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Posts tagged “Radar

Surprised Big Fluff Ball Night!

Don and NSWO
Don and a Fluff Ball

Saturday evening a fellow bird bander Don Watt and his family joined me for some Saw-whet Owl banding here in Allegany State Park. He is interested in starting his own owl banding station and joined me to get a better idea on how I am catching these tiny owls. I was happy to capture a Northern Saw-whet Owl for them just before they headed home (High Five!). (more…)

Glow Worms and Saw-whets in that order!

Lighting Bug Larva
Glow Worm (Lighting Bug Larva)

Last night (9th October) was another successful evening with my Northern Saw-whet Owl Banding Project here in Allegany State Park. I opened the nets just after dusk and then headed out for my first net check at 8pm. I had hoped for some owls but was more dazzled by the number of lighting bug (or firefly) larva that I found moving along the ground. (more…)

Movement South

Sun Set Along Red House Lake

Every day is feeling more like fall with a few leaves changing color and goldenrods becoming bright yellow. I only had two (maybe three) hummingbirds visiting my hummingbird feeder this morning and couldn’t find any Chimney Swifts this evening (assuming they are all gone now). During the daylight hours there was a migrant Phoebe wondering around the yard. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw an Eastern Phoebe in my neighborhood. As much as I hate to admit it . . . . fall is here and migrants are moving south in full force. (more…)

Rain, grrr



This morning our SWAT MAPS banding station was scheduled for banding. I woke up with light rain but the weather man said that it wouldn’t rain until 11am. So, onward to the banding station and luckily it did stopped. . . . I decided to open the nets and give some banding a try. An hour into the banding session it started to rain again (uggg). I had just started doing a net check, so I decided to just close all the nets up. Birds were singing up a storm, we had captured a family of Redstarts, a Yellow Warbler, two male Magnolia Warblers and a Gray Catbird. The rain continued for about 45 minutes while I processed the captured birds and I then finally decided to cancel the session (just before the rain stopped). Do I open the nets again or do I keep them closed till Sunday?? Decisions, decisions!!! I figured the nets were close already; I would just reschedule the banding until next Sunday. I then went home to crawled back into bed!!  I had woken up to the sun shining in my window and singing birds outside the window!! Ok, the sun was only out for a few seconds but I just knew at that point that I made the wrong decision in closing early! I hope that my make-up day is full of good birdies!  (BTW: The time of this post would be when I would be closing up my nets.)

So . . . . Happy 4th of July! Now off to a Chicken Barbeque!!

Tonight’s Radar Ornithology Forecast

click on the maps to see them enlarge or see the animation.

may 3 2007 nexrad may 3 2007 nexrad v

I was reviewing the Weather Underground website to see what this weekend’s weather was looking like. I then noticed that the NEXRAD images for Western New York showed a large movement of birds moving through the area. Watch the font map (below-right) at the point at 9:30 when bazillion of birds suddenly appear on the map (green)! Now that you know Tom’s Forcast, wake up early (before going to work) and spend some time Birding! If you are not sure how to read these maps, please visit my post “how to observe migration at night” and I hope that this post will answer any question you might have regarding Radar Ornithology.

may 3 2007 wind may 3 2007 front (more…)

Sunrise Walk

It seems like I am never able to get to bed early because of both my nature blog and flickr. Writing was not one of my best subjects in school and it can take me a while to write something up. I take all my pictures in the RAW format, so editing the pictures can take some time. Then there are so many wonderful photostreams and nature blogs that I visit every night. Not including trying to keep up with emails, ect.. I always find myself going to bed much later than I should and have a hard time waking up each morning. Not this morning!! I went to bed early after watching the 11pm news that the morning was going to be beautiful (cold but beautiful) and just knew I needed to do some sunrise birding.

nexrad 20 april 2007 nexrad mich (more…)

No power brings me to an early night’s sleep

Around noon yesterday there were numerous Severe Thunderstorm warnings issued by the National Weather Service! Once I got the report; I jumped right onto NEXRAD radar to see what was going on. There were numerous green, yellow and red images moving directly towards Allegany State Park. We started to prepare to notify everyone what was about to hit.

We witnessed rain like I have never seen before! With the ground over saturated, water started to puddle up everywhere!! A fellow worker called me over to her window to show me how the rain was moving sideways. I was just amazed at how the wind was pushing the puddles on the roads like waves on the beach. In just over an hour the rain had stopped with sunny and clear sky. I knew at this point this was truly a goofy day. The sun didn’t last long before the rain started up again but this time it didn’t come down as hard. Streams were rising quickly and we are all concerned that there could be some flooding.

Another Storm is Coming

About 3pm the lights started flickering and then you guess it, everything became dark. Things started to became hectic, phones ringing, people talking, ect..!! Didn’t take long before we realized that the power outage stretched further than just the park! Preliminary talk by police was that National Grid is expecting to get everything going again by 8pm (ya right). I needed to reschedule my haircut appointment and then decided to join my parents (who also didn’t have power) for a fish fry at my uncle’s restaurant (who did have power). I truly enjoyed seeing everyone and we had a wonderful meal. But we had no clue what to expect once we got home.

Daylight Moon

I saw my boss at the police office and decided to stop in to see what was going on. I learned that they had just got the emergency generator hooked up to the Administration Building and that there was a fire going in the fire place. The earliest the power will be turned back on is around 5am in the morning. I quickly went back home and spent a little time with the kitties. I figured that I would grab my laptop and return to the Administration Building to pass the time with power.

Power Out

Back at the Administration Building there were a few families there who were also trying to get out of the darkness and stay warm. Last October they had experienced the week long power outage up in Buffalo. I pulled the TV out for the kids and we all watched the “Christmas Vacation” movie!! A few employees and myself had some wonderful conversations about what we had experienced throughout the day. I really enjoyed myself and glad that I decided to spend my evening with everyone (and with electricity). I was unable to connect to the internet (to update the blog) due to my phone service being out. So, I decided to head to bed early for once.

I noticed that my furnace started working again around 5:30 in the morning. I woke up with snow on the ground and found temps inside got as low as 48 degrees F. My phone service still isn’t working but now that the state of emergency and the driving ban has been lifted; I plan on going into town to find some phone service to upload this blog.

Update: I called windstream and they told me that someone will check my house by 5pm Monday evening (maybe sooner).  I am not sure when I will be able to update the blog again (yes still have dial up).

A Northern Saw-whet Owl – November Surprise

Friday evening after 11 hours of banding, the Allegany State Park station had one of its best nights. What I don’t understand was that Thursdays evening also had equally nice winds (from the north) but we didn’t catch any owls. The different I did notice between the two nights was that birds normally moving south were observed in the NEXRAD radar moving in a westerly direction.

10 nov 2006 nexrad v

Within the first 4 hours of operations we had banded 7 newly captured birds and there was no doubt that I wouldn’t be going to bed until 5am in the morning. Winds were calm from the North East and then slowly shifted to the South East as the evening progressed. I had decided to close early due to a slow spell that appeared to be developing. But I have this simple rule that when you catch an owl, the nets must stay open for another net check. It wasn’t until 4:15am that I got my first opportunity to close and head to bed. I seriously considered doing an all nighter but the winds really started picking up and there was a big storm closely approaching. It was time to close everything up and head to bed.

Catching 11 individuals for the night is the stations new record!! Overall the station banded 9 new birds and 2 additional individuals originally banded 15 days ago during the Perfect Fluffball Night. The one recaptured bird was our friend from earlier in the week (Nov 6 ) which had lost 10.3grams!! Over the past 4 nights this bird has gained back 2.2grams. The other recaptured bird which I had originally banded 15 days ago had lost 5.2 grams (which is almost 6% of its body weight).

Questions that I begin to ask after looking at the data include: Are these two young birds local birds which have no intention on migrating south? Were they hatched late in the season and not ready to start moving yet? Could these birds have arrived at their current wintering grounds? Is it possible that due to weather these birds have located a stopover site and will continue migration in the near future? I hope that over time that we can answer these questions and get a better understanding of these birds Natural History. All I can hope is that my neighboring banding friends catch these fluff balls at their station!!

FYI: Many banders across the North East have been reporting this owl season being one of their worse season in 10 or more years. I have not had the consistent captures like last year but I have had 2 “BIG” nights which have taken me over my previous two year’s numbers (birds per net hours and individuals captured). The best part is that my season isn’t over yet! Check back to Mon@rch’s Nature Blog for learning how my season continues. (I think its time for a nap)!!

A few new and one old friend

I caught three owls tonight. The first was around 7:30ish and boy what it cute. I then needed to do a quick trammel line fix after a flying squirrel did some chewing, grrr. While spending a little time mending, I heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl vocalizing just above me. I quickly finished tying the line and got out of there as quick as I could. Next check there was that fluff ball in net B7. This was a recaptured bird that I originally banded 11 days ago (during the Perfect Fluffball night). Over the past 11 days this bird lost 10.3grams which turned out being 9.8% of its body weight. The last capture was a new bird around closing. Radar showed a decent movement of birds this evening and many stations along the east coast are finding similar results.

Other bird news: While out banding ~ 9:30ish (EST) there was a large flock of Tundra Swans flying overhead. It appears their migration has started!

Full Moon and Apple Fritters

Tonight was a good night at the Allegany State Park Owl Banding Station! I had that feeling things were going to be good as soon as my neighbor dropped off some Apple Fritters just because they had a little extra! I was happy to thank them with a phone call around 7:30pm asking them if they would like to see a foreign recaptured owl that I had just caught. This Northern Saw-whet Owl was previously banded two years ago in Ontario Canada (thanks to quick database response from the Bird Banding Lab). It will probably be a few days before I learn more about this owl’s previous capture.

This is this stations second ever foreign recaptured bird and both have come from Ontario Canada. What is also ironic is that both birds have been caught in the fall during the official “full moon” night. Tonight’s bird was caught with dark clouds covering the moon where the other bird was caught during the darkest part of a lunar eclipse.

5 nov 2006 nexrad

Radar shows very little movement of birds and this might be due to bad wind direction.

Night with almost a full moon

Red House Lake

This evening I had a visitor from the Buffalo area with hopes of catching a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Of course we didn’t catch any fluff balls but we did recapture that Barred Owl from earlier last month (Unusual Visitor). What was interesting was that this bird lost just over 100 grams from its last capture (~7.5% of its body weight). We both agree that it was exciting to watch it flying up into the tree (backlit by the moon), turn around to look back at us and then fly away! I regret not having my camera with me!!

I would like to thank Jerry for putting up with my numerous bird quizzes and me being me!!! I would also thank you for the Sliced Cream Cake that you left here! Hmmmm! I hope next time we will be very busy banding Owls and I would love to break that 10 bird night record!

Radar did show a little movement of birds but the winds were from the south and there might have been some rain disturbance across WNY. As discussed in previous moon blog (full moon bird observations), the capture rate of owls isn’t good when the moon is out. I think having snow on the ground with no leaves made everything appear much brighter than last month’s full moon. I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t catch any owls for the next few nights.

ducks on the lake! Raft of Mergansers

Today was a very pretty morning with a light layer of snow on the ground and the sun out! For good bird news, I had my first of the fall Ring-neck Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes in Red House Lake. I also might have seen my first of the fall Tree Sparrows along Rt. 2 but didn’t have my binoculars to confirm the sighting. It shouldn’t be long before I start to see them everywhere.

I am off to bed and I hope my next blog reports capture of some fuzz balls.

The Perfect Fluff Ball Night

Ok, let me cut to the chase!  First net check and there she was the most beautiful fluff ball that I have ever seen!!  I must admit that I had a feeling that this night would be good but I never expected this to be the best night in this banding stations history!


I really need to go back in time and tell you what is going on.  For numerous nights the weather here in Allegany State Park has not been the best for my owl studies. The discussions with other owl banders from across the eastern United States have all been disappointed by the low numbers being captured. Some of the theories are that food supply is very good up in Canada and the owls just don’t need to migrate south this year.  I guess we will never know until the season is over. Small banding stations like Allegany rely on good weather conditions to have a good owl night.  If you look in some of my previous post, you will notice that I have been watching radar for good movements of birds. Tonight’s weather is almost perfect with very calm winds, clear sky, cold temperature and a waxing crescent moon.  I believe that many of these birds were bottled up due to weather and just waiting for a night like tonight.  Please check out this radar image from this evening to see the millions of birds that are moving south. 



On my first check this hatching year female was just waiting to be banded.  She was the most perfect owl and I took some pictures of her talons for a future blog!! After processing her and then with her release, I realized that it was almost time to head back up the hill for another check.  As I turned the corner of one of the nets, I could see something up on the 8th trammel. Could that be leaves??  Nope, owl number 2 for the night!!  It wasn’t until my fourth net check that I recaptured both previously banded owls from earlier in the evening!  Not wanting to catch them for a 3rd time, I decided to take them a little further away so onward over to the Park Police station for a quick visit (they always enjoy seeing the birds being released).  I was joined by one of my neighbors for the next net check (getting excited with all the owls being caught).  It must have been his luck because we caught two more Saw-whet Owls. I quickly gave a banding demo after returning to the station and we laughed because one of my cats (Lazy) stood there looking through the window trying to figure out what we were doing.  


My neighbor and I continue back up to the hill to check the nets once again!  He said “did we catch another one”??  My comment was, “did we catch one?? we have three owls in the net”!  You talk about things starting to get hectic!!!  I just knew that there was no way that I would be going to bed any time soon  and of course I need to be at work at 8am in the morning!


My record for the station was 5 birds on two occasions and I never expected to have banded 10 new birds with 13 total captures for the night! I kept the nets open until 3:30am and I am now off to bed.  Please don’t mind any grammar errors; it’s been a long night!

Grrrrr Lake Effect!

Lake Effect

The Lake Effect Snow is moving right over my house, why couldn’t the snow band move north????!!!  We are currently in a Snow Advisory!!  Grrr

Lake Effect

Yep!! Had to go outside and take this photo!

Frost Expected – No Owls

There is a good chance for a frost here in Allegany State Park this evening!  The skies were clear with W to SW winds and temps are starting to get cold.  I opened owl banding nets from 7pm EDT to midnight without any owls around.  I ended up going to bed with the temps around 30.9F. Spent the day relaxing after the Camp Flickr weekend ( Nexrad radar has been down since the 13th due to power problems up in Buffalo!  I noticed that it got back online around 8pm EDT.  Here you can see some movement of birds through western New York!

15 oct 2006 nexrad

Buffalo Mid October Snowstorm


Blustery photo was taken by who is a WNY photographer.  Please take some time to go visit his photostream.   You can see the Nexrad Radar shows heavy lake effect is still dumping a ton of snow over Buffalo.  I am going to assume that the National Weather Service lost power and resulted in the radar being down. This storm has been located in the same location for the past day and is very not typical for this time of the year.   

13 oct 2006 nexrad

There is a wonderful discussion on the snowstorm (Blizzard of ’06) on flickr on damage done on members property. It has been snowing over the city of Buffalo since late Thursday night and this is all the TV news channels have been able to talk about. This heavy snow has dropped around 30 inches of snow through out many locations in Buffalo and the melting will become an additional problem.  The news has reported that this storms has very strong winds and mixed snow lightning which has crippled the city with about 200,000 households without power.  Everyone is saying that it almost looks like “a bomb has hit the city”.

An Owls 3rd Eyelid

Vision by the moon

Today we caught two Northern Saw-whet Owls with wonderful WNW winds.  While Photographing this owl, we happen to notice that with each picture it would use its 3rd eyelid (as if to protect itself). After looking in a few of my Ornithology Manuals – I finally learned that this eyelid is called the Nictitating membrane!! After a quick google search: I found this about the eyelid:  nic·ti·tat·ing membrane (nĭk’tĭ-tā’tĭng) also nic·tat·ing membrane (nĭk’tā’tĭng) n. – A transparent inner eyelid in birds, reptiles, and some mammals that closes to protect and moisten the eye. Also called third eyelid.

extra eyelid


extra eyelid

FYI: Nexrad Radar shows a very strong movement of birds taking off just after sunset.  Click link to see the Clip.

9 oct 2006 nexrad

Slow Evening Banding

We opened nets at 7:15 EDT with great anticipation in another Owl. I guess the fact that we didn’t catch any owl could have been expected with the bright moon and southern winds. Do note on the radar we had very limited movement of birds. Tomorrow we are expecting more northern winds and should be a good day!  

8 oct 2006 nexrad

Nexrad radar shows very limited movement of birds through western New York State.

An unusual visitor at the banding station

Barred Owl

The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is a year round resident who doesn’t migrate like the Northern Saw-whet Owls.  They have a very large 42 inch wingspan and a very rounded head. I hear many more Barred Owls than those I get to see.  Their very well known for their calls in the middle of the night which sounds like “hoo hoo ho-ho, hoo hoo ho-hoooooaw” or also known as “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”.   Bents life history series of books mentions that they are more diurnal than nocturnal but I guess that depends on the neighboring food supply.

barred owl

I have had these owls in my nets before but they always seem to get out before my opportunity to band them.  The banding team took no chances in giving this owl a chance to get out. This is an adult bird which I was unable to determine its sex!  You can be sure that everyone at the station was extremely excited once we realized what we had just captured. As you can see they are very large in size compared to the tiny N Saw-whet Owls that we are use to handling.  The moon was bright and we truly didn’t expect a saw-whet (which I should mention we also captured) yet alone a Barred!

7 oct 2006 front 

As you can see, most of the movements of birds were mostly along the eastern side of New York and New Jersey! Althought there was some movement across all of the North East.

Full Moon Bird Observations

Tonight is the official “Full Moon” and there are no owls in sight.  A fun project to do when the moon is full is to set up a telescope and sit back to continue to watch the moon for a straight hour. While watching, be sure to count the number of birds you see (yes you will see them moving) and then there is some math that will help you determine the number of birds moving over your location.  It will truly amaze you once you start to add all the numbers together!!  You can then look at the radar and you will be able to see about the number of birds flying in the sky all at the same time across the united states.


For the math, I took this info from the “Living on the wind across the hemisphere with migratory birds” page 30 by Scott Weidensaul;   if you were to average four birds per ten minute block of time in PA of course, the moon’s disk is only a fraction park of the sky, but it represents that cornerstone of science, a random sample. If you were to draw a line from the horizon to horizon, the full moon covers about half degree of the night sky along it – 1/695 or a circle, or 1/347.45 of the visible sky, to be more precise. To estimate the number of birds passing, I simply multiplied my average of four birds by six for the hour, then multiplied those twenty-four songirds by 347.45. According to my observations, about 8,349 birds should have passed within few of my twenty power scope – a span about a mile and a half wide during that one hour.    


Now, the location he is discussing wouldn’t be in a major migration location along the gulf coast or Cape May. Those numbers would increase drastically if you only saw one or more bird(s) per 10 minute block.  Let me know if you give this project a try.  

6 oct 2006 nexrad

Radar shows a strong movement of birds again tonight with perfect calm NE winds and clear sky.

How to have fun when there are no Owls

moon shadow

I have some friends staying over at Cain Hollow for Columbus weekend and this photo was from my trip home just before opening my nets for owls. Obviously from this photo you can see the moon is very bright and almost “Full”. We are not exactly sure why but it is assumed that the reason Owl banders don’t catch many owls during full moon nights is that the Owls are able to see the nets. So, obviously we didn’t catch any owls but we made the best of the night.

The kids were very spontaneous when on camera but I think everything worked together alright. (BTW: We didn’t see the aurora but the fog almost looked as if it was really the northern lights, I took that photo from the web somewhere).

5 oct 2006 nexrad

Radar showed a strong movement of birds tonight with perfect calm NE winds and clear sky!

How to observe migration at night

Most people don’t realize that birds migrate at night starting at sunset.  Numerous studies show that songbirds use their constellations to navigate their movement to their desired location. On cloudy nights they can use the small opening of the sky or correct themselves once the sky opens again.  The amount of daylight is what triggers these birds to start moving and today there are many new methods that Ornithologist are using to study their migration.  Currently, Powdermill Nature Reserve is conducting a bioacoustic study where they are collecting nocturnal flight calls made by these birds, which allow them to survey which species are moving through the area.  For more info, check out the Powdermill page at:


I am an amateur weather observer and been “trying” to use NEXRAD radar to assist me in banding these little owls. As you’re aware, NEXRAD radar is an important tool for meteorologist in following rain and snow storms that are in the area.  If you listen quietly while checking the nets for owls, you can hear the call of these birds moving overhead.  Then you know to check the radar to see what is truly going on.  Now because the NEXRAD radar is so sensitive, it can pick up the movement of insects, bats and even dust that is in the air.  Typically meteorologist call those spots observed on the radar “ground clutter”.  In the fall and spring we call those spots “bird migration”.  I choose to use the Weather Underground website located at and I decided to pay the membership to receive the longer images.  If you use the NEXRAD Storm Velocity feature, you will observed the “ground clutter” (after sunset) moving North in the spring and the movement South in the fall.  For most nights that I blog, I will be uploading images on the bottom of the radar collected from Weather Underground and if you click on the image – it will show the image moving!


nexrad 10 1 06

This first clip is from last night’s radar showing the movement of the birds from 8pm EDT to just after midnight EDT!  Yes, you’re looking at thousands and thousands of birds moving through Western New York  But, it is really hard to distinguish what direction its moving and if it could possibly be fog in the area.  For that you use the map below looking at the Storm Velocity.

nexrad 10 1 06 V

This is the same image but is showing the birds movement.  Green means it’s moving towards the radar (which is located in the center of the screen) and red means it’s moving away from the radar.  If you click on the link, you will notice that the movements of the birds are coming from the NW direction (moving towards the SE) and then as the evening progresses the birds start changing their direction heading due south.   Now if you think that’s cool, check this next map!

front 10 1 06

Here you see the front map of the North Eastern United States starting just before sunset.  Right at 7:30 the birds will start to appear at each of the NEXRAD radar stations and you can then get a larger perspective of how many billions of birds (aka: Ground Clutter) are moving at one time.  You probably can see why everyone finds this so interesting to learn about.  For more info on Radar Ornithology, please visit the Clemson University website (where I learned everything I know about this subject).  Below is the image from tonights radar where there isn’t much movement (you can see a little) but you are able to see some of the rain storm entering the screen in the upper left! 


2 oct 06 nexrad

Obviously, I didn’t catch any owls tonight with strong 10-15mph Southern winds and clear sky.