I'm back on the west coast! This past month my partner and I have been working at Rocky Point Bird Observatory as banders to monitor fall migration on Vancouver Island. While the skies have been full of smoke, birds are on the move and we've had some pretty cool ones turn up at our stations.
RPBO runs two banding stations - Rocky Point (limited access) and Pedder Bay which are both located in Metchosin BC about 5 minutes away from each other. Dave and I are staying on site in a cozy trailer at the Pedder Bay Marina which makes it easier for us to get to work every day, and to spend our afternoons going on adventures around Metchosin and Victoria. #Trailerlife
My first day here was immediately after returning from the CSEE conference in Guelph ON in July, so needless to say I was running on fumes after a busy few days of networking and giving a talk on my latest thesis chapter.
On day 1 I was at Rocky Point and one of the first birds I got to band was a familiar eastern face - a Northern Parula! Quite a rare occurrence in BC and only the 21st record for the province. Later in the day I also got to band a violet-green swallow, so things were off to a fantastic start.
It's now been one month since we started the season and collectively we've banded ~ 1500 birds. This year we are a part of a 4 bander team including returning bander Blair Dudeck and Donna Talluto from Belgium. Most of the daily team includes volunteers from the community, ranging in age and skill level to extract, band, scribe, and complete daily census.
Operating RPBO wouldn't be possible without volunteers, and we always need more people. One of my missions this season is to encourage students at Camosun and UVic that are interested in biology or nature conservation to come out and develop some field skills. As I've learned, you need more than good grades to get opportunities when it comes to field biology! Being able to teach and mentor new volunteers at the Pedder Bay station is one of the best parts of this job.
While developing my supervisory skills, I'm still trying to get my banding numbers up. Right now I've banded 750 individuals of 76 species, with 27 of these species from RPBO in the past month. My personal goal is to reach over 1200 birds banded of 85 species by the end of October.
Dave and I both got our banding ticks for Black-Throated Gray Warbler - RPBO's logo bird that we don't catch very often, about 10 per season.
Some of my other banding ticks so far include Townsend's and MacGillivray's Warbler, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Pacific Wren, Western Tanager, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Hutton's and Warbling vireo, and Anna's and Rufous Hummingbird.
Learning to band hummingbird's here was a real treat for both Dave and I since neither of us had ever banded them before. Other than extracting Ruby-throated hummingbirds from our nets out east, this was an entirely new experience for us!
The wildlife on the west coast is pretty incredible and though I've been living in Victoria on and off for 3 years, there are still some encounters I've yet to experience. One of the most exciting for me so far has been to see and hear the coastal wolves.
Almost every day at Rocky Point we hear howling coming from the back fields and see wolf scat on the trails near our net lanes. One morning while I was setting up the scope I took a peak to look at some seals and there was a wolf swimming with them to shore! Dave has also seen the wolves at Rocky in the front field and had great looks at an alpha female and her pup.
Other sightings have been humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, a sea otter (!) and about a million black-tailed deer. The diversity and excitement that we get to experience each day makes it pretty hard to complain about our jobs ;)
One month down and migration is still picking up - I can't wait to see what we get in September and October when owls and raptors arrive in large numbers.
Each Saturday our banders write a weekly update on RPBO's blog, which you can read here for a more detailed report.
Here are some of the highlight photos so far this season: