at McGill Bird Observatory fill one or more roles, depending on previous experience, abilities, interest, and current needs. While our top priority is the safe and consistent operation of MBO's standardized research programs, we do also attempt to provide training in relevant skills, especially to volunteers interested in long-term involvement. The descriptions below outline what is associated with each role, and the requirements for being able to carry them out independently.
/ data recorder:
The scribe plays an essential role by freeing up the bander to
concentrate on handling and identifying the bird, and is responsible for
ensuring that all necessary data is obtained and recorded accurately.
data in the log books, as directed by the bander
Look up references concerning the current bird, as directed by the bander
bander about information that appears to be inconsistent, incorrect, or missing, before he/she releases the bird
to detail. The log is the record of all our activities, and it
is essential that it is maintained accurately.
handwriting. If we can't read what is written, the data recorded
to ask questions. If you are unsure about something the bander
has asked you to record, don't guess - ask her/him to confirm!
leader / censuser:
All volunteers are expected to observe and keep notes of birds
observed during each visit. However, experienced observers are asked
to be particularly alert to recording birds in the area, and to assist in
particular by conducting the daily census.
the one-hour census walk.
other volunteers with identification of birds.
look for additional birds throughout the morning, when not occupied
with other activities (paying particular attention to areas where
there are no nets and/or are less frequently visited).
This is the first role taken on by many volunteers, but it is an
important one. Many volunteers choose to keep this role for a long
time as it allows them to observe and learn from extractors, and to enjoy
the majority of the morning outside.
extractors by providing empty bags for birds, holding bags containing
birds, raising and lowering nets, and carrying items (birds, bags,
etc) between the nets and the banding station. This is a
tremendous help as it allows the extractors to work much more quickly
Keep track of which bags hold birds from which nets, to ensure proper data entry once the birds are brought to the banding station.
to help wherever required, as determined by the bander-in-charge
to determine where and when help is needed, to take the initiative to
undertake necessary tasks (e.g. getting extra bags,
bringing birds to the banding station if large numbers are being extracted, etc.), and to work independently.
In terms of safety, extraction of birds is the most critical step in
banding, as it is at this stage that injuries have the greatest potential
to occur. Only those who have consistently demonstrated a very high
level of competence at extraction are permitted to extract on their
own. Anyone interested in becoming an extractor should discuss this with the bander(s)-in charge, and read the Extraction Guidelines
for further advice.
and efficiently extract birds from the nets.
candidates for priority extraction (e.g. two birds in close proximity,
aggressive or very large birds, etc).
the condition of each bird during and after extraction, and be willing
to release it away from the net if it appears to be under stress, or
to send it to the banding station as a priority if it requires special
trainees with extraction, and ensure that those who are not ready to
extract do not attempt to do so.
Badly tangled birds can be frustrating, but allowing yourself to get
irritated is unlikely to help solve the problem, and will generally
only make matters worse.
(never jerky) touch. Most of the birds caught at MBO are very
small, and must be handled very carefully.
for problem solving. Each bird is a puzzle. We can generally determine the basic manner in which it got caught, but the details are often
unclear. Extractors must be able to envision the steps required
to release a bird.
to ask for help. Even experienced extractors are sometimes
puzzled by a bird, and the challenge can often be solved more quickly
by having another person look at it from a different perspective.
An experienced and licensed bander must be present at all times when
nets are open. Only "class 1" birders with a very high
level of comfort handling birds may qualify to be banders. See the
MBO Bander Training
Guidelines for further details on qualifications and how to acquire
the necessary skills.
birds, taking routine measurements (fat, weight, wing chord) and
assessing age and sex for each individual.
note and/or photographs of any abnormal individuals.
the activities of the scribe.
in possession of a federal banding permit for passerines.
to identify all local passerine species, and to be aware of similar
species that could occur in the area as vagrants.
bird-handling skills to allow for the safe transfer of birds from hand
to hand during the course of measurement and identification.
level of familiarity with ageing and sexing of passerines, and an
ability to rapidly and accurately review the classification criteria
presented in key references.
As the title implies, the
bander-in-charge (BIC) is responsible for all activities. In
addition to mastering all the tasks listed above, the BIC must know and
adhere to the standards prescribed by the Canadian Migration Monitoring
all volunteers and direct them according to their abilities and
net openings and closings as required by weather, bird volume, and
abilities of the volunteers present.
that all daily information (weather, volunteer effort, daily estimated
totals) is recorded.
as for the bander, but additionally the bander-in-charge must have a
high level of familiarity with MBO itself to ensure that protocols are
followed and in particular that decisions about net openings and
closings are appropriate.
leadership, organizational, and teaching skills.