The Warblers by Birds Canada

A bird banding day at Long Point Bird Observatory

April 29, 2022 Andres Jiménez and Andrea Gress for Birds Canada Season 2 Episode 4
The Warblers by Birds Canada
A bird banding day at Long Point Bird Observatory
Show Notes Transcript

Bird observatories are an essential starting place for young biologists, but also for members of the public; to watch, to learn, and to fall in love with birds in a more intimate and up-close setting.

Long Point Bird Observatory is where it all begins for many of us. It is the founding program of Birds Canada, ultimately leading to everything we do today.  We urge you to visit a bird observatory near you, but for now, please join Andrea and Andres, as they field trip to Long Point Bird Observatory and learn all about banding and the special impact that bird observatories have for young biologists and the species that migrate through.

Special thank you to the volunteers and staff who shared their stories, expertise, and passion for birds with us. You’ll find information about the birds they are seeing and banding on the Sightings Board.

Bonus: which species can you identify singing in the background?

Stu MacKenzie is responsible for the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, Long Point Bird Observatory, Thunder Cape Bird Observatory, and aspects of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network.

Andrea Gress studied Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan. She pivoted towards birds, after an internship in South Africa. Upon returning, she worked with Piping Plovers in Saskatchewan and now coordinates the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program for Birds Canada. Follow her work at @ontarioplovers

Andrés Jiménez is a Costa Rican wildlife biologist with a keen interest in snakes, frogs, birds and how human relationships are interconnected with the living world. He studied Tropical Biology in Costa Rica and has a Masters in Environmental Problem Solving from York University. He is Birds Canada's Urban Program Manager and you can follow him at @andresjimo

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Please send us your voice memo with any bird question to -> podcast@birdscanada.org
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Andrea Gress:

You're listening to The Warblers, A Birds Canada Podcast. I'm Andrea Gress.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

And I am Andres Jimenez.

Andrea Gress:

Join us as we travel uncommon flight paths with our guests gaining insights and inspiration from the world of birds and bird conservation in Canada.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Hello Warblers! Birds Canada is excited to bring you our first ever field episode. At a magnificent time when birds are migrating that warblers fly as well. We'll drive to Long Point Bird Observatory in Lake Erie in southern Ontario. This is a field station that saw the birth of many things, including Birds Canada. On this episode, we become bird banders for a day and talk with many passionate volunteers and staff. Jules Delisle, Ashley Veldhoen and Felicia St. Arnould will take us through their banding experiences and what birds mean to them. And Birds Canada's Stu Mackenzie will share amazing stories of recovered bird bands and the importance of bird banding and bird observatories on research and conservation. Many of you might be familiar with bird banding, many of you have probably banded before. For those of you that are new to this, please take a moment to imagine a big net in the forest attached to two metal poles, two meters high and roughly four to six meters long. We call those mist nets and they are very thin black nets almost invisible when set up in the forest. Birds fly around and get caught in the nets. Researchers and volunteers patrolled the carefully extract the birds and take them to the lab for banding before they released them. But I don't want to give everything up so early. Let's go to the theme. [Foot steps]

Andrea Gress:

How's it going, Andres?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

It's going pretty well. You're ready for an adventure?

Andrea Gress:

Woo! I am so excited for an adventure. I love Old Cut. It's it's got like a special vibe.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

You've stayed there?

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, I spent about a month there when I first started at Birds Canada. Yeah.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Wow, that must have been quite a start at Birds Canada... a month at Old Cut! Can you tell me about Old Cut? What's Old Cut?

Andrea Gress:

Old Cut is where all the young banders get to stay while they're bird banding. And it's kind of like the... yea it's like kind of the home of the bird banders I guess. It's a relatively rustic old building, I would think it's been there for quite some time, but it's got charm, and it's cozy and there's, you know, bird related books and puzzles and things sitting around and it's just nestled on Long Point. So there's just lush environment left, right and center and it's pretty special place.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

You gotta show me around because I need to find out where my room is.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, that'll be upstairs. [Foot steps going

Andres Jimenez Monge:

123 rooms... This is mine. Right?

Andrea Gress:

So yeah, upstairs] Okay, that's awesome.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

There's another room here... Where you're gonna be?

Andrea Gress:

I'm gonna be over here.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

You're gonna be just right down the hall. You brought a sleeping bag?

Andrea Gress:

I got my sleeping bag. It's just like hostel living. It's good time.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I don't think I'm hungry. So I might just hit the bed so we can wake up tomorrow early at 5:30.

Andrea Gress:

Let's call it a day. See you tomorrow!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

[Mourning Dove calls] Perfect opportunity to make some coffee. Let's get us going. Did you sleep?

Andrea Gress:

Ah, yeah, reasonably well, I heard your voice billowing away down here though so I was like, ah I better get up.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

It's raining, right? What's happening now because it's raining?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

So we're not going to open nets until the rain stops. If the birds get wet they can get hypothermia, so you don't want to open the nets until it's safe for the birds because ultimately the bird safety is top priority at the banding station.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So what happens after we open the nets?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

We wait for about a half an hour and then we check them.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

And then we find the birds on the nets. We gently take them out of the net, right? Yeah, put them in a bag. And so tell me that.

Ashlea Veldhoen:

So we put them in a bird bag. It's basically a small drawstring bag usually handmade by volunteers. They all have cute little patterns on them, different ribbons, some of

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Sean, why are you happy? What are you them coordinate colors. Basically though, they.... we will do the full net round. We'll check all 14 nets and I think we have four ground traps that we'll set today. We'll bring them back to the banding lab and then we start to process them. Where that's basically the process aging, and sexing them. And each species we will age and sex differently depending on the signs that we can read. Usually we're looking at their feathers. We'll take morphological measurements, including their wing length. Some of them we're starting to measure the Coleman length just to see if we can sex them that way. Yeah. And then we let them go once we banded them, I forgot that we band them to hoping to find today?

Sean:

Any new migrants for the for the season. We're starting to get to the point where new stuff can show up any day. So it's kind of exciting to see what shows up.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What's new stuff?

Sean:

Stuff that overwintered south of us it'll just be showing up like recently we've got Brown Thrasher showing up, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow.

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Purple Martin!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Purple Martin! Andrea, is there a bird you want to see?

Andrea Gress:

I'm the worst person to ask. I'm just excited to be around the people and the excitement of the banding station again.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah, that's a good answer. I do want to see a Brown Thrasher...

Andrea Gress:

a Brown Thrasher....

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yes, I would like to have one. Not on my hand, but to see a Brown Thrasher up close. What's the difference of seeing a bird up close that one when you're using your binoculars?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

I mean, you get to see the feathers in more detail. Something that surprised me when I saw my first Brown Thrasher was the eye color. I always expected it to be kind of reddish, but it's actually yellowy-orange. And it's kind of opaque looking, rather than... I don't know, I was expecting it to look more crystalline. So it was really, really cool. You also get to see sort of like their behavior in hand. Some of them prefer not to be in the hand for very long. Thrashers were surprisingly calm. Yeah, just the the detail in the feathers is really the thing that's most striking. And I guess the overall body size so when you're looking through the binoculars, you you get an idea of the bird size based on its environment, but it's always a little bit different than what you're expecting when you see it in the hand.

Andres Jimenez Monge: 7:

30am and it stopped raining. So... it's opening time. We open the nets now and we start seeing the birds poor in!

Andrea Gress:

Gentle rain still coming down but the birds are out and about. Tree Swallows are dipping and diving Redwing Blackbirds in droves! There's a man fishing down by the water here. It's just it's just an absolutely lovely place. What are you hearing?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I am hearing Robins, Kinglets, Cardinals, Tree Swallows, Song Sparrows... definitely a Mourning Dove... Redwinged Blackbirds.

Andrea Gress:

We are up on this beautiful little wooden platform in a marshy area overlooking a marsh and then past it extends into Lake Erie. And the sun is slowly rising. It's cloudy, but there's a pink streak on the horizon. [Bird Song]

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Jules is telling us how to open the nets. It's awesome. And Deb who is new here is going with us we're learning...

Jules Delisle:

We push the first part her.. it kind of unfolds. This should be almost like this.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So in this particular field site, there are 14 nets. We've just opened net number two, and I'm still following Jules.

Jules Delisle:

The first time I came here. It was a week ago.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

A week ago?

Jules Delisle:

Yeah.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So you've been here for a week and this is the first banding experience you've got?

Jules Delisle:

No, it's the second one.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What's your background?

Jules Delisle:

I'm a biologist. I studied plant biology, and I was part of urban agriculture projects.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So why volunteer for bird banding?

Jules Delisle:

Yeah, I guess a few years ago, I started... I started being interested in ornithology a lot more and I had friends that went to the Birding stations and I wanted to see what it was like

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What's been the highlight for you so far at this station?

Jules Delisle:

At this station, there's a platform where we can observe the birds and there's a lot of diversity.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Alright, let's keep on opening those nets! So Ashlea, is the goal to band every single bird you catch?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Yeah, I mean, we want to band every single bird we catch but we don't need to band every single bird in the forest in order to get a representative sample of the population, that's more the goal.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What is this ground trap designed to catch?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Birds that like to feed on the ground? So a lot of juncos and sparrows, but we we get blackbirds too.

Andrea Gress:

The nets have been open for a little while now. So there's gonna be some birds in it. So we're gonna go out and check the nets with the volunteers. We've got two volunteers staying here right now. And then there's three field staff that work with Birds Canada. And then there's a researcher working on his PhD. So there's a really cool crew of people out here and excited to tag along with them and see what they show us.

Felicia St Arnould:

Golden-crowned Kinglet, little feisty, male.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Hi friend! I have never seen a Golden-crowned...stop pecking my friend...

Felicia St Arnould:

Yeah, look at this crown!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

You're gonna keep on checking.

Felicia St Arnould:

Yes.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

That's the first bird of the day.

Felicia St Arnould:

I'm Felicia, I'm from Montreal.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

And how long have you been at the station?

Felicia St Arnould:

Right now? It's been two days. But I've been here last fall than last spring and last summer. Actually, I just fell in love with the place and I never want to leave again.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Did you end up coming here? What's the story?

Felicia St Arnould:

Actually, I was listening to a TV show, a Quebecois French TV show, and the people were coming to Long Point to like see people band birds and I just saw the episode and I thought "Wow, this is a really special place...I have to come here" And then I applied to come band. I didn't really have experienced I had bended like a few birds in Quebec before but yeah, nothing much. And then they they answered and the accepted me and then I just came here and I never really left.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What's it like fulfilling a dream?

Felicia St Arnould:

Yeah, it really was. Yeah, it was really special. Yeah.

Andrea Gress:

What species have you got here?

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Catching lots of those lately. Yeah. They seem to have come through and pretty large numbers. I think we had 50ish yesterday.

Andrea Gress:

Wow.

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Yeah. Dominating the banding lab with their cuteness.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah. Up close you can really see the golden crown.

Ashlea Veldhoen:

Yeah. It's really bright. The orange peeking through is a sign of a male. The females have a golden crown too, but it doesn't have that orange underneath.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

They got something they got something. What do you have?

Jules Delisle:

I have American Robin.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

And it's banded!

Jules Delisle:

It's already banded. Yes. Maybe we'll get useful information from that band. All right.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What are you gonna do now?

Jules Delisle:

I'm gonna put the bird in the bag, and we're gonna go check the ground traps.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Tell me about the ground traps.

Felicia St Arnould:

They're a little type of cages that have tiny entrance. And so the birds can find their way in but have a hard time finding their way out. We catch different birds with ground traps, mostly birds that are typically on the ground, like sparrows juncos or like redwing, grackles. So it's American Tree Sparrow Yes.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So amazed that you can tell just by looking at it flying all around?

Felicia St Arnould:

Yeah. Well, the tree sparrows, I find them easy to identify because we they have like a bicoloured bill. Look at this beautiful bill.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Oh it's a bicoloured bill! But only when you have them in your hands, can you so easily notice that! Yeah. Okay, now that we've checked some of the nets is time to go and see if Stu is here.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, I think he should be arriving about now Stu is like the head guru of Long Point Bird Observatory, and he's gonna show us how to band a bird and tell us all about this place.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah, we're supposed to meet him at the banding lab and we're gonna ask him to band a bird for us! He hasn't banned the birds in a while I bet because you know he's now the boss, but...

Andrea Gress:

The boss never gets to have any of the fun.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Exactly! So we've got to ask him to go back to his banding days and band a bird for us and tell us all the stories about what it means to be a bird bander.

Andrea Gress:

Awesome. Let's go get Stu.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

We'll be right back. How do you like your coffee? Andrea cream? Sugar?

Andrea Gress:

I like mine bird friendly... certified!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Then I have just a brew for you. Bird and Beans Coffee Roasters only use beans from farmers who keep the native forest habitat intact, growing coffee in the shade of a variety of native trees.

Andrea Gress:

That's good for migratory birds.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Good for everyone! This coffee is even certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It protects biodiversity support sustainable farming, and it's fair trade and organic too!

Andrea Gress:

Ah, not to mention delicious!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

... Deliciously bird-friendly! If any of our listeners also like their coffee bird friendly certified here's how to get it. Ordered online at birdsandbeans.ca/warblers. Make sure to use this slash warblers because that means birds and beans will also donate 10% of the purchase price to support this podcast. You can also use the link on your podcast player.

Andrea Gress:

Sounds great! Andres How about another cup?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Let's do it!

Stu Mackenzie:

You take a band size zero... So I'm... My name is Stu Mackenzie. I'm the Director of Strategic Assets at Birds Canada. Right now I'm holding a Phoebe. So I'm going to focus on the bird and I'm going to put a band on it. I'm here at Long Point Bird Observatory where we've been monitoring migration and banding birds since 1959. And this Phoebe's just going to be the next one on our list. So the band numbers 27. I'm just gonna band this one and get it out the door because it's a flycatcher, and it's sensitive when it's cold outside. I'm holding in my hand right now we're Red-winged Blackbird, which is one of the most populous birds in North America. But even though they're one of the most populous, they've still declined drastically in the last 40 years. Now this Red-winged Blackbird fits perfectly in my hand, it's about the size of a toilet paper roll... And Redwing blackbirds, everybody can familiarize yourself with them. They're black with bright red wing patches. But the one that I'm holding right now is sort of a model black and white with streaking a little beautiful white beige eyeline the wing patches in red, it's kind of orangey yellow, this really marry out of black, brown and orange. So this is a young Red-winged Blackbird one of last year's young, and birds change color in many ways. In about a month or two, this bird will look quite black because all the brown that's left in his plumage will wear off and then when it moults in the summer, it'll become a striking male Red-winged Blackbird that we're all familiar with. Bird banding has been happening for over 100 years in North America longer than that around the world. This it started with ornithologist, early ornithologist, just putting wires around the legs of Robin in North America was one of the first and then seeing if that bird with the same bird with the same wire returned. The natural progression was that was to put numbers on the band but addresses on the band. And it evolved over time into the North American Bird Banding Program, which has now abandoned 10s of millions of birds in which our data contributes to. So the bird bands all have a nine digit number on them. And some of them have a web address, which is report band.gov. Some still have a mailing address, so you can mail you can mail in the band or mailing the information about the band. And the number is unique. And it all goes into a centralized database. So if you ever find the bird with a bird band, sometimes you'll even be lucky enough to see a bird with a band at your feeder. If you take about 73 pictures exactly. from different angles and different lighting, you can reconstruct what the band number is. And there's some fascinating stories and recoveries from people's bird feeders. One is a an actual Green-Tailed Towhee that was banded at our Thunder Cape Bird Observatory near Thunder Bay. And it was found at someone's feeder a few months later in Wisconsin. There's these really interesting stories with banding. The band is just a little bit of a cylinder with and we have specialized pliers that allow us to open the band and we open it just enough... it's kind of like a ring when we open it just enough to place it on the bird's leg. And then once it's on the leg, the band fits quite loosely more like a bracelet it's not as nearly as tight as a ring the band can move up and down the leg freely and spin freely. And now this Red-winged Blackbird is tagged for life as we, as we say.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Stu why is it so important to band birds?

Stu Mackenzie:

Banding birds has a number of purposes. One purpose is the ... is to get recoveries. So over the time when you band so many millions of birds, you get the recovery of a certain percentage of them. It's actually quite small, usually around 1%. And when you accrue that data over many, many years we learn where the birds are breeding, where they're migrating through their migratory routes, where they may be spending the winte... And that gives us indications of where where populations are centered. You can... they can also be used for population estimates, as in as in the case of duck banding, and it actually helps us. The number of recoveries from certain certain areas allows us to set appropriate harvest rates for waterfowl and other species. And for migratory birds, banding does give us a lot of valuable information about their migration routes and timing. But also the practice of banding is not just the act of putting up the the actual band and the recoveries that it that it creates. It's the act of banding and all the additional data that we collect from those birds, which tells us a lot of valuable information about demographics. So how many adults or young are in the population, the health of the population? Quite often we'll do disease scanning or collaborate with other researchers to learn about their their physiology. It's really a gateway to ornithology and banding is like the essential first step. So almost any ornithologist in the world when they're studying birds one of the first things you do when you capture them is you band them and it gives us that permanent identification marker... it's like a license plate on your car... it's your it's their SIN number and allows researchers to track them throughout their throughout their lives.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

How important it is to band birds now after 100 years?

Stu Mackenzie:

Banding birds is as relevant today as it ever was. Actually today it's probably even more relevant! There's a greater need to educate the public about birds and their connection to wildlife and what that the gateway that they are toward conservation. There's there's more youth that wants to get engaged in wildlife and natural sciences and bird... birding is a gateway drug to the natural world! Bird banding is a gateway drug to research in greater ornithology.

Andrea Gress:

What about climate chang? Is it helping us understand how that's impacting birds?

Stu Mackenzie:

Climate change is a.. it's also a great... there are applications for it to help to examine the impact of climate change. Most of that has to do with bird populations like as we've been tracking here at Long Point Bird Observatory and through other surveys like the breeding bird survey. Banding contributes to the methods that allow us to track population change over time or to examine potential impacts and potentially mitigate impacts in certain environments knowing which species may be impacted greater than other species. In the case of climate change over the long term. We're seeing across the boards that birds are generally migrating earlier, some species are arriving earlier in the season. Some are staying later, there's these temporal changes with that we can examine.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Stu, do you have a very quintessential story about... or a memorable story about a bird banded here or that you banded that you would like to share?

Stu Mackenzie:

The most...? This story is so out there that you'd almost think I'm making it up. So before that, I'm gonna get this Redwinged Blackbird out the door and then I'll tell you my fantastic story about a Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Fantastic Cliff hanger here...

Stu Mackenzie:

My unbelievable story is about a Black-throated Blue Warbler. And it starts with a gentleman named Freddy Santana, who's from Cuba. And he was here visiting us for a few months as part of our Latin American training program where we bring Latin American ornithologists north or we'll conduct training workshops in Latin America. And he banded a Black-throated Blue Warbler while he was here, and Freddy took all the knowledge that he gained here at Long Point and working with other ornithologists. He went down to Cuba and a year and a half later, he was doing a project in Cuba and he banded, he caught a recaptured Black-throated Blue Warbler and it just happened to be one of the ones... he didn't banned it... but it was one of the ones that we banded during the fall that he was here at Long Point! And that to me stands out as one of the more, just incredible recoveries, that sort of connects all the dots. Both Black-throated Blue Warblers, they overwinter largely in Cuba, the Cuban connection with Freddy. And Freddy is one of the most prominent Cuban ornithologist right now. He's a great guy - Shout out Freddy. That's my banding story. And this juncos band number is 296071363.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

We'll be right back.

Jody Allair:

The Warblers is a podcast of Birds Canada. Our goal is to bring you the information you need to discover, enjoy and protect birds. If you like what you hear, please subscribe, leave a review and share this podcast with everyone you know. Birds Canada relies on the support of donors like you to learn more or to make a donation visit birdscanada.org. And if you give, please note the podcast in the comment box.

Andrea Gress:

Could you tell us a bit more about Long Point Bird Observatory, its history and conservation objectives?

Stu Mackenzie:

Long Point Bird Observatory...It all starts, and you have to understand first have to understand Long Point. So we're standing right now at the base of Long Point which is a 40 kilometre stand spit that juts into the middle of Lake Erie, which makes it a trap for migrants. It's this perfect funnel for migrants. It's an amazing natural area that attracts biologists and it's just has an unlimited number of of research and reach and engagement potential! And you kind of wrap all that into a nice little package and back in the late 1950s, a group of drone apologists from the Ontario bird banding association was looking for a place to study, particularly bird migration. And it started out at Pelee... but Pelee was a bit too busy, people wise, a little bit too fancy. So they were looking for a place a little bit more private. And they ended up at Long Point. After the first expedition to the tip of Long Point, we say the rest is history. The people fell in love the place was perfect for the research that they wanted to conduct. And then over the years, established in 1960, we set up another research station at Breakwater in 1962-1963. And then yet another research station at the base of Long Point which is Old Cut, where to where we are now. And so since 1960, we've been monitoring birds the same way, at Long Point, counting daily, daily counts of everything that's migrating by, and conducting standardized banding that we talked about earlier at all three of those stations. And when you combine all the data we've collected over now, over 60 years, we can monitor population trends in over 100 species and also contribute to a lot of research about what we talked about as well about migration, bird physiology. And, well, the list just goes on and on and on t from that perspective. Now, Long Point Bird Observatory in the 80s began to take on different programs. So a Heron Recount and Project Feederwatch. And at the time, the Baillie Birdathon. And eventually, Long Point Bird Observatory kind of became provincial in scope. And then you add on the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, which is national in scope and made less and less sense for Long Point Bird Observatory to be Long Point Bird Observatory, and then in the late 90s, evolved into Birds Studies Canada, which now today has grown into the national bird conservation organization, Birds Canada. So here at Long Point, we have a Foundation of Ornithology, for ornithology and research and engagement with all of our trainees, but also with the public. But also it's the foundation of how a Bird Observatory, a small group of six people at the tip of Long Point can grow into national organization with 70,000 contributors and growing.

Andrea Gress:

So there's a lot of really good history here. And since the establishment of LPBO, there's now bird observatories all across Canada. Why is it important to have such a vast network?

Stu Mackenzie:

Yes, there are bird observatories, not just across Canada, but across all of North America and around the world. In Canada, we have close to 30 bird observatories. And it's it's important to have these snapshots and these engagement centers all over the all over the country, from a data perspective as allows us to understand what's not just happening at Long Point, but what's happening in Eastern Ontario, in the Maritimes, or in in the Rockies. And then we can combine that information to understand changes in bird populations and their demographics across the entire country. But it's not just in Canada that we're we have to rely on many species, like Pine Siskins will migrate east west. So we'll recovery and learn about pine Siskins that in British Columbia or Yukon, for example. But we also have to rely and work with bird observatories in the United States or in Mexico and Central America and South America that are also conducting similar research and training and we're all sharing the same birds and our birds are being recovered down there. Just like the Black-throated Blue example. There are many connections through throughout the entire hemisphere based on birds and and the work that good work that bird observatories are doing.

Andrea Gress:

And are there any major differences between how bird observatories operate?

Stu Mackenzie:

That's one of the great things about birds observatories, is that everyone is different. They all are in different geographies, they all have different infrastructure, they all have different birds, they all engage different audiences. I'm a Bird Observatory junkie, I just love what they're capable of and the impact that they can have both individually and collectively. So if you have a Bird Observatory near you, you can go on birds Canada's website and see the Canadian migration monitoring network to find your closest Bird Observatory. Anywhere you travel. Chances are there's a brick observatory somewhere nearby and bird observatories also take on many forms. So they're not always called the Bird Observatory. Sometimes they're called a nature center or reserve... depends on the individual branding at the time... or a research station bird observatories are often hiding in plain sight. So get out there and find one!

Andrea Gress:

Bird observatories are really essential places for a lot of young biologists to start off their career. Could you tell us what Long Point Bird Observatory really means to you

Stu Mackenzie:

Well, you guys are gonna get deep now. So yeah, personally? bird observatories are, I think I said it earlier. Sort of that essential entry point for many young biologists I started when I was 12,... I banded my first bird when I was eight, but not at a Bird Observatory. And I grew up at a Bird Observatory, so I am a Bird Observatory progeny. And over the years, we've trained or had that sort of foundational impact on 1000s of individuals through here. I bet right now, if anybody listening to the podcast, you know, raise your hand if you've had that, you know, essential early experience at a Bird Observatory. You guys can hear and see all the hands that are being rasied across the country. And right now, at Long Point, even though we're in kind of a scaled down COVID era, there's still 10 individuals here from across the country right now, many of them from Quebec. But in a normal year, we'll have, you know, up to 100 people through the system from 10 or more countries, it really does provide opportunities for for mixing as well and cross pollination of cultures and knowledge of birds from around the world.

Andrea Gress:

And what is the main lesson we can take away from Long Point Bird Observatory? What is it teaching us about birds and conservation?

Stu Mackenzie:

That's one of the harder questions to ever ask. So thanks for that. The best answer I can give you is bird observatories really just provide that gateway either for ornithologists or the public to appreciate birds and nature through birds. And whether that's, you know, the really in depth and detailed research that we're doing to advance science, whether it's, you know, just the family that comes in and sees a cardinal in the hand, or maybe just a cardinal for the first time. Bird observatories allow that level of engagement at all levels from the three year old, to the 90 year old, across the entire spectrum of professional grades as well, the highly published PhD professor, although although I don't even say well, all the way down, that's not that's not the appropriate discussion, but it's accessible, they make birds accessible to everybody. That's the best way to say it.

Andrea Gress:

And that's so important when more and more people are disconnected from nature, and just just not really seeing it and interacting up close. So bird observatories are incredible in that sense. What is... this should be an easier question, what is your favorite moment from LPBO?

Stu Mackenzie:

I don't have a moment. Every season brings numerous moments. If it gets sentimental, it's just, you know, the looks on my kids faces when they're smelling their first Phoebe, that kind of thing.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

... Which they smell amazing. He put us to smell a Phoebe and it's very nice. It smells like a baby.

Stu Mackenzie:

But you see that same look in the face of everybody who comes through here. At some point, no one can leave without that, you know, baby Phoebe face, I guess you could call it. And that's just that an incredible engagement that you see. And it's not just in the birds that we might handle at one time... Long Point itself. And you can say the same about many of the environments that bird observatories exist in it's not a coincidence that many of them happen to be in awesome places. Birds tend to concentrate and awesome places, but Lng Point itself provides engagement. And the observatory provides these incredible engagement opportunities, whether it's the birds, the experience, the people the place, the weather, the environment. Yeah. It's it's those experiences that really, that I take away from it.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

As someone that grew up in the observatory, and as someone that has been banding birds, since you were eight, what is the future? Like? What is the future for LPBO? In 20 to 50 years from now? What is the role that observatories are going to be playing in the future?

Stu Mackenzie:

Well, the primary goal of any nonprofit is survival. Aside from survival, the goal is to thrive and to be a center of excellence. And we're continually improving our methods and infrastructure and programs to engage the most people to train the most ornithologist, to produce the most science and, and in turn, you know, provide good conservation for birds and improvement of the natural world for us all. So the future is on that trajectory, and incorporating even more advanced science and more tracking, as you would have talked in other other episodes, or we'll talk again, tracking technology so that the concept of using bird bands just to find out where birds go is quite antiquated, creates a lot of valuable data. But there's much more efficient ways to do that, whether it's through satellite tracking, or GPS track technology, or through radio telemetry, like the Motus wildlife tracking system... We're standing right below a Motus Station right now... I use that kind of as an example of how bird observatories and Long Point will be advancing with technology. So banding a bird will always be an important, valuable, valuable thing, it's just it's going to add even more when it's combined with the knowledge that we're getting from more advanced tracking and with and with Motus. We have Motus Stations at most of the bird observatories in Canada already. My goal is to see a Motus Station at every Bird Observatory in the Western Hemisphere. It just adds that added value of the engagement and accessibility that bird observatories provide with the added benefit of the technology and the advanced science that we can bring to conservation now.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Stu, how can people learn more about bird observatories and about LPBO?

Stu Mackenzie:

You can go on Facebook at Long Point Bird Obs, you can go on Instagram @longpointbirds, but you can also go birdscanada.org/lpbo the Canadian migration monitoring network, spend a bit of time googling bird observatories, and you'll find and learn a lot.

Andrea Gress:

Awesome, and we've been speaking with some really excellent volunteers that you've got here today as well. How could people get involved at a Bird Observatory?

Stu Mackenzie:

So most bird observatories are volunteer driven many fortunate ones like Long Point have some staff which guide the program. Volunteers are important in every scope of everything we do. We have volunteer groups that organize and greet visitors here. And then we have volunteers that are doing the hands on bird work at at any given time. And some volunteers are, you know, constructing traps or fixing a building for us. So the the entry level for volunteers is quite vast at all bird observatories. And most have online application forms or an email where you can get in touch with the observatory and see, just basically just ask, "How can I help?" and almost every birds observatory will tell you.

Andrea Gress:

So there's so many opportunities, probably wherever you are in Canada, so go check it out, folks. Thank you so much, STu, for having us here today. And thanks to your team for letting us tag along on the net checks and the banding. This has been an incredible experience and we love what you do.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

And thanks to the birds

Andrea Gress:

and thanks to the birds.

Stu Mackenzie:

Thanks to the birds. Thanks for coming!

Andres Jimenez Monge:

The Warblers is produced by Andres Jimenez, Jody Allair, Andrea Gress, Ruth Friendship-Keller and Kate Dolgleish. This episode was edited by Greg McLaughlin and engineered by Katie Zhang, with the music by Jose Mora and art by Alex Nicole. Until next time, keep birding!