Back from the YOW, Part 1

Wow! I don’t know exactly where to start, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I had an amazing experience at the YOW (Doug Tarry Young Ornithologists’ Workshop) at Long Point, Ontario. I have so much to write about that I’m going to post about my adventures at Long Point in two (maybe more) parts.

Aug. 3rd: I arrived a day early for the YOW to make sure I was at Long Point in time the program to start on the 4th. I flew on my own from Edmonton, Alberta, to Hamilton, Ontario, a nonstop direct flight on WestJet.  Stuart Mackenzie, LPBO Program Coordinator, picked me up at the airport and drove me to Old Cut.

When I arrived LPBO, I met Ana, LPBO assistant co-ordinator, and Matt, an LPBO intern. This year’s YOW program was run by Stu, Ana, Matt, and Jody, biologist and science educator. It was great being at Old Cut, because you could walk around the area and watch birds, which was perfect.

An Eastern Wood-Pewee,

Aug. 4th: The other YOWs arrived around lunchtime — four boys and two other girls. Saskia is from British Columbia, Katie from Ontario, Justin from Ontario, Cody from Ontario, Antoine from Quebec, and Eitan from Pennsylvania (he is Canadian-American). In the afternoon, Matt and Ana showed us how to put up and take down mist nets, used to catch the birds for banding. In the evening we went on a mock census walk to familiarize ourselves with the route. Ana and Matt go on census every morning starting around 7am for an hour.

Aug. 5th: We woke up at 5:45, ate breakfast, then opened the 14 nets at 6 am. That morning was the first day of watching banding for the YOWs, we didn’t band anything but it was still very neat to watch Ana and Matt banding. Most of the birds we caught were hatch-year Gray Catbirds, and many of them were re-traps. Three of the species we caught in the nets were life birds for me, American Redstart, Carolina Wren, and Black-and-White Warblers.

A Carolina Wren,


In the afternoon we had a trip planned, but Matt, Ana, and Liza (from the Birds Studies Canada office) wouldn’t tell us where we were going. We drove about 10 minutes north of Old Cut to Pterophylla farm run by Mary Gartshore. When we arrived, I saw two hummingbird feeders, with about 20 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flying around. First, Mary told us a little about what she does at her farm, then she showed us her Australian Shepherd  puppies which were very cute.

Saskia with one of Mary’s puppies,

While we were with the puppies, David Okines, an Ontario hummingbird bander and president of the Ontario Bird Banding Association, was catching the hummingbirds with a net placed over the feeders; he could raise or lower the net with some string that he was able to control from the back door of his car. None of us had any idea that we were going to have the chance to band hummingbirds, and for all of us this was the first bird we have ever banded. The bands for hummingbirds are so small. I think we all had a fear a losing a band and two did get lost. I found it quite hard to band hummingbirds because they are so small and their legs are so short. All of us were very excited to band hummingbirds and we couldn’t thank Mr. Okines enough for the opportunity.

Hummingbird bands come on a sheet of aluminum which have to be cut out, shaped, and filed,

Weighing the hummingbird (the bird is put in a little tube to immobilize it), as you can see it  weighed 1.7 grams,

If you put hummingbirds on their backs, they don’t move,

Aug. 6th: There was more banding today, with the highlights being Mourning Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, American Robin, and Rose-breasted  Grosbeak. I wasn’t present for all the banding because Katie, Saskia, Stu, and I went on the hour-long census walk. We were able to count 30 species on the census route.

In the afternoon we prepared for our boat trip to the Tip of Long Point, we were all very excited about it! The boat ride, with a small motorboat took about two hours, and on the the way we stopped at some sandbars to look at the gulls, terns, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Sanderlings. The Tip is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. Although there were people walking along the beaches, our group were the only people inland. Once we had brought all of our supplies to the house, Stu told us to get ready for a scavenger hunt.

He split us up into two teams, and we each had quite a few things we had to collect: sand from both beaches, evidence of a reptile, driftwood, photo of a Monarch, milkweed pod, a piece of the lighthouse, a Fowler’s Toad, and a few more objects. My team did quite well, we found all but two objects. One of the objects we didn’t find, but the other team found a small Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, a turtle that is threatened provincially and nationally. The turtle they found was quite small but they can grow to be very large.

Katie and the turtle,

Aug. 7th: Our Tip census started at 7:15. We saw Great Blue Heron, Green Herons, Traill’s Flycatcher, Red-breasted Mergansers, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Barn Swallows, Yellow Warblers,  Cedar Waxwings, Ring-billed Gulls, just to name a few.

From 10:30 to 1:00 Ana showed us how to conduct a Breeding Bird Survey, though of course there aren’t any breeding birds at this time of year. Most of the birds we had already seen on census, but we did see a Red Fox and a Sharp-shinned Hawk being chased by a Eastern Kingbird. From 1:00 to 4:30 we went swimming and played monkey in the middle in beautiful Lake Erie, which was lots of fun! At 5:30 we started our Monarch butterfly survey, the goal being to count as many Monarchs on our census route, and we also were to count other butterflies we saw on the route. We counted 91 Monarchs, three Painted Ladies, one Orange Sulphur, four Cabbage Whites, one Northern Crescent, and one Red Admiral. While looking for butterflies, Saskia found a Fowler’s Toad, an other threatened species.

Painted Lady,

Stay tuned for part two! I hope to get it up as soon possible.