Our fall owl banding totals are 275 northern saw whet owls 31 long eared owls and 50 boreal owls which bring a mixed reaction from banders and visitors alike. On the one hand our sawwhet numbers are much lower than the average but we are very excited about our long eared and boreal numbers.
The sawwhet migration has been difficult to assess because it has been so warm that many nights that conditions might have been very good for owl banding in past years the weather was just far too warm to promote a good flight of owls. Any visitor to the marsh will be able to tell you the three conditions that account for our best capture nights are no wind, no moon and cold cold nights. This fall the weather has been warm and unfortunately when it is not warm it has been windy making it very difficult to catch many owls. So we will have to wait and see how stations further south do this fall as I believe most of the sawwhet migration has passed through but we are still left with 2 species to focus on. While we have been catching boreals and long eared owls since 2000 we have only recently been using their call to attract them to the nets. Boreals since 2012 and long eared since 2015 so there is a great deal to learn. In 2015 we were delighted to band 151 long eared of those birds we have heard from three of them. One we just recently recaptured at the marsh 2 years after initially banding it and 2 others showed up at white fish point south of Sault Michigan. This represents a very rare occurrence when a banded long eared will travel from one station to another so we were very excited to be able to share this with another station. This fall we managed to catch 2 long eared owls that were banded and whitefish point this summer. This represents our first ever recapture of a long eared banded at another station and it was whitefish points first ever recapture of one of their long eared owls.!! So we have 2 stations doing the happy dance.
Now to the boreal owls. Boreals move in very predictable four year cycle’s this cycle has hit in 2000,2004 2008 and 2012 but did not materialize last year we managed only 39 birds where we banded 202 in 2012 so many we wondering of this would be the year for the boreal. While it has been too early to tell numbers are good and we did have a high of 9 boreals banded on 2 different nights in October which is excellent. Needless to say they were our 2 coldest nights. I will have a final update in the next wren. I would like to say a big thank you to all folks we saw who came out to support our research by donating or booking a private night. The feedback on the booked nights have been fantastic and the financial support is allowing us to take on this very exciting work and hopefully we will be able to expand our research to incorporate using motus transmitters and really put our motus tower to work. The future is very exciting for research on owls. If anyone would like to get a tax receipt for a donation to owl banding please visit our website. www.thehilliardtonmarsh.com
We are now running 4 dedicated net arrays which really help streamline and focus our owl research we are running two sawwhet arrays with the sawwhet call and 1 long eared array and 1 boreal array each with their own call. We have been able to do this because of the number of volunteers we can put into the field which has been tremendous. We have 3 weeks left in the season at the time of writing this article so we will have to revisit this research and give a final verdict when all of the data is in. So far the none of our sawwhets have shown up at any banding stations but they are just starting to reach southern states Double Banding Long-eared Owls and Boreal Owls
Starting Fall 2017, HMREC began doubling banding Long-eared and Boreal owls after a Long-eared Owl was recaptured with a butt-end band from Whitefish Point. We approached our banding lab about it and they suggested to place both a Lock On and a Butt End band on the owls. We are hoping to have some returns on these birds so we can observe if the Butt End bands are remaining on the birds, and if they are, have the owls damaged them or opened them in any way. This research could potentially turn out that Butt End bands are okay for these owls and it may not be necessary to use Lock On bands, which could help to decrease handling time of the owls. Stay tuned for more from the world of marsh owls.