After a rainy drive down the 401 from Victoriaville, the sun finally reappeared as we neared Picton. The winds were high but the sun was glorious on the leaves! As a side note, I think we should call our car the Ontario Explorer!
Okay, back to birds. I got distracted by the gorgeous fall colours and wanted to share them with you! We had two goals for this trip; the snow geese in Victoriaville and the Saw-Whet Owl banding at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. It was reported on the website, that the owl banding would take place every day in October beginning at 8:30 pm as long as conditions permitted. We took a drive out in the morning to see how far the observatory was from where we were staying and to check out the road especially since it would be dark and cloudy driving on unfamiliar roads. As an added bonus to getting to know the area in the daylight in preparation for the nightowl events, we saw hundreds of Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures as well as a Bald Eagle and a couple of Juveniles.
There was already lots of banding activity going on at the small observatory hut when we got there. And we had a quick hike through the trails at the Prince Edward Point and could see the nets extending off the trail. This was helpful information since it was pitch black when we followed the guide through the woods as she collected the owls later that night, and flashlights were strictly forbidden!
We were assured that banding would take place that evening, so we headed for some lunch and returned, warmly bundled up, for the evening. As we pulled up there were a few cars and everything was dark. We had been warned that there could be some waiting around so we took coffee and well, waited in the dark.
We forget how much light there is when we live in towns and cities and there are so many lights around. But if you take those lights away and the sky is clouded over, the darkness is almost complete. It’s quite a strange sensation. After a while, we got out of the car and wandered over to the shed and met up with a few other people waiting for the banders to return. It was like The Voice, that music contest where the judges can hear the performers but are not allowed to see them. Imagine that! Meeting people for the first time without seeing them!
Everyone was quite excited. Apparently they had banded 5 Saw-Whets the night before! Finally the banders moved quickly into the banding shed with their catch! We could see 14 bird bags hanging on the wall. Immediately, they got to work. It was going to be a long night ahead!
For the second collection, about six of us joined the banders in the woods. The whole group was going until we were told that we couldn’t use our flashlights! I guess they get used to the trails after working them daily but it was amazing how quickly they moved off the trails and into the areas where the nets were hanging. Anyhow, the second haul brought in 18 more owls! And when I check the count for the evening, they had banded 74 Saw-Whets that night; one of the busiest nights for the month!
It was an experience that I highly recommend. The people who work at the observatory are very generous in explaining what they are doing and why. And the thing that most impressed me, was how quickly they worked and how the welfare of the birds is the first priority. They really seem to give a hoot! What a memorable evening!
Here is a link to the count for 2016: http://www.peptbo.ca/2016-saw-whet-owl-totals.php
And to the Observatory: http://www.peptbo.ca/index.php