PEPtBO reopens to the public

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory reopened to the public on Sunday after being closed to the public last year due to Covid-19. This Yellow Warbler was caught, banded and then released at the event. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)




The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO)  was opened to the public Sunday for the first time since COVID-19 forced its closure in 2020.

President of PEPtBO Julie White was beyond excited to welcome everyone to the reopening.

“While all of us humans have been grappling with the implication of this pandemic, bird life has gone on.” White expressed to the crowd. “They continue to face execrating threats from climate change and habitat degradation, especially through migration. So it’s as important as ever to gather longterm information on bird populations to enable us to monitor ecosystem health and tracking endangered species. Opening up PEPtBO to the public is particularly exciting for us because we see our role as going beyond banding birds and gathering information, we see ourselves as having an important role in public education. Having demonstrations, our program for children where we go to schools and where the schools come here is so important in building future leader advocates for the environment, so being open again to the public is just hugely important to us. It really means the world to us that were open again and that you all came to celebrate with us so thank you very much.”

President of PEPtBO Julie White. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

The celebration opened with dignitaries Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis and MPP Todd Smith and Mayor Steve Ferguson all saying a few words about how important PEPtBO is and the work the banders and volunteers do.

“It was about three-four years ago this facility opened and I guess with Covid we kind of shortened everything up and it seems like it was two years ago but it was great to be here for the grand kickoff and it’s great to be here now,” stated MP Ellis. “I think it was Julie (White), Bryan Joyce (director) and Cheryl Anderson (past president), we got together on Zoom about a month ago to talk about the organization and about all the volunteers, so I would like to thank all the volunteers. As an organization and to thrive like this with volunteers it just gives credit to not only the Bay of Quinte riding of volunteers but the unity in our community and what its about, volunteering and seeing with nature and that is fantastic.”

PEPtBO which is located on Long Point Rd, is a registered charity with a mandate to monitor, report on and promote analysis on bird migration and to act as official caretaker of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity area (IBA).

“As many of you know this is one of the last undeveloped pieces of shoreline on the North Shore of Lake Ontario,” MPP Smith added. “That’s why its been so important and such a priority for me to work on your behalf to make sure we’re protecting this piece of land that is home to so many birds. It’s great to see so many people out, this has been such a tough time over the last 18 months for everybody and great to see people out enjoying the beautiful weather, enjoying the beautiful countryside we have here.”

Mayor Steve Ferguson thanked both elected representatives for the support they’ve shown PEPtBO and Prince Edward County during the pandemic.  

“It’s most appreciated particularly given the circumstances we’ve been in since March 2020. My partner Mary and I have come down here many, many times and it is just a magical part of PEC. It is one of the most, I think, scenic and lovely places to come and visit. PEC and organizations such as this would not exist without the volunteers that make it tick. So I would like to thank all the volunteers for their work in relaunching and for the extraordinary effort they’ve taken in the past to deal with possible incursion of industrial wind turbines,” Ferguson said.

Banding of a Yellow Warbler. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

Bander-in-charge at PEPtBO Phillip Mercier gave a very informative demonstration with a Yellow Warbler and how a bird is banded and all the different data that can be collected.

“We keep birds in cloth bags as a safety precaution so that they stay calm before they get processed because we can’t process them all at the same time and so we leave them in these bags and we use that to weight the bird,” Mercier said. “The first thing we do when we take a bird out is identify the bird so this specifically is a yellow warbler and then every bird has a specific band size it will use to get banded so this bird takes a size zero and as you can see its a very small aluminum band that we have to open with our banding pliers. When we band the bird we hold it, support the leg at a joint, put the band on the thin side of the bird, turn towards the thick side and close the band. Once the band is closed we make sure it can rotate around the birds leg and that the closure is well secured so that way it doesn’t fall off or get nicked on the bird specifically.”

After the bird receives the little aluminum band, the bander then identifies what age the bird is, measures the wing cord and how much fat it has retained.

Bander-in-charge at PEPtBO Phillip Mercier. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

“All that information we put into our computer,” stated Mercier. “With that information together we do population demographic, so were looking at the difference in age between young birds and older birds and that will give us a lot of information on the survivorship of these birds through migration. For example, if we have a lot of older birds that are returning and coming back and even the young birds coming back, then we know their wintering grounds are pretty secure in terms for that species specifically and generalists species are hard to pinpoint different areas that are at risk or are not at risk. When we have birds that are very specific, for example, the cerulean warbler which is a bird that specifically breeds in only one tree type, so the health of that species is going to tell us how their habitat is doing. So that’s how we can use birds as habitat management practices and habitat rehabilitation practices as well.”

The event closed with a tour through the forest to show where the fine, soft nets, called mist nets, are set up to gently catch the birds in the most humane way possible, to than be banded and released unharmed. The mist nets are taken down after a certain time of day to ensure to birds get left or stuck in the nets.

“The birds are healthy and safe and if we catch them in other places then we know where they’re migrating through which is another good thing knowing what their pathways are for migration and then identifying key stop over sites for them, Over all, all of that information is what we can tell by capturing one bird for example. In the long run we get lots and lots of information for many people to do any kind of study on and that’s where we’re going with PEPtBO is to do more research with all of our data we have because we have banded over 200,000 birds. Just this year alone we are already up to 5,000 birds banded and this is since spring. We had a summer program where we banned about 900 birds and in the spring we had about 3,500 birds and now we have about 50 birds so far today. And because the fall has more birds because of the reproduction in the boreal forest, we are expecting to catch double what we caught in the spring so were expecting about 7,000 birds just this fall which could bring our total up to anywhere around 12,000 to 13,000 birds.”

For more information on PEPtBO and bird banding please visit