Nature Canada Linking Communities Together

Twenty two dedicated educators from three countries met in Swift Current Saskatchewan for the love of birds, shorebirds to be specific.  They met to share stories and refine their efforts to educate and inspire children and the public to protect the several species of shorebirds that they share, and the habitats on which they depend in their three communities along the central and western flyways.  The species include American Avocet, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit and Wilson ’s Phalarope among others.

American Avocet

American Avocet, Ted Cheskey

Red Knots Reed Lake Saskatchewan

Red Knots on Reed Lake Saskatathewan, Ted Cheskey

 Principal dressed up as bird

Principal of Central School in Swift Current dresses up as a bird

Aurora boreallis, Chaplin Lake

Aurora boreallis, Chaplin Lake, Ted Cheskey

 

Ted Cheskey and Mexican Linking Communities Partners

Nayarit educators and Ted observing lots of birds

The alkaline (salty) wetland habitats in Chaplin, Reed and Old Wives Lakes in Saskatchewan, the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, and the Marismas nacionales in Nayarit State of Mexico support very large numbers of these species at different points in their life cycles, in addition to other shorebird species such as the Sanderling and the endangered Red Knot.  Each site carries a badge of honour as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site.  Canada has only seven of these special areas, and the Chaplin area lakes are one of the most important.

Bird conservation in Canada requires international partnerships.  Four of every five of “our” bird species migrate outside of our borders each fall, most passing through or over-wintering in the USA, Latin America or the Caribbean.  A full life cycle approach to conservation that addresses species’ needs and threats in each phase of their annual cycles is essential for effective conservation.  Canada’s shorebirds, including sandpipers, plovers and phalaropes, have declined 42% in the last 40 years.  Arctic nesting shorebirds have declined over 60%.  Evidence is pointing to stop-over sites as perhaps holding the key to the fate of many species.

“Linking Communities Wetlands and Migratory birds” is a project inspired by a recognition of this ‘full life cycle approach,’ initiated nearly 15 years ago by visionary conservations from each country.  The program has evolved organically, with different partners and supporters coming in over the years.  Rio Tinto Kennecott, who operates a large mine on the end of the Great Salt Lake, has provided project partners with significant support over the past five years.

One element of this project that has recurred several times is  an educational exchange during which small groups of educators from the three countries get together to share experiences and collaborate towards educating their communities and protecting their species and habitats.   Often a common project is developed during these gatherings such as producing post cards that incorporate art from children from each country.

In addition to education, this project encourages the exchange of knowledge and methods for monitoring bird populations, researching species ecologies, addressing threats, encouraging stewardship and promoting ecotourism through festivals.  Each partner holds a festival to celebrate shorebirds.   Our meeting coincided with Chaplin’s Shorebird festival which is always held at the beginning of June.

Nature Canada is honoured to be one of the Canadian partners of Linking Communities, along with Nature Saskatchewan and Chaplin Tourism who run the Chaplin Nature Centre, a must visit for anyone travelling along the TransCanada highway between Moose Jaw and Swift Current, Saskatchewan.  We all tip our hats to the volunteers in Chaplin Tourism who did a tremendous job of welcoming our partners from the south, and making a meaningful and rich meeting over the past few days.

One of the highlights for me was being able to share with our Mexican friends one of Canada’s most beautiful and mysterious natural phenomena:  the Aurora borealis.