A Bird In Hand To Save Those In The Bush

Braddock Bay, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, is a prime pit stop for migrating birds. In a converted hot dog stand near the Bay, ornithologists and volunteers capture, study and release about 10,000 passing birds each year.

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IRA FLATOW, host:

Up next, Flora Lichtman is here, our video producer. Welcome, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: You've got our pick of the week which is at sciencefriday.com. Our new video pick this week is about?

LICHTMAN: Birds.

FLATOW: Birds. We all love birds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: If you didn't get enough bird action last week during our migration blow out, there's more.

FLATOW: There's more?

LICHTMAN: There's more.

FLATOW: Wait, there's more?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: So we were up in Ithaca last week…

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: …to do this remote show.

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: And as a little field trip, we went out with one of our guests, David Bonter, who works - he's an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And he took us to Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, which is this beautiful spot right on Lake Ontario. And it's actually this converted hot dog stand that you see - a hot dog stand in the '50s.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: So it really looks like…

FLATOW: Yeah. It's like your video you showed us. It really does look like they're selling ice cream out a window with that.

LICHTMAN: And it's kind of - keeps its social tradition even to this day. Although there are no hot dogs now, it's filled with birds. So we went to this banding station and learned about how this team of volunteers bands the birds and also why the birds love this spot on Lake Ontario.

FLATOW: Yeah. They fly - that's why the station was put there.

LICHTMAN: That is why the station is there. It's really - it's kind of interesting. So, you know, birds migrate for thousands of miles, but how do they decide to stop in one place over another?

FLATOW: It's not the hot dog stand that was the (unintelligible).

LICHTMAN: It's the equivalent of the hot dog stand for birds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: That's right. That's right.

LICHTMAN: That's kind of the amazing thing.

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: So they're flying over Lake Ontario, they're coming from the north. They're these little tiny songbirds. So one of the birds we'd see in the video is a golden-crowned kinglet, which is about the weight of a couple of coins in your pocket - just teeny tiny. And it goes, you know, all the way across this lake. And it stops here because first of all, it needs to take a break after going across giant Lake Ontario, but also, because it's a really great spot for food. So Bonter, this ornithologist, describes different types of migration stops. So, imagine you're on a road trip, there's the, you know, pull-up-this-side-of-the-road rest stop.

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: You're desperate. You have to have a coffee. You just have to pull off. Braddock Bay is not this.

FLATOW: Unless you're a bird.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. You're - unless you're a bird. Except that it also has all these other amenities. And so, he sort of describes it as the full-service restaurant of stops.

FLATOW: Wow. Wow. We're talking with Flora Lichtman on our Video Pick of the Week this hour on Science Friday form NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow. Suggesting that you surf over to our Web site at sciencefriday.com where the video is up there. And what extra stuff do you have since the last time you put the bird video up there? What do we see in this video?

LICHTMAN: That you didn't - yeah, this is a two-part series.

FLATOW: Two-part series. The first one was terrific and those birds are cute.

LICHTMAN: And they're - they remain cute in the second video.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Well, I think one of the things is seeing what a full-service restaurant looks like for a bird. You know, so it's really a beautiful spot that's worth taking a look at.

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: And then also, seeing all these, kind of citizen scientists do really technical things on these birds.

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: Like, they take blood and - it was pretty amazing.

FLATOW: Now, you also are here to tell us about the results of a survey. We asked people to help us out, right?

LICHTMAN: Yes. So going back a few weeks, we had a video about these researchers who made a tiny river in their lab.

FLATOW: Oh, yeah.

LICHTMAN: And we asked our audience, come up with a better title than what I had come up with, which many people did - I mean, really, lots of better titles. But we have our top five.

FLATOW: Now, this was a tiny - imagine if you saw from the air a video of the Mississippi shrunken down. This is what they actually made in their hundred-foot laboratory, right?

LICHTMAN: Yeah. So it's just a scaled-down version.

FLATOW: And we need a name for this kind of river. And you - we asked them and you came up with your top five. Number five.

LICHTMAN: Number five, thanks to Greg Gunn(ph), is the Mini-Me-andering River(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Mini-Me-andering River.

LICHTMAN: So I think this is a take off of Mini-Me, which if you've seen "Austin Powers," you know what I'm talking about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: And also, meandering, because it's the type of river is a meandering river.

FLATOW: Oh, I see that.

LICHTMAN: That's pretty good.

FLATOW: It's pretty good. And Flora is the judge of this, so we're going to let her be the...

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Yeah. It appeals to me. (Unintelligible).

FLATOW: Okay. Number four.

LICHTMAN: Number four, A River Runs Through Sprout, and this is thanks to Kip(ph). And the reason why this one is good is because the greenery on this river is alfalfa sprouts.

FLATOW: Oh, yes. I forgot. A River Runs Through Sprouts. Sprout, sprout, sprout. Oh, okay.

LICHTMAN: Thanks, Kip. Pretty good.

FLATOW: Okay. Number three.

LICHTMAN: This is - I really like this one, although it's a little off topic. It's Sedimentally Yours.

FLATOW: Oh, I get it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: That's right. It's unidentified, the person making this comment. But I think if I were a geologist, I would always sign my email, sedimentally yours.

FLATOW: Sedimentally Yours. Cool.

LICHTMAN: Okay. Runner-up for number one, so we're now at number two, is the Rio Smalle(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Just like the river.

LICHTMAN: Just like the Grande, but smalle. And here we are, getting ready for number one.

FLATOW: Number one - wait, we need a…

(Soundbite of bell)

FLATOW: There we go. The bell is - number one pick.

LICHTMAN: Number one pick, and a few people - this is in the same vein - it's the Minisippi(ph).

FLATOW: Oh, I like that one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Yeah. It's pretty good, right?

FLATOW: The Minisippi.

LICHTMAN: The Minisippi.

FLATOW: Is it easier to spell?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: I think there's…

FLATOW: It may take a few S's.

LICHTMAN: Yeah, right.

FLATOW: The Minisippi. And if you want to see our Video Pick of the Week with birds - are we going to put these results up there on our Web site?

LICHTMAN: Yeah, you know? I think we will put the Minisippi up there as number one.

FLATOW: As number one, the winner. And maybe we can send them a - some old news copy or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Yeah. I'm sure they'd really want that.

FLATOW: They'd really - you could autograph it and send it out.

LICHTMAN: I'm sure they can live without that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Okay, Flora. Thank you very much.

LICHTMAN: Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: Flora Lichtman, our video producer with the Video Pick of the Week. And thank you for your help everybody out there, in choosing that name. That's about all the time we have for today. Have a great weekend, I'm Ira Flatow, in New York.

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