Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch – Part 2. Ed Pike and the Young Owl Banders

In this short video, Nature Change offers an optimistic story about people – young and a bit older – who  demonstrate true commitment to the preservation of bird populations.

Ed Pike is Chairman and one of the founders of the nonprofit research and education organization known as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. As described in Part 1 of this series, Raptor Watch is maintaining a regular and methodical count of eagles, hawks and vultures soaring through the area during the spring migration every year. Another effort focuses on counting water birds moving through the area each spring. All of this data is contributed to a national database available to researchers everywhere.

In Part 2 of this series, we focus on the small-owl banding and research project begun by Ed Pike over 25 years ago in straits area. Today, Raptor Watch continues this project with support from the organization’s members and donors and Pike’s continuing oversight.

Each year, Raptor Watch hires and trains two recent college graduates to help continue the owl banding project through the spring migration. Having received degrees in biology and ecology, Arthur Sanchez and Nick Alioto have had some experience in handling birds and are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with master bird bander, Ed Pike.

Like most recent college graduates working natural resource fields, these young people are working temporary jobs and internships in their chosen field, moving  every few months to job sites across the country. Sanchez (from California) and Alioto (from Ontario, Canada) hope to land permanent positions soon or return to school for graduate studies.

In this video, Pike provides a little background on the owl banding program and describes how conditions have changed over the past 25 years. The influences of climate change are obvious.

We also have a chance to watch the work of Sanchez and Alioto as they gather morphometric data, band and release a Saw-whet owl. These young bird banders also talk about starting their careers in wildlife management. Well aware that habitat destruction and climate change present huge challenges to bird populations everywhere, these young people are making a lifetime commitment to ecosystem and wildlife preservation


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