Affiliations and partnerships: McGill Bird Observatory is operated by the Migration Research Foundation, with some logistical support from the Avian Science and Conservation Centre at McGill University. MBO is a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, and a participant in Project Owlnet, a collaborative research effort involving over 80 Saw-whet Owl banding stations across North America. Members of MBO actively share and receive news about banding and related research through the Sawwhetnet, Birdband, ID Frontiers, and Canadian Migration Monitoring Network e-mail discussion groups. Active banders at the station are also encouraged to join the Eastern Bird Banding Association and/or the Association of Field Ornithologists, and to attend the meetings of these organizations to learn about current research in banding and/or to present results from work conducted at McGill Bird Observatory.

Current staff

Master Permit Holder – Marcel Gahbauer

Marcel Gahbauer

Marcel Gahbauer entered the world of banding through Northern Saw-whet Owls at Innis Point Bird Observatory in Ottawa in 2000, and was delighted when Marie-Anne Hudson and Shawn Craik provided the additional interest and effort needed to get MBO started in 2004. Marcel was the lone BIC for most of MBO’s first two years, but was able to take some time off once Marie-Anne and Barbara Frei had their permits. He is now only a part-time BIC, but remains active behind the scenes as Executive Director of The Migration Research Foundation..

MBO Director – Barbara Frei

Barbara Frei

Like Marcel, Barbara Frei’s first banding experiences were at Innis Point Bird Observatory in Ottawa – though in her case it involved mist nets filled with flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Impressed by her natural abilities as an extractor, Marcel was happy to be able to lure her to MBO, where additional apprenticeship enabled Barbara to obtain her own permit. Barbara recently finished her PhD at McGill University working on Red-headed Woodpeckers in southern Ontario.

MBO Coordinator – Simon Duval

Simon Duval

Simon Duval came to MBO as an intern for the 2008 spring season, cementing his place in the MBO history books as MBO’s first long-term intern. He was introduced to bird banding while working with shorebirds in an ornithology class in Cegep. After volunteering at Long Point Bird Observatory, he acquired his own banding subpermit, and by 2010 was the primary BIC at MBO. He is now our full-time coordinator, responsible for overseeing all MBO programs, including research, fundraising, and publicity. Simon is also a North American Banding Council certified bander.


Banders-in Charge

The Bander-in-charge (BIC) is the individual who on a given day is responsible for supervising banding and all other activities at MBO. Some BICs stay for part of a season for weeks, others for years; sometimes there are several sharing the schedule, and other times it is one BIC who runs the program day after day. This page provides a brief introduction to current and past BICs at MBO.

BIC – Gay Gruner

Gay Gruner

Gay Gruner has been one of the core volunteers at MBO right from the beginning. Over the years she has not only studied hard to become an independent bander, but has also put in countless hours helping with all the other aspects of MBO’s operation, from fundraising and education to site maintenance. With great experience as both a teacher and a birder, Gay is a great addition to the team of BICs at MBO. From 2009 to 2013, she was the MBO Director.



BIC – Ana Morales

Ana joined MBO in 2012 as a volunteer. She was the MBO intern for the fall 2014 season. From 2015 to 2016, she worked in Ecuador and then volunteered in Galapagos for the Landbird Conservation program as well as the Galapagos Hawk monitoring project. She then went back to the mainland and worked as head technician for a hummingbird physiology project in the cloud forests. In 2017, she started a Master’s thesis with Dr. Kyle Elliott at McGill University and co-supervised by MBO’s Director Barbara Frei. She is studying migration and stopover ecology of molt migrants Swainson’s Thrush at MBO using the MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System. 


Past contributors

BIC 2005-2009 – Marie-Anne Hudson

Marie-Anne Hudson

Marie-Anne Hudson has been bird-banding since Marcel introduced her to Saw-whet Owls in the fall of 2002. The owls brought her in, but the passerines made her stay. Marie-Anne is one of the founders of MBO, and is mighty proud of it. When not banding, she worked on her PhD thesis at McGill University, examining the reproductive success of birds breeding on golf courses and other urban green spaces. She is now working as Environment Canada’s Bird Surveys Biologist, but remains involved with MBO behind the scenes.

Owl BIC 2010-2012 – Bob Barnhurst

Bob Barnhurst

Bob Barnhurst has been interested in birds since he was a nipper in England. After completing a formal education as a physical metallurgist, he moved to Canada and McGill University, where he completed graduate studies and worked in the Engineering faculty. He was an avid bird lister before seeing the light and switching his attention to migration studies on gulls, shorebirds, and hawks. His baptism in bird banding came as a member of a small team that for several years caught and banded Saw-whet Owls roosting in the Cote Vertu area of Montreal. Bob began volunteering with the MBO saw-whet project during its early days, and took over as the lead owl bander in fall 2011, while continuing to conduct the annual Montreal hawkwatch. A self-confessed night owl, he helped the team catch and band a record 249 saw-whets in fall 2012.

Owl BIC 2009-2010 – Kristen Keyes

Kristen Keys

Kristen Keys came to McGill University to pursue a Master’s project studying nomadism and habitat use of Short-eared Owls. It wasn’t long though before the smaller Northern Saw-whet Owls also captured her attention – by the fall of 2009 she was aboard the team as one of MBO’s owl banders, and in 2010 she took over coordination of the program, which was expanded for the first time to a full six-week monitoring period.

Owl BIC 2005-2009 – Shawn Craik

Shawn Craik

Shawn Craik’s background is in waterfowl research, but like Marie-Anne, he became involved in establishing MBO as a result of quality time spent with Saw-whet Owls during a visit to Ottawa. Shawn’s field work in New Brunswick on Red-breasted Mergansers for his PhD thesis has often kept him away from MBO during the peaks of migration, but in MBO’s early years he was heavily involved in both the owl monitoring program and winter banding.

BIC Fall 2006 – Seabrooke Leckie

Seabrook Leckie

Seabrooke Leckie came to MBO from Toronto to be BIC for the first half of the Fall 2006 migration season. She has previously worked at Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station in Toronto, Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory in British Columbia, and Pelee Island Bird Observatory in southwestern Ontario – and is looking forward to setting up a new migration monitoring station of her own in Ontario. During her stay at MBO, we managed to find her an opportunity to band a species we don’t usually handle – American Crows!

BIC Fall 2008 – James Junda

James Junda

James Junda was the primary BIC for the busy fall 2008 migration monitoring season – he claims to be a lucky bander, and the number of records broken during his two-month stay attest to that! Originally from Colorado, James has worked on banding projects across North America and beyond, including Jamaica. Having previously trained MAPS interns for the Institute for Bird Populations, James was well prepared for introducing the new crop of fall students to the world of banding at MBO.

BIC 2013- 2017 Lisa Keelty

Lisa joined MBO in 2011 as a weekly volunteer. After having spent more than a decade working with parrots and exotic passerines in captivity she shifted her focus towards native birds. In 2013 she received her federal permit and helped run the MAPS program and taken part in the Canadian Snow Bunting Network. After a valiant two and a half-year battle with cancer, Lisa passed away in 2017. In remembrance of Lisa, MBO has created a special location to honour her. A memorial bench with a view over Stoneycroft Pond and a wildflower garden allows all her former friends to relax and remember her, and keep her memory alive for new generations.

Owl BIC 2013-2018 – Nicolas Bernier

Nicolas came to MBO as a volunteer in 2011, after completing a biology degree in Cegep. After a few seasons learning the rudiments of banding with good teachers, he acquired in 2013 his own banding subpermit. He was the primary owl bander from 2013 to 2018, catching 1239 Northern Saw-whet Owls in 6 seasons!