Category Archives: Uncategorized

Return of the Ticks! Raptor Banding Update

As the spring season slowly winds down and there are only three days left to this inaugural raptor banding season I have been reflecting over the past few days and thinking of all the pros and cons of the season. The pros were that we caught a great diversity of birds and had a very successful season in pretty much every aspect. Also, as we get further into to spring it is very therapeutic to set up in the morning and be serenated by the dawn chorus of migrants who have returned north again. The cons, well with the warm weather comes the emergence of the black flies, mosquitos and ohhhh of course my favorite….. ticks! If I’m being completely honest, I liked it early in the season sitting in the cold and not dealing with biting insects. The only con to being in the cold is you can’t enjoy all the singing birds each morning. Anyway, on to the good stuff and a quick recap from when I last left you all.

Since my last update we have captured and banded another 38 birds bringing our season total to 180 birds of 11 species! I know in my last post I said my new goal was to reach 200 captures but with only 3 days left it may be a hard feat to pull off. I think I will settle for a new goal of 190 a nice round even number (I think this is my OCD kicking in). The last week or so has mainly been comprised of young birds primarily Red-tailed hawks. During spring migration, it is normal to have the young birds return last and this is usually a good sign that migration is slowing down and coming to an end. The reason the young birds are back last is because they are not breeding so there is no rush to get North and secure a territory. Instead, they can take their time and figure out their first journey back north. Also, a lot of young birds get disoriented along the way and this also adds time to their migration.

 I have also started another side project on top of the raptor banding. Early in the morning over the last few days I have wandered out and tried setting nets for songbirds. I am doing this because I have a lot of songbird experience, and as any scientist I am curious as to what birds I’m not hearing that are in the surrounding woods that are adjacent to the blind. So far, I have managed to catch 3 birds; an Ovenbird a larger warbler species known for its fast “Teacher Teacher Teacher” song, an Alder flycatcher a small olive-green bird who’s call sounds like it is saying “free beer” and a Blue jay. This blue jay had a brood patch which is a breeding characteristic birds show in summer. It’s basically when a bird loses feathers on the body and the skin becomes filled with fluid. This is so they can transfer heat and incubate their eggs. This blue jay because of this characteristic made her a female and she was already on eggs somewhere nearby, pretty cool!

With that I will leave you fine folks yet again. I will be doing one more post after this summarizing the season so stay tuned in the next coming week. Until then and as always stay classy folks.

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

7   NOHA (Northern Harrier)

6   MERL (Merlin)

4   AMKE (American Kestrel)

3   NOGO (Northern Goshawk)

4   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

65 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

85 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: 180

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

An Epic Day!

An Epic DayMay 1 at the hawk watch set a new one day record for raptors tallied with 21188.  It was a perfect storm of improved weather and stacked up raptors to the south  that produced massive numbers of migrating raptors with  kettles of 500-1000 overhead throughout the day. Broad-wings ruled the day with 20763 counted, including a very rare dark morph individual. Kevin referred to this bird as a “chocolate drop” , a term from his Texas hawk counting days. It is an amazing journey for these Broad-wings as they winter in South America all the way down to the pampas of Argentina, a migration that takes over a month before reaching the Mackinac  Straits.  Other highlights on the day were 4 Golden Eagles , one circling directly overhead , flashing those showy white wing patches of an immature bird; two dark morph Red-tails, and a good diversity of 12 raptor species.(see Hawkcount.org for details). There were two Peregrine Falcons seen along the shore in Mackinaw City, but not seen at the watch site. Keep looking up! 

Steve Baker

Golden Day! Raptor Banding Update Mackinaw City

   One of the most exciting things about banding birds during migration is that you never know what you are going to catch. Sure, you have an idea of what birds are around, and when you can expect to see certain birds during the migration season as there are definite trends for when a species can be expected to show up and when you can expect them to be gone. That being said there is always that element of surprise, and that is one of the many things I love about migration work. You may be thinking, “hmmm Nick must have a surprise for us”, well let me tell you I have a very big surprise to share with you all shortly. Now let’s go over a quick recap from the past week.

   Since my last post we have added 22 new birds to the season total, and managed to add 2 new first of the season species. It was a really good week despite the fact that we lost today and yesterday due to this rain system that moved in. Something I also forgot to mention in my earlier posts is that I am not the only trapper that is contributing to the raptor banding project this spring. The other bander is Jeff Dykehouse a local legend in Northern Michigan or so I hear! Anyways, he sets up on most days when the weather is good. He is not to far from me so its interesting to see what he catches on days when we are both set-up. To this point he has managed to capture 4 birds which include 2 Red-tailed hawks and 2 Broad-winged hawks (BWHA). We were super excited when we heard he caught some broad-wings the other day as this was a new species to add to our species list putting us at 10. It is also interesting that he caught 2 on the same day. Where I was set-up I also saw many broad-wings but they were not interested. Maybe where Jeff set-up is a better broad-wing site and the birds prefer that area more. None the less it was very exciting. I will try and get some photos of these birds from Jeff to share with you all and to explain some good field marks.

   The species I managed to captured over the past week included more Sharp-shins, Red-tails and another American Kestrel. There is one species that was new and very exciting but I’m sure most of you already know what it is based off the title of this blog plus all the pictures that are already inserted in this post. Guess the surprise is ruined… but it was a GOLDEN EAGLE!! This was seriously amazing and surprising to say the least. It was captured on the 28th which was cloudy and cold, and I figured it wouldn’t be a great day for migration. Initially I was right, but then the winds changed and the clouds started to break up, which allowed the raptors to pop up and test the winds to see if they were suitable enough to help them get ahead of the rain. During this time, I caught 6 Sharp-shinned hawks in a matter of an hour and it felt like it was going to be a big day. After this I had Red-tails and Broad-wings flying around and even had some red-tails make passes but some had “commitment issues” and would not come down. Then it was strange, a few red-tails were calling from above and birds were starting to leave the vicinity of where I was rather quickly. The next thing I know a golden eagle had came in out of nowhere and crash landed in the station. Then before I knew it, I had captured it! What a rush and it all happened so fast!

   This was a second year Golden eagle meaning it hatched in 2019 which we determined based off of it’s plumage characteristics. Mainly that all of its flight feathers were uniform and that it had extensive white patch in the tail and on the wings. All these signs point to a young golden. It is also worth noting that this bird was extremely powerful and it took 3 people to band and collect all the data from this eagle. I am still in shock that this happened, I always knew there was a chance at catching eagles but it is still quite uncommon. This was an incredible experience to get to look into the eyes of a wild golden eagle. Hopefully this will not be my last eagle in my trapping career as I am quite young but if I never handle another one, I will always feel extremely lucky and fortunate to have caught this bird. I hope you all enjoy the pictures even though they do not give justice to how beautiful these birds are in hand. Let me tell you as I was really up close and personal with this eagle. Also, just holding this eagle showed me how powerful these apex predators truly are.

After today the forecast looks good to get back out in the field and who knows what we may catch this week. Until my next post stay safe, expect the unexpected because you just never know, and as always stay classy.

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

5   NOHA (Northern Harrier)

5   MERL (Merlin)

3  AMKE (American Kestrel)

1   NOGO (Northern Goshawk)

1   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

41 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

35 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: 97

75 and feeling alive! Raptor banding update

  

   You would think that after sitting all day in the blind looking at the sky and the periphery scanning for raptors, that when I come home in the afternoon that the last thing I would want to do is sit some more. Well, if you thought that, then you are wrong. Coming home and getting comfortable is the first thing I like to do. Whether you believe it or not raptor trapping is quite exhaustive as you always have to be attentive and aware for hours on end. You never know when a raptor may suddenly show up. Also just being outside for several hours is somehow draining but in the best possible way, I assure you. Now as I am sitting here now and am relaxed, let’s get all you fine folks caught up on what has happened this past week.

   Despite losing two days to wind and snow, from the 19th to the 24th we still were able to add 19 new birds to the season total. We did not add any new species but we had quite the diversity which included 5 different species (Merlin, Red-tailed hawk, Sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel and Northern Harrier.) The coolest captures included one of the few merlins and the three, yes count them three harriers! The merlin was exciting because it was a young female that hatched last summer in 2019. What was neat was that she was already starting to “molt” meaning, replacing old feathers with new ones, but this was only happening on her back which created a mosaic of blue and brown. The brown being the juvenile feathers that are old, and that she has had since she hatched, and the blue being the new adult feathers. Hence why merlins are sometimes referred to as blue jacks for the nice blue coloration they show when they become adults.

  As I mentioned earlier, we also managed three Northern Harriers which is crazy! Even crazier another one of the three was a striking adult male or as I and so many people love to call them “Gray Ghosts”. As I mention before the adult male is seldom caught due to how elusive these birds are. Then today we had the double whammy of capturing two adult females. Now I’m not sure why we are having such a great harrier season, but I’m totally ok with it. These birds are truly unique from their owl-like facial disc to their beautiful buoyant flight which almost appears effortless. Add to that their bright lemon-yellow eyes, and ladies and gentlemen you have a truly amazing raptor. Now, it should be noted that every raptor species we capture is unique and beautiful in their own way, and getting to work with any species is awesome.

   The upcoming weekend and next few days ahead look to be ideal not only for migration but also for banding. BUT…… if I’ve learned anything from living in Northern Michigan over the past few years it is to take what the weather people say with a grain of salt as it is more than likely going to change. My optimism always overrides this and I hope for the best. Let me tell you that being positive while banding raptors is key to being successful. I can’t explain it but you will just have to trust me on this. As always, I will do my best to keep you all updated as migration ramps up! Until next time as always stay classy.

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

5  NOHA (Northern Harrier)

5   MERL (Merlin)

2   AMKE (American Kestrel)

1   NOGO (Northern Goshawk)

1   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

28 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

30 RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

2   RSHA (Red-shouldered Hawk)

1   RLHA (Rough-Legged Hawk)

Total Birds: 75

The Ghost of Mackinaw.. Raptor Banding Update

   Since I last left you fine folks, we stood at 40 birds of 7 species captured for the inaugural spring 2020 raptor banding season. Since then we have added 15 new birds including some really cool captures and some first of the season species. This past week has been quite good despite battling the onslaught of adverse weather which has seemed for the moment to have broken up migration, therefore not allowing a good flight to develop over this past week. Now at this point in the quarantine I’m sure it feels like being in the film “Groundhog Day”. What I mean by that, for those of you have not seen this film is that we all seem to be in an even more boring and repetitive routine then what we are used to in our normal everyday life. However, I am truly grateful that I am able to keep working and doing what I love! For if I wasn’t banding my days would consist of me moving from my bed to the couch, and then back again at night! Therefore, the fact that I’m able to trap and share all the exciting news of what’s going on with MSRW with you is awesome. Hopefully this will give you something new and different to read about while also potentially learning something new. Now let’s dive into a recap from the past week.

   April 11th was a beautiful day but was quite slow on the trapping side. That being said we managed to catch 3 birds of 3 species. This included 1 Sharp-shinned hawk (SSHA), 1 Merlin (MERL) and a first of the season Northern Goshawk (NOGO). Now the goshawk is the largest of the three accipiter species found in North America and is a very aggressive predator. It is always exciting to catch these forest dwelling birds, as I myself was first introduced to them this past fall in Idaho. The goshawk we caught here was a second-year male, meaning it hatched in the summer of 2019. One thing that was cool about this bird is that its eye was orange. Now you may be wondering why is that? Well, with many raptor species looking at eye color can be one of a few criteria we can use when trying to determine a hawks age. As a hawk ages it eye will change color. This is of course variable among different species and goshawks develop a red eye once they become an adult. When a goshawk hatches its eye is usually a yellow or a pale gray. Then it transitions to orange in its second year of life. This was awesome to document as I have only seen goshawks that were a few months of age and had the typical yellow eye. This guy was on his way to becoming and adult!

   After this we lost a few days and were not able to trap again until the 14th. This day was also not great for weather as I sat in the blind and battled off and on snow squalls for many hours. It should also be noted that I didn’t dress proper and was freezing my butt off! But being a trapper requires patience and toughness and I was not going to give up. I was rewarded with what was maybe the best bird we will catch all season. An adult male Northern Harrier (NOHA) also known as a “gray ghost”. They are called this for their plumage which is a stunning gray and white. In my opinion they may be one of the most gorgeous birds in all of North America, with the attached picture you can be the judge. In the raptor banding world catching harriers is not only quite uncommon but also tough. These birds are aerial acrobats and have amazing eyesight and are able to see many traps/nets and thus can easily avoid being caught. This harrier seemed to be enjoying these snow flurries because as soon as one flurry stopped there it was flying gracefully in the open looking for prey. Lucky for me it liked what I had on the menu a tasty European starling. No bird was harmed in the capture of the harrier by the way. Also, this will probably be the last gray ghost I ever handle and it was something I will not forget.

   Over the next few days which included the 15th,16th 17th and the 18th we managed 12 birds. On the 17th we were skunked and captured a whopping zero raptors. Over this stretch we got a good diversity of species which included another merlin and juvenile red-shouldered hawk, along with a smattering of sharp-shins and another red-tail. Today, we got another first of the season species,,an American Kestrel (AMKE) despite having to close early due to strong winds. This is North Americas smallest falcon but also most colorful. The males have striking blue wings and orange back and tail. On the contrary the females have barred orange and black wings, back and tail. These birds are usually associated with open grassland and agricultural habitat. You will often seem them perched on telephone wires patiently scanning for rodents in the ditches. They are also cavity nesters and will nest in man-made nest boxes, so if you are looking for a new hobby during this time or simply want to help a species that is in decline,  I have included a link in this blog that will provide you all the information you need, should you be interested. https://www.birdwatching-bliss.com/american-kestrel-nest-box.html

With that I hope you all stay healthy and safe and I will provide you all with another update soon. Until then as always, stay classy!

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

2   NOHA (Northern Harrier)

3   MERL (Merlin)

1   AMKE (American Kestrel)

1   NOGO (Northern Goshawk)

1   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

19 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

26 RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

2   RSHA (Red-shouldered Hawk)

1   RLHA (Rough-Legged Hawk)

Total Birds: 56

The Ol Bog Trotter! Raptor Trapping Update #2

  Being a raptor trapper is very exciting for many reasons Firstly, it is always a thrill not knowing what you will catch on any given day, and if you will catch anything at all. Nothing is guaranteed when you are trying to catch the apex predators of the food chain, and the challenge of trapping is almost as awesome as the reward of catching some of these amazing species. Secondly, the thrill of working with powerful birds that can seriously hurt you also provides a rush for me that I imagine is similar to what other adrenaline junkies seek. Albeit I would rather this, then putting my life at risk for some crazy stunt. Well, I guess some people may think what I’m doing is crazy but I would call it a passion for a group of birds that I really care about and want to continue to study and conserve! Now, after that rhetoric you must be thinking I hope there is some new exciting news from the raptor trapping project, and if you were assuming that then you are correct!

  Since April 5th we have added 17 new birds, and 3 new species for the season. Lets do a quick recap of the past few days. April 5th was a great day with great weather as we managed to capture 6 birds. 2 Red-tailed hawks, 2 Sharp-shinned hawks and our first of the season Merlin and Cooper’s hawk. For those of you that don’t know the Cooper’s hawk is the hawk you are most likely will see attacking your feeder birds throughout the winter and is quite common in urban areas. They are characterized by their short wings and long tail which helps them maneuver when hunting and allows them to be quite good at catching other smaller songbirds. They are among one of the three species that belong to the group of hawks known as the accipiter’s. The other two species are the smaller Sharp-shinned hawk and the biggest of the three being the Northern goshawk. The Merlin on the other hand is a small falcon that has long-pointed wings, and they are designed for speed in open space. They are quite aggressive and aren’t much bigger than your backyard robin but they are quite the formidable predator for their size and are very aggressive and watching them hunt is truly incredible!

  Following the excitement on the 5th, on the 6th were didn’t have the greatest day but still caught 2 adult red-tailed hawks despite it being very cloudy and not conducive for hawk migration. It should be noted that this as of right now this is our most commonly caught species and I’m totally ok with that! Each of these birds displays such uniqueness among each individual’s plumage, and seeing so many up closes is extremely cool to take note of and document. I will show variation among these birds as the season progresses and I accumulate more photos.

   On the 7th I went out with high hopes and optimism as I do each day, but on this day, we were only able to trap for a few hours as I battled the scattered showers that kept starting and then suddenly stopping. It was as if someone was playing a prank on me, and one that I nor anyone would find funny. Then on the 8th the weather decided to cooperate and another 5 birds were banded. This time 2 sharp-shins and 2 red-tails. Needless to say, I was very excited and happy with how this day went. Any day that I’m not skunked is a success for a trapper. Then on the 9th this was another great day for many reasons. As I braved the snow flurries that hammered the blind off and on, I knew that if I could stick it out that I will surely be rewarded for braving the elements, and I was! That bird turned out to be a Northern Harrier. An elusive bird that is more prevalent in marshes/grasslands and aptly used to be refereed to as a “Bog Trotter” a name I still love! Now, harriers are an interesting group of birds as this harrier species is the only species of its genus “Circus” found in North America even though this genus is found globally. The harriers best field mark is the white upper tail coverts often seen best when the bird is flying at a lower level and is often referred to as the white-rump. They are also distinguishable by flight style as they seem to tip or teeter from side to side like a vulture but are thinner in shape. That being said they can be tough to ID at times and I often have mistaken them for other species, because depending on what they are doing in flight they can look similar to other groups of raptors. Today we were once again shut down early due to strong winds which don’t make it ideal to trap but regardless, I still managed 1 Sharp-shinned hawk. Tomorrow looks great and I am excited as always to get back up there bright and early. As always, I will keep all of you fine folks posted on all the news from this project, stay classy!

Nick Alioto

Spring 2020 Raptor Trapping Totals:

1   NOHA (Northern Harrier)

1   MERL (Merlin)

1   COHA (Cooper’s Hawk)

10 SSHA (Sharp-shinned Hawk)

25 RTHA (Red-Tailed Hawk)

1   RSHA (Red-shouldered Hawk)

1   RLHA (Rough-Legged Hawk)

Total Birds: 40

Inaugural Snowy Owl Season 2020 in the Books!

   As we all sit at home during these chaotic times and try to find things to do during our quarantine, let me give you a final update from our Snowy owl project this winter. It is the perfect distraction if you ask me!

   Since I last reported on owls, we stood at 5 owls captured for the season including an exciting foreign retrap that we found out is at least 6 years old and was originally captured at the Detroit metro Airport.  Then we had many days of “poor weather” or at least what we considered poor in regards to attempting to catch owls. The only day that seemed to be good was March 30th. Therefore, we decided to make one more trip to our various sites to see what owls were still around. On this trip I was accompanied by Steve Baker a longtime volunteer, supporter and board member of MSRW. Now before we go any further, we drove separately as to respect the “social distancing” rule just in case anybody was concerned that we were not adhering to the CDC’s guidelines amidst the global pandemic that is going on. Anyways enough on that…

  As luck would have it, we set out late afternoon around dusk. Why? Well because this is when the Snowys start to wake from their day long rest and are eager to start hunting again. In the two sites Steve and I checked we were able to count 17 owls. As luck continued to be on our side, we found a gorgeous male snowy in a perfect spot in which we could attempt to catch him. After we set-up it only took him a few minutes before he noticed the trap and he almost instantly came in and was captured. We were both super excited to be able to finish the season catching yet another stunning adult male owl that was as pure white as dare I say… toilet paper! Now based of this bird’s flight feathers we were able to determine that this was another older adult male at least in his 4th year of life and to boot was in good condition. A great way to end the season if you ask me.

   All we can do now is wish all the Snowy owls the best of luck as they make their arduous journey back north to their breeding grounds on the tundra wherever lemmings may be. I can say truthfully that this season was a success and that all involved with this project learned a lot about these birds and we will be ready for their return next winter! Until then let’s enjoy all the neo-tropical migrants that are showing up reassuring us that the natural processes of life continue despite whatever situation we as a species may find ourselves in. Until next time, as always stay classy and healthy.

Nick Alioto

Winter Snowy owl banding totals:

6 – SNOW (3 Males & 3 Female)

1  Female was a Foreign Recapture from 2014 (Captured at Detroit Metro Airport) released in Lansing.

A day at the Hawk Watch, Mackinaw City

My husband Jim and I were able to visit the Hawk Watch on Sunday April 5 and want to give you an armchair experience.  The day was mostly sunny, 42 degrees, with a light westerly breeze – just enough that we finally wised up and moved our lawn chairs to the EAST side of our car.   We had parked about 30 yards past the other two cars there and waved and shouted hello to the data-gatherers.

Shortly after our late-morning arrival, a kettle of hawks formed overhead.  The birds seemed to appear out of nowhere and gather in a big spiral.  We managed to spot about three dozen of the 1,315 Red-tailed Hawks counted by Kevin Georg that day.  So far, he has tallied 11,304 of these birds!  A highlight for us that morning was a leucistic (near-albino) Red-tail.  At first I thought it was a gull, but a closer look revealed its identity.  Steve Baker took a nice snapshot of it. 

Steve also made up this diagram of the identifying characteristics of soaring Red-tails.  Look for the shape, particularly the bulging ‘muscular’ wings. The long primary feathers, those that sometimes spread apart and look like fingers, are longer in the middle area of the wing, creating a gentle outward curve.  Plus, watch for the patagial marks, a dark color on the front of the wing.

Today just west of Pellston we saw a Red-tailed Hawk hunting in the woods.  Watch your area for these and for other inspiring avian sights as the birds migrate and begin their nesting cycles.  Remember that it’s easy to click on the MSRW Data tab, which takes you right to the table where Kevin posts the daily numbers.  You will discover when the first Black Vulture of the season was seen and can check on your other favorite raptors.  Stay safe and healthy this month. (submitted by Kathy Bricker)