to leave a little time in-between to keep the readers wanting more, however there has been a lot going on out at the state park and I would feel selfish to keep such exciting news from you all. Since my last post we have continued to have great numbers of owls moving through the park. We also are continuing to capture more and more previously banded saw-whets which is always exciting. Let’s get you all caught up on the new foreign recaptures. Since my last entry we netted another 5 NSWO that have been previously banded. One of these was banded right here in Cheboygan state park back in 2017 by either me or my close friend Arthur. The other 4 birds all hailed from different locations. One was banded in Duluth, Minnesota in 2015 as a hatch year bird. This is neat because that means that this bird is in its 5th year of life which is pretty amazing and quite old, we are glad she’s doing well. We also captured another bird that was banded at Whitefish Point in 2017 and our last recapture which has been our furthest was a bird that was banded all the way over in Sullivan County, New York back in 2017. Thus far we have captured 11 NSWO that have been already banded and we are still awaiting information on one bird which I will include in the next blog as soon as I get some information.

We have also started to see larger owl species moving through the park over the past week and yes to my delight and yours we did manage to capture some. We have caught 2 Barred Owls so far and just last night we banded 3 Long-eared owls which is seriously incredible! We have been playing the LEOW call for over a week and it just seems now that they are showing up hopefully we will capture many more especially if last night was an indicator of what is yet to come. Now not everything is perfect until last night we were closed on the 6th, 7th and 8th due to rain so we are hoping we get a good stretch of weather here and that this season only gets better and better! As always I will do my best to keep you all updated on what’s going on out in the park. Until next time let us all hope that the weathermen/women of Michigan are wrong and that we continue to have nice weather! As always stay classy folks!

Season Totals: Total birds: 113

NSWO: 97



Recaptured NSWO: 11

Banding Am. Kestrel chicks

Again this summer Ed Pike has been working with Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC), Arnie Pokorzynski, and a couple of individuals with Kestrel nesting boxes. We have been checking nest boxes and when the young are old enough, they are banded with USGS numbered bird bands. LTC has placed nest boxes on their properties in the Petoskey area; Arnie has placed nest boxes in the Alpena area; with a few nest boxes private individuals have placed in their area near Cheboygan and Harbor Springs.

All together 26 nest boxes have found to be used for nesting by Am. Kestrels. A number of other nest boxes were empty or used by Starlings, Tree Swallows and E. Bluebirds. A total of 102 Am. Kestrels have been banded, 2 adults and 100 nestlings. Of the nestlings, 49 were males, 49 were females and 2 were unknown sex (too young to be sexed at time of banding). This ratio should be expected; however there were a few nests with all males or all females; mostly mixed numbers of males and females, making it amazing that the ratio ended up 50-50.

There are a couple of late nests still to be checked and hopefully a few more young banded.