Early This Morning

Bird in Wini's Hand

We woke up extra early this morning, 5:30 a.m. to be precise.  We got dressed, tucked our pants into our socks, hopped in the car and drove 7 km south.  We arrived at a 450 acres reserve that has been donated by a local family to be used for research.  This area is not open to the public, but we were allowed to enter under the guise of volunteers.

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory has set up a bird banding station on the reserve, and hired a guest bird bander to conduct the research.  Lucky for us, their guest bander has been staying at our bed and breakfast for the last month.  There hasn’t been much banding going on due to the cold and rainy weather, but now that the sun is out, the banding has begun!

We were the only volunteers this morning so we had a close up view.  There were 5 foot high bird nets set up amongst the trees, that looped at the bottom.  When a bird flew into the net it would fall into the bottom of the net.  It doesn’t hurt the birds, it’s more like a wee bird hammock.  The nets get checked every 20 minutes.  Lucky for us, there was an adorable Chipping Sparrow caught in the net on our first net check.  I tend to categorize all small, brown and black birds as chickadees.  It falls in line with my lifelong belief that all dogs are male and all cats are female.  Even though their junk may look different, I am still convinced that both species are monosex.

We gathered up our little Sparrow and brought it to the makeshift banding station.  His wings were measured, weight documented, age determined, and leg banded.  There is such a large variety of birds out there and therefore a wide assortment of sizes for bird bands to accommodate all leg sizes.  The most adorable bands are those for hummingbirds.  They have the tiniest legs, hence the smallest bands.  They are so small that they need to be carried on a diaper pin.

Bird Bands

After our sparrow, whom we named Cairo, did his part for research, he was placed on Wini’s hand.  He so generously paused for a photo opportunity, and then flew away.

We all fell in love a little bit this morning, with Cairo, the early morning light, and with the hidden life of birds.  We all agreed our trek was worth our shorter sleep.  Our guest bander says she had heard 47 different bird songs on our property, and has made me a list on her chalk board in her room.  We better start paying attention to our feathered friends.  Spring banding is coming to a close, but there will be more to do late summer and early fall.  And we’ll be there.

Bird in Band

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October

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Somehow another year has flown by.  Two of my awesome children turned another year older this month.  It has been a month full of parties and cake eating.  There was a pool party and a party full of kittens, puppies and Lego the lamb.  There were cupcakes and several cakes from a box, but tonight I made a homemade banana cake with peanut butter icing.  I tend to get all my cake recipes from my  awesome friend Annie’s blog.  There is always excessive cake/pie eating in October as there is much to celebrate.  Cake eating is simply one of those burdens I must shoulder for the good of my children.  As burdens go, I believe this one may pale in comparison to some current world issues.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if the most serious problem in the world right now was my social obligation to eat too much cake this month?  Or that there was a shortage of forks in the world due to my excessive cake consumption?  Or all the wheat farmers had to work around the clock to supply enough flour for all the baking?  If only the world of over eating were that simple.

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Amongst all the celebrating, we snuck out last Saturday to go to the Saw-Whet owl banding at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.   We have been meaning to go for the last two years.  It has always been a struggle to rustle 3 kids at bedtime hour and bundle them up for a chilly night out.  It was well worth it.  We saw a Saw Whet owl close up and even got to pet it.  It was really amazing to check out an owl that close.  We went to the bird banding in the spring, and found it equally fascinating.

The bird observatory is a migration research station on the southern tip of Prince Edward County. This area is a huge migratory path for many birds.   The station bands more than 15,000 birds of more than 120 species.  In the spring, banding begins at dawn when weather permits.  Since our first visit, I promised myself I’d volunteer as soon as my kids were old enough to get themselves on the bus.  Jess suggested we all volunteer as a family come spring.  It seems like the perfect reason to be late for school.

If you plan to be the County in October, you should check out the owl banding.  I may even go again this month.  But not tonight, I’ve got some cake to eat, and a little girl to celebrate.

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