Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory - Who We Are
About Us

Who We Are

 PEPtBO is:

The banding site is located on a major migratory route and is a focal point for passerines, waterfowl and raptors with yearly reports of rare and unusual species.
The Observatory is open to the public. ( click here for Fall Banding times, or Spring Banding times, or Maps/Directions)

 

 

Our Mission

PEPtBO is committed to increasing the appreciation, knowledge and understanding of birds by collecting data through spring and fall banding programs, a daily census, observation surveys and research projects.  We strive to provide the community with opportunities to support and engage in the conservation of bird populations and habitats.

 
PEPtBO joins Nature Canada, Ontario Nature, Bird Life International, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Audubon Society in supporting Prince Edward County Field Naturalists efforts to Save Ostrander Point
 
 

 Our History

Introduction to PEPtBO

 

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) is located in the southeast corner of Prince Edward County on Long Point, near the town of Picton.  The Observatory is situated on land belonging to the federal government, in the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS). PEPtBO is a highly significant site for migrating birds, and hence is one of the busiest and most productive stations within the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network.

 

The Kingston Field Naturalists (KFN) first recognized Long Point as an important staging area for migratory birds in the 1960s.  After some years of both casual and systematic visual studies, the KFN initiated a banding program from 1975 to 1983.  During this period 64,470 birds of 160 species were banded by the KFN.  Later, Drs. Fred Cooke and Charles Francis, of Queen’s University at Kingston, conducted banding operations there focusing on migratory passerines.

 

The Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area came into being in the late 1970s when the CWS and KFN cooperated to acquire 560 ha near the tip of Long Point in Prince Edward County.  Brian Joyce and Eric Machell founded PEPtBO in 1995, thanks to funding from the James L. Baillie Fund, and through cooperation with the CWS.  Preliminary banding and migration monitoring began that spring.  Since then, many significant changes have enabled PEPtBO to become one of the most successful permanent banding stations in Canada.

 

PEPtBO first canvassed the community of Prince Edward County to acquire volunteer support in 1998.  The response was, and continues to be, tremendous.  PEPtBO established a Board of Directors that year, including many County community members, and persons with specialized knowledge and interests from elsewhere in the province.  Day volunteers from the County and environs began assisting at the nets with bird extraction and scribing, allowing PEPtBO to run more nets for longer periods. 

 

Also in 1998, Birdlife International and the Canadian Nature Federation (now Nature Canada) designated the Prince Edward County South Shore a Globally Important Bird Area (PECSSIBA). The designation was based on two factors: the numbers of three species of waterfowl around the Point each exceeded 1% of the world’s population for each species (i.e., Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter), and the huge numbers of migratory birds that pass through the area on route to their breeding sites in the Boreal Forest from their wintering areas in the southern USA, Mexico, and Central and South America.

 

In 1999, PEPtBO was incorporated in Ontario, and received charitable status as a scientific research station. The charitable status enables PEPtBO to receive donations and pursue funding that assists in covering the costs of the banding operations, of developing educational and outreach programs, and in maintaining the facilities.

 

The same year, PEPtBO became a full member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN).  This program of Bird Studies Canada (BSC) includes approximately 30 permanent monitoring stations across Canada operating near significant bird migration routes. In the long run, standardized banding and observation methods will enable banding stations and BSC to identify significant changes, and their causes, in the demography of migratory birds.

 

An Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant in 2001 enabled PEPtBO to make a move toward sustainability.  We hired David Okines as our full-time Station Manager and Bander-in-charge, allowing us to expand our migration monitoring protocols to include a fall banding program of passerines, raptors and owls, specifically the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Also, a long-term renewable lease agreement was established with the CWS, leading to the renovation of the Van Cott residence and installation of solar power panels.

 

With a permanent full-time Bander-in-charge and a full migration monitoring programme, PEPtBO began to offer younger, less experienced banders from all over the world, the opportunity to spend time at the Observatory to assist the BIC and to hone their identification and banding skills. Many young people working in the field today both here in Canada and in countries abroad trained with David Okines at PEPtBO.

 

PEPtBO has also welcomed numerous visiting banders from other cities, provinces and countries, keen to become more familiar with the North American species that migrate through Prince Edward Point. Hence, many banders, assistant banders and day volunteers have all contributed to the collection of the following data. Thank you all.

 

 

Figure 1.  Total number of birds banded during the spring and fall seasons, at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory from 1995-2014.

 

 

 

Totals for Spring

Totals for Fall

Grand Totals

Birds Banded

87,759

101,419

189,168

Species Banded

145

159

176

Species Observed

263

260

290

 

Figure 2. Banding and Observation Totals 1995 - 2014 

 

 

Figure 3. Top 10 Species by Season 1995 – 2014

 

 

Other Changes, Additions, Developments at PEPtBO

 

In  2006, the storage area at the back of the Van Cott was converted into an additional room to be used as office and/or accommodation space. To replace the loss of the storage space, a concrete-floor shed was erected immediately behind the Van Cott cottage, near the raised solar panels, to allow us to move nets, poles, bird feed, etc., out of the living quarters.

 

Also in 2006, in response to a bequest from John Rymes and his family, PEPtBO added a wheelchair-accessible path from the main banding hut out to net lane 2, hereafter known as the “John Rymes Memorial Trail”.  Mr. Rymes, and his wife Cindy, were frequent visitors to the Observatory, and in the last months of his life Mr. Rymes had trouble getting around the Observatory in his wheelchair.  As the dedication sign says, the new trail will give all people bound to wheelchairs “Access to Nature”.

 

In 2008, following a preliminary study conducted by David Okines in 2007, another protocol was added to our banding procedures – the banding of Bobolinks, a species at risk, during the last three weeks of August.

 

In 2009, David Okines, prepared a detailed report on “The Birds of PEPtBO and Prince Edward Point NWA” contracted by CWS for use in updating its management plans for the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area. The report included information on location, distribution, status and trends of migratory birds, including rare species at risk.

 

In June 2010, David Okines undertook a detailed Species at Risk (SAR) survey of resident birds within the PEC South Shore Important Bird Area (PECSS IBA), collecting baseline data for 10 “priority” at-risk species and 12 “non-priority” species. The study was approved and funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

 

In 2011, PEPtBO entered into a contractual agreement with CWS to undertake the maintenance of the PEP NWA. Duties include regular inspections of the buildings (Fritz and VanCott), boundary fences, dock and picnic areas; collecting and disposing of waste and servicing washrooms; and cutting the grass and maintaining the grounds of both buildings and parking sites.

 

Also during 2011, PEPtBO assisted PECFN in their fight to protect the PECSS IBA from the proposed industrial wind turbine development at Ostrander Point, providing them with knowledge and statistical data on the significant and extensive use of the area by migrating birds. In March of 2011, David Okines was the keynote speaker at a daylong conference hosted by KFN to develop a comprehensive overview of the migration patterns at the eastern end of Lake Ontario; PEPtBO’s data was invaluable in contributing to the greater picture. In May, David again offered his presentation at an information meeting in Picton for local residents. He also appeared as an expert witness at the Tribunal held to determine whether industrial wind turbines at Ostrander Point would cause irreparable damage to all or any facets of the environment at Ostrander Point.

 

In 2012 PEPtBO received a Habitat Stewardship Grant from Environment Canada to promote information about Species at Risk in the PEC South Shore IBA.  Informative presentations were given in the County and in Belleville. A Species at Risk in the South Shore IBA brochure and poster series was prepared.

 

In 2013, Stéphane Menu prepared an analysis of the migration monitoring program at PEPtBO including data from 2001 – 2013.  The report was funded by a grant from CWS and includes species descriptions, migration patterns and results of feather analysis showing the northern breeding territories of the birds monitored at PEPtBO.

 

In 2014, PEPtBO was named the official “caretaker” of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. This opened up entirely new opportunities for developing observation and data collection protocols, and for working collaboratively with BSC and with the Field Naturalists from Prince Edward County and the Quinte Region.

In 2014, PEPtBO received funding from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Species at Risk program for an expanded survey and inventory of the Species at Risk in the IBA.  Volunteers were trained to do point counts and block counts throughout the IBA and to enter all data into eBird.  A Waterfowl Blitz was held in late winter.  Specific Whip-poor-will surveys were carried out. This work is continuing.

 

In 2015, the PECNWA was selected as one of ten sites across Canada to be developed as a point of contact with nature for urban Canadians, and to house a permanent Visitor’s Centre that would include the observatory.  Consequently, PEPtBO will be working in close cooperation with Nature Canada, in partnership with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and the Kingston Field Naturalists, to develop an education and outreach program to connect urban Canadians to nature through site visits to the Prince Edward Point NWA, including the observatory. PEPtBO’s very successful and popular Spring Birding Festival will be expanded to further engage youth and urban Canadians in activities and educational opportunities. In addition, there will be an initiative to expand upon classroom visits, tours and follow-up materials that support Ontario curriculum.