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Flock to Point for Bird Count

Everybody’s flocking to The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory’s Spring Bird Count and Baillie Birdathon – a Canada-wide fundraiser organized by Bird Studies Canada. Click for more.

Photo and Story by Theresa Durning
During any 24-hour period throughout the month of May, participants find as many species as they can, sponsored at a flat rate or so much per species. This event generates a significant portion of the funds needed to operate the migration monitoring station at Prince Edward Point.
(Also, Daily Guided Bird Walks are being held from May 8 to May 16  at 8 a.m. in the Point Traverse Woods (.5 km north of the Observatory) and last about 2 hours, focusing on spring songbird migrants of the day, and learning to identify them by sight and sound. Guides are Terry Sprague, Rosemary Smith and Owen Weir. There is a charge of $5/person with proceeds to PEPtBO.)
You are invited to participate in the Spring Bird Count by joining a team, by forming your own team, or by sponsoring someone who is participating. The PEPtBO guest birder this year is Theresa Durning, a well-known journalist and photographer in Prince Edward County.

So, here’s the deal.  I am a celebrity.  The good people of The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory recognized my celebrity, my dazzling personality, my stunning good looks and my singing voice which rivals the song of a Meadow Lark and asked if I would help their cause.  I am a celebrity birder!

Sheesh, wait a minute, I am a guest birder (in my mind “guest” and “celebrity” are virtually the same word).  But, I don’t know much about birds.   I do recognize a robin when it poops on my lawn chair because I’m sitting in the flight path to the its nest on my porch.  I know what a blue jay looks like and I recognize its melodic call.   I know a cardinal when I see one.  They’re red, right?   And, believe it or not, I know the male of a species is the one with the most colourful plumage.  The plumage part I learned as a young twenty-something listening to the LP “Hair”, specifically, the song “My Conviction”.

“There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the male
When actually
That is the way things are
In most species”

Go figure.  I should learn something from a 70’s tribal rock musical.  I thumb my nose at my grade nice science teacher who told me my time would be better spent learning how to sew.

But, seriously folks, I may not be a birder but I am a guest/celebrity birder and am so sure of the importance of the work undertaken by the volunteers and staff at The Prince Edward Bird Observatory.  How sure?  Well, on May 19th I’ll be donning my warm woollies, jamming my feet into my Duckies and heading out to participate in the Baillie Birdathon (not like a dance-a-thon, by the way) and Prince Edward Point Bird Spring Bird Count. I’m going to be up and out at the crack of dawn to identify as many species as possible.  Since I am  limited to robins, blue jays and cardinals, I expect I shall finish the day shortly after it starts unless someone on the team (did I mention the team?) decides to broaden my feathered horizons.  I expect someone will see May 19th as a rise on my learning curve.

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is located at the eastern tip of Prince Edward County in a National Wildlife Area.  Can you believe it!  We’ve got the Bird Observatory and a National Wildlife Area right here in The County.  I know, it blows me away, too.  According to my “birdie” friends, the site is significant because of vast numbers of birds that fly through the area.  But, I’m just saying!  So, here’s the real deal.

The Facts Jay!

In 1999 the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory became part of a nation-wide collaborative program of Bird Studies Canada called the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. The main objective of PEPtBO is to monitor migratory bird populations in the spring and fall through observations, a daily census and banding practices. The information collected year to year can help us get an idea of population densities, longevity and migratory routes of various bird species.

Banding is done by first catching the birds in mist nets and then placing an aluminum band with an identification number around their leg. During this process information is written down about the bird such as wing length, weight, sex and age of bird.

The bander-in-charge at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is an NABC (North American Banding Council) certified Trainer and the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory offers banders and ringers from around the world, the opportunity to come down and stay at the Observatory to learn to band, to sharpen their skills, to experience a wider selection of species or even just to get a more intensive banding experience. In an average spring, we band 5000-6000 birds of 100+ species and in the fall we band 6000-8000 birds of 100 species, the annual banding totals are 12000 – 15000 of 115 species. Daily banding totals have reached 700+ in a day but 100-300 is more usual depending on the time of the year. Owl banding takes place in the fall during October and up to 1500 owls have been banded in a season, although 700-800 is more usual.

The observatory is a non-profit organization that raises money each year through donations, fundraising and memberships to continue their research. It is entirely run by volunteers each year both from the community and university students looking for research experience.

Oh, my deal!  I am a celebrity (in my own mind, of course).  I am a guest birder.  You can be a part of the on-going research at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory by making a pledge to me (if you think about it and pledge by the number of species I’ll recognize just remember – robins, blue jays and cardinals).

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