Canadian and American IBA Programs Have Much in Common – An Interview with John Cecil, National Audubon

As a follow-up to Mara Kerry’s post on the National Important Bird Areas meeting in Port Rowan last week, Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation, shares his thoughts on the meeting and speaks with John Cecil of National Audubon about the Canadian and American IBA Programs. IBA Canada partners have been working hard to engage volunteers – called IBA Caretakers – to care for and be the “eyes, ears and feet on the ground” for Canada’s IBAs. These volunteers were a focus of the National IBA meeting in Port Rowan last week. Between presentations on monitoring protocols for IBA Caretakers, and animated discussions on habitat definitions, John Cecil, Manager of the Important Bird Area Program with National Audubon sat down with me to discuss his impressions of the Canadian program and the potential of collaborating more closely on bird conservation.

John was a very welcomed full participant in the two-day workshop, held at the spectacular Bird Studies Canada headquarters in Port Rowan, Ontario. He provided us with a good overview of the IBA program history in the USA. We compared notes on challenges and opportunties, and came away feeling motivated to share more – we have much in common with our American IBA colleagues.

We had scheduled the workshop for late April, to avoid the “field season”, for many of the participants from across Canada, but still take advantage of migration in this internationally famous World Biosphere Reserve and Globally significant IBA.

I really wanted to interview John outside, but Mother Nature had the last word, throwing high winds and rain at us for most of the workshop, allowing us to happily toil inside without regrets. For the interview, we were able to find a quiet spot in the excellent BSC library to chat for a few minutes.

There were some brief moments during the workshop when the weather was more accommodating. We went on a brief trip on the trail to a lookout over Long Point Bay, and saw thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of ducks, Ruddys, Scaup, Redheads, Canvasback, Buffleheads, Mergansers, Coots, and many more species, all milling about in the bay. The build up in late April was a sign that things were still frozen much further north, where most of these birds breed. Somehow they know this. . . .

Moments like these – being fascinated and inspired by the birds and habitats like Long Point, or sharing and learning from colleagues – are what motivate us to protect our IBAs, and the birds that depend upon them and the surrounding landscapes and habitats.

Workshop attendees, including Ted Cheskey (front row, second from left), Ian Davidson, Nature Canada’s executive director (front row, third from left), and Mara Kerry, Nature Canada’s director of conservation (back row, 8th from left)