Fall Migration at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory🐦
Birding by Numbers. The fall migration at PEPtB0 is in full plumage – check it out until October 31st.
Article and photos by: George Amaro
There’s an old adage that claims a picture is worth a thousand words. While numbers aren’t images – or even words – they do tell a pretty cool and vital – story about the critical work that’s being done at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO).
1066 (and counting) … is for fall migration for the bird nation.
The fall migration is in full flight at PEPtBO, and it’s already yielding some impressive numbers. Since the start date of August 15, the observatory has banded a total of 1,066 birds (as of September 24), including a feather-ruffling 98 on its busiest day of September 15. That date also yielded the most variety … 69 different species. Twenty-two different warblers have also been identified in just over a month.
Everyone is invited to come down to the observatory and watch the bird banding from 8 a.m. until Noon daily – until October 31st. You might see warblers, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, kinglets, finches and raptors, among others. And in October, saw-whet owl banding begins. Please note that banding doesn’t take place if it is too windy or raining. Check the website before heading out, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
8000 … is for a year’s worth of bird bands.
Our small, but mighty, PEC observatory bands over 8,000 birds a year! That includes over 500 northern saw-whet owls.
220 … is for a year’s worth of variety.
The observatory records about 220 bird species during an average year.
40+ … is for all the amazing volunteers!
All that observing, counting, recording – and umpteen other things – are all done by a head bander, a couple of interns, and over 40 incredibly dedicated and passionate volunteers.
1 … is for one Bander-In-Charge.
That one would be Matthew Iles, who arrived in The County in the spring, and is currently in the midst of the magnificent fall migration. You can read a bit more about Matthew below.
2 … is for bird walks.
There are two guided bird walks you can participate in during fall migration, both on Saturdays, October 5 and 12 at 9 a.m. Bring binoculars if you have them. Admission is by donation, and you must pre-register.
6 … is for the cutest of cute – saw-whet owls!
There are six opportunities to see saw whet-owl banding: October 3, 4, 5, 17, 18, 19. It’s at night, of course (8:15 – 9:15 p.m.), so bring a flashlight and dress warmly. Admission is by donation, and you must pre-register as numbers are limited. Please note that banding doesn’t take place if it is too windy or raining. Check the website before heading out or contact email@example.com.
5000 … is the cash you might win supporting PEPtBO.
A $50 investment in support of PEPtBO could pad your nest egg by $5,000! The observatory is running a raffle in support of the Young Banders fund. Tickets are $50, but hurry, because there are only 200 tickets available! That’s a 1/200 chance of winning. For more information, call Cheryl Anderson at 613-849-7743, or firstname.lastname@example.org via email.
The draw takes place on Saturday, November 2, 2019, at PEPtBO’s Annual Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction. Tickets for that awesome event are $85, and you’ll receive a charitable donation tax receipts for $45. Buy dinner tickets now. The dinner, which is being held at the View Restaurant, also features music by Rita de Ghent, and guest speaker, Dr. Steven Lougheed, Director of Queen’s University Biological Station.
26 … is for PEC bird land.
PEC’s south shore is designated as an Bird Important and Biodiversity Area – an international system of designating areas important for numbers, habitat or staging. It encompasses approximately 26 square kilometres of land, 65 sq. km of near-shore waters, and roughly 30 km of shoreline.
24 … is to commemorate a fresh start.
The new facility was opened June 24, 2019, and is “about 10 times larger than the previous banding area … and state of the art in many ways” says head bander, Matthew Iles. It was officially opened in cooperation with PEPtBO, The County, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
1975 … is for the year it all started.
Bird migration was first monitored at Prince Edward Point in 1975. The Kingston Field Naturalists carried out banding in the area until 1981. Those early efforts led to it officially becoming a National Wildlife Area in 1980. The observatory was created in 1995 as a permanent monitoring station – one of a network of approximately 25 independent stations across Canada, with PEPtBO being the second largest.
1995 … is for the year the butterflies said, “Move over, birds!”
Prince Edward Point was designated an International Monarch Butterfly Reserve in 1995 – one of only three in Canada. Each fall, these incredible beauties flutter their way from southern Canada to the mountains of Mexico – an unbelievable journey of almost 5,000 kilometres – making it one of the world’s longest insect migrations.
298/307 … is for birds of a different feather.
Since they began officially documenting our feathered friends at Prince Edward Point, a total of 298 different species have been recorded … oh so close to 300! This according to Bird Studies Canada’s most recent report on the PEPtBO website.
But wait, according to ebird, a highly respected bird website, the current total of different species recorded at the observatory is 307! And if the totals around the observatory are counted, the total is even higher. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just say, around 300.
39000 … is for non-stop scaup!
We knew there are a lot of scaup in the area – numbers consistently reach 10,000 regularly – but one day in January, 1995, about 39,000 of the diving ducks were recorded, according to Bird Studies Canada! All I want to know is who had to count them all?!!!
But they’re not the only waterfowl who hang out in great numbers. Other flocks who hang out in and around the shores of PEC include long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, common loons, horned grebes, common goldeneyes, common mergansers, and red-breasted mergansers.
2000 … is for hawks, hawks and more hawks.
A lot of birds fly past during the fall migration – including some 2,000 hawks a day in some cases! These majestic raptors include sharp-shinned, red-shouldered, and red-tailed varieties.
181 … is for Bird Week.
Each spring, PEPtBO runs a Big Week bird count. This year’s figures – for the entire County – saw a total of 181 different species reported! Rare highlights included a chuck-will’s-widow, a cerulean warbler, a blue-winged warbler, and a black vulture. Top birders in the IBA were Tom Wheatley (118 species), Amy Bodman (104 species), and Cecile Yarrow (104 species).
659 … is for BioBlitz hits.
On June 9-10, 2018, a hardy group of both experts and volunteers, conducted a 24-hour snapshot of the plants and animals in a defined area of the IBA. Called BioBlitz, the group recorded 659 species, including 284 vascular plants, 159 Moths, 74 birds, 33 aquatic invertebrates, 26 “other” insects, 19 butterflies, 14 fish, 11 mammals, 10 terrestrial snails, 7 dragonflies, 6 damselflies, 6 leeches, 5 amphibians, and 5 reptiles.
The group recorded four species that are on the threatened status list: the Blanding’s turtle, the whip-poor-will, the least bittern, and the Canada warbler. BioBlitz is organized by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in association with PEPTBO and the Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area (PPPWA).
Get to Know … Matthew Iles | @wild_m.iles
Stop by PEPtBO and say hello to the new Bander-in-Charge.
Matthew Iles is a bird brain.
More accurately, he’s the brains behind all the birds that get banded at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) as the new Bander-in-Charge.
Of course, that means that he’s a very busy fellow, as the fall migration is in full flight, and his days start before dawn. While there’s no such thing as a typical day, banding upwards of 100 birds in a morning is fairly common.
“I’m so excited to be here,” Matthew told Pamela Stagg during a recent 99.3 County FM Radio interview. “With the new lab, with increased tourism in PEC, and also, I think, with an increased interest in re-connecting with nature.”
Prior to his arrival in The County this spring, the affable Welsh biologist honed his craft at Long Point Bird Observatory on Lake Erie, in James Bay and in the rainforests of the Amazon. He banded the first bird in the new observatory, an American redstart.
While gathering and analyzing bird migration data is Matthew’s core job function, he wears many fine-feathered hats. He trains young biologists and interns, meets and greets the public when he can, and loves to talk bird talk with visitors, especially to raise awareness about bird conservation and the role that our feathered friends play in the greater universe.
“We have an amazing opportunity to show people the cool science that we’re up to and why it’s important. The data that we’re collecting is super critical.”
When he’s not immersed in the world of birds, Matthew likes to cook as much as he can, and dabbles in seasonal food preservation. His other interests include bushcraft, camping, wood carving, permaculture and homesteading.
Bird Brain = Bird Smart
Coincidentally, birds get a bad rap from that bird-brain tag. Truth is, it should mean the opposite, as scientific studies have proven that birds have more neurons in their small brains than mammals, specifically in their forebrain, which is associated with intelligent behaviour. That’s why a bird travelling from Canada to South America never needs to ask for directions! So, so now you know.