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Migration monitoring helps determine bird trends

Stephane Menu with captured Shrike

Stephane Menu with captured Shrike

Migrating songbirds, such as Bobolinks, Song Sparrows and Cedar Waxwings are back and so are the scientists and volunteers at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO.)

More than three quarters of a million birds, from Canada Warblers to Long-tailed Ducks use the County’s unique South Shore Important Bird Area as a rest-stop on their way south.

From August through to the end of October, scientists and volunteers will record more than 10,000 birds caught and banded at Prince Edward Point Wildlife area at the end of Long Point Road.

This year’s Bander-in-Charge Stéphane Menu and assistant Lizzie Grayshon, from the United Kingdom, set up 12 metre long ‘mist’ nets and caught and banded a variety of early migrants, including warblers, flycatchers and sparrows. The nets are opened every day a half hour after dawn, as long as the weather is fine, and are furled six hours later.  Birds are not captured in the rain or on windy days.

Banding birds requires lots of volunteer help.  Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is a non-profit, charitable organization that receives no government funding.  Volunteers take the birds out of the nets and place them in individual cloth bags to carry them back to the banding laboratory at the entrance to the site.  Other volunteers record the data as the bander identifies, measures, weighs and bands each bird.  The data then are entered into the PEPtBO database and sent to the Canadian Wildlife Service and Bird Studies Canada.

Monitoring migration this way helps determine trends in bird populations and how their fluctuations relate to changes and threats to their habitat.

Operating the bird observatory also benefits from the support of individuals who are not directly involved in handling birds.  The spring and fall birding festivals attract many visitors from around the world, the country and the County.

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