Erica Authier looks through binocularsOrnithology student Erica Authier breaks out the binoculars for a closer look at birds in Point Pelee National Park.

Ornithology students study birds on the wing

Sixty-nine students from the University of Windsor’s Department of Biological Sciences travelled to Point Pelee National Park and Holiday Beach Conservation Area on Saturday, September 20, to study birds in migration.

The students in professor Dan Mennill’s third-year ornithology class spent the day studying migratory birds as small as ruby-throated hummingbirds to those as large as bald eagles.

“At the southern tip of Point Pelee we watched gulls, cormorants, and falcons battling a strong west wind,” said Dr. Mennill. “At Pelee’s marsh boardwalk we watched swallows and other songbirds gathering in flocks and making their way south.”

The students honed their identification skills, identifying 39 different species of birds over the course of the day.

“My favourite part of the trip was being able to see species of birds that we likely wouldn’t get a chance to see on campus,” said fourth-year student Erica Authier. “We learned to identify field marks on different species, a tool we can use to confidently identify birds.”

In the afternoon, the students learned from the many volunteers and citizen scientists who run the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory. The students got hands-on experience with techniques for capturing, banding, and releasing migratory hawks and songbirds.

“I was really interested in the process of banding passerines and raptors,” said Peter Cunha. “I was also interested in learning about how the research done by professors at the University of Windsor is helping to understand bird migration through the Great Lakes.”

Classmate Louis Boadi called the day a wonderful learning experience.

“I can truly say that I gained more knowledge and appreciation for bird biology,” he said. “This was my first time watching birds at Point Pelee and Holiday Beach, and it won’t be my last.”

Many more photos of the field expedition are available on Mennill’s website.