MSRW’s spring 2021 owl-banding season is up and running!

Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch’s spring owl-banding season has started! There is a lot that is new this year – new banding station location, new start date, and new assistant bander.

First, introducing this spring’s owl banders. I’m Nancy Drilling, the lead bander. I banded owls for MSRW last fall; you can go back into the blog archives to get my bio. I spent an uneventful winter at my home in the Black Hills of South Dakota, birding and hibernating. I’ve never had the opportunity to experience Northern Saw-whet Owl spring migration so I am excited to be back here in Michigan to finally get the chance.

This is from our new assistant bander. “My name is Megan Diamond, and I am the assistant owl bander this spring season. I am originally from Cottage Grove, Minnesota, and I graduated from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Fall 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. While attending UMN-TC, I was fortunate enough to participate in multiple field courses and volunteer with various graduate students that granted me opportunities to gain wildlife handling experience. Those experiences included but were not limited to: a summer season working with three different gull species for an avian influenza study in Minnesota, participating in a field ornithology course, and banding marsh birds during a study abroad course in Thailand. During the summers of 2018 and 2019, I was the field assistant for the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort. I spent a lot of time visiting piping plover nesting locations, as the lead bander and I were responsible for banding adults and chicks throughout Michigan One of my favorite memories from that seasonal position was spotting a snowy owl at Tawas Point State Park during an early piping plover scouting trip. Additionally, I have worked as a seasonal technician in Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, and Oregon, primarily handling deer and wolves. I’m happy to be back in this area of Michigan (it’s easily one of my favorite locations I’ve lived so far) and working for Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. I am looking forward to seeing more owls- I’m always eager to learn new field skills, so I am super excited to spend my spring here at the banding station”.

Now, about our season so far. Normally, MSRW opens the Northern Saw-whet Owl banding station on March 20th. But there was some evidence that the owls were moving earlier so the start date was moved up to March 15th this year. It was worth it! Between March 15 and 20th, we captured 11 saw-whets (10 new and one recapture) and one Barred Owl. The recapture was a bird banded at MSRW’s Pt. LaBarbe banding station last fall. Then, the night of March 20th, the skies opened and rained down 15 saw-whets (14 new and one recapture). So we have had a great start to the spring banding season.

2021 Spring Season Totals (March 15 through March 21):

Northern Saw-whet Owl: 33 (31 new, 2 recaptures)

Barred Owl: 1

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