NatureHood Partner spotlight: Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers.

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is an important bird area as well as a location key to the observation and tracking of migratory birds in southern Ontario. Although the facilities are not fully equipped to run through the frigid winters, the autumn and spring seasons are incredibly busy. From August 15th to October 31st and April 15th to May 31st each year, there is an extensive bird migration monitoring and banding program going on at the Observatory.

The banding program consists of daily censuses and incidental sightings of birds by both staff and National Wildlife Area visitors. This is a good way to get a general idea of all the birds that pass through the park, but sometimes more specific observations are necessary. Banders will actually catch and band birds before releasing them to continue their migrations. This allows them to not Image of a Northern Saw Whet Owlonly keep track of where the birds end up but also track how many of their birds return after the winter. There are also a number of season-specific events in addition to the standard banding.

During the fall session, migratory birds are observed as they head south for the winter. The most common birds at this time of year are thrushes, kinglets, and owls, but the occasional hawk is seen as well. In addition to the standard events, a variety of activities took place over the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend. Among them were nature walks, hawk watches, banding demonstrations with owls, and a variety of presentations and activities specifically for kids. At the end of the season, the unheated banding stations are left empty for the winter until the staff returns with the birds in the spring.

The spring session, on the other hand, catches birds as they return from their winter vacations. The most common species at this time of year are warblers of all kinds. The 2017 spring banding session will include a spring bird festival and several related events taking place between the 14th and 23rd of May. The festival is going to include guided bird walks, day-long birdwatching events, a butterfly flap and monarch migration, and a number of talks from bird experts. Sign-ups for many of these events are already open, so anyone interested should check out the Prince Edward Point website to claim a spot.

In a good year, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory sees up to 300 species of birds and may see 15,000 individuals. During the autumn season of 2016, more than 700 Saw-whet Owls alone were observed and recorded. Prince Edward Point is connected with the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network which allows staff to share their data with other organizations in the network and contribute to a nationwide bird conservation effort.

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