Welcome to FieldWork, I’m James Sidney.
Part of nature’s appeal is the freedom it represents. Later in the broadcast, we’ll meet Kaitlyn Mitchell of EcoJustice, who discusses the legal fight to include nature in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We’ll also hear from artist and filmmaker Cory Trenpanier, whose found his artistic freedom in the vast expanses of the Canadian arctic.
But we start with Stéphane Menu, the station scientist at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory. He not only enjoys the independence of living several months of the year at a remote outpost, but spends that time monitoring the otherwise free migration of songbirds through the boreal forest. I met with him, at the research station, near Cabot Head, Ontario.
Here we are at the Cabot Head research station. It’s on the Cabot Head Nature Reserve on the Bruce Peninsula, in Ontario. It’s an non-profit organization that does among other things, bird migration monitoring. We’re part of the network which is called the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, and there’s about twenty-five observatories or banding stations across the country from Newfoundland all the way to the west coast and up in the Yukon as well.
One of the main goals is to actually determine population trends of the songbirds that go in the boreal forest. It’s very hard to monitor in the boreal forest, because there’s very few roads, very few people, so we don’t really know what happens to these species. But the idea is, if we can monitor them in the spring when they return back from their wintering grounds into the boreal forest, and then again in the fall when they leave to back to their wintering grounds then maybe we have an idea of what’s going on with them.
We have mist nets, which are those fine nets that are strung between two poles that we open every day. We start thirty minutes before sunrise. We then walk the path. We open every single net, and then we check them every thirty minutes for six hours.
You extract all the birds. Put them in a cloth bag. You bring them back to the banding lab. You put the band on. You check the wing length, the fat contents—so again the fat’s the feul they use for migrating—and then age and sex if it’s possible. We weigh them, and then we let them go. We do that every single day from mid-April to mid-June about in the spring. And the fall is season is like mid-August until the end of October, so it covers most of the migration period for these species.
We still have so much to learn actually. We don’t know that much. Obviously we know when the species come back, but we don’t know the numbers, and we don’t know the fluctuations year to year, so even in terms of local natural history for the Bruce Peninsula we’re still learning. Like, now we know that Golden Eagles, actually, every spring, move through the peninsula. And so we don’t really know much about them, and actually even governmental agencies like the Canadian Wildlife Service kind of depends on us, on the data we collect, to put conservation plans, so just like, the knowledge and also the conservation aspect are very important for what we do here.
I’ve, I’ve always liked birds like so it’s hard to say why when you were eight and you still, when you were looking at your backyard feeders and looking at birds, so that’s something I’ve always wanted to, and I think I’m actually very privileged to make a living out of it.
Pretty soon the first hummingbird will come back, and you’ll be like, “Yay! Hummingbirds!” you know, and it’s exciting.
You don’t have to fly across the world to see wonders, like you see them here. It’s like, this massive movement of birds that you can see in your backyard if you pay attention. So it’s like, pay attention of where you are, and what you can see, and it’s a big world, you know. So…ya…