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Climate change impacting birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio
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Climate change impacting birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio

Climate change seriously threatens bird species across Canada and the United States according to a new groundbreaking report released by Nature Canada’s partner organization, the Audubon Society. The report concludes that half of all birds studied could see their populations drop dramatically on account of climate change. Paul Jorgenson, Nature Canada's Senior Communcations Manager, was on hand to respond to questions on the topic. Here he is interviewed by Banff Centre Radio to bring to light the challenges birds now face. [separator headline="h2" title="Paul Jorgenson speaks with Banff Centre Radio about Climate Change and Birds"] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1YqOkwpRtw

Nature Canada launches Purple Martin Project
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Nature Canada launches Purple Martin Project

"PUMA":  Don't worry, Nature Canada is not about to sell athletic clothing or wrestle with large cats. PUMA is also an abbreviation (called an alpha code) that scientists often use to talk about a species of bird called the Purple Martin. My name is Megan MacIntosh and I am thrilled to join Nature Canada as the Purple Martin Project Coordinator. There are many mysteries surrounding the life history of the Purple Martin that make it an interesting species to study, and there are many reasons to be excited about this project which I would like to share with you. The Purple Martin is the largest North American swallow. It belongs to a guild of species called aerial insectivores which are specialized at feeding on insects while in flight. Other examples of aerial insectivores include swifts, swallows, fly-catchers, nightjars, and Whip-poor-wills. Aerial insectivores have experienced widespread population declines of up to 70% over the past several decades, and Purple Martins are no exception. Why the startling decline? The exact cause of this unnerving trend remains unclear. Mortality from exposure to pesticides, wind power projects, decrease in food availability, inability to adapt to climate change and corresponding habitat changes have been suggested as possible culprits. To add to the mystery, population declines follow a geographic pattern and are most pronounced in the north-east of North America. A decline of 5 – 7.5% annually has been recorded in the lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region leaving the 2013 population estimated below 15,000 individuals. Interestingly, Purple Martins have a strong connection with humans. They are diurnal (daytime) migrants that breed throughout North America and travel to Brazil for the winter. West of the Rocky Mountains they nest predominately in natural cavities, however, in eastern North America they are entirely dependent on apartment-like nest houses provided by their human ‘land lords’. For a long time, little has been known about the timing and movements of migratory songbirds since their small bodies could not accommodate most tracking devices. As technology improves and tracking devices are made increasingly smaller, researchers are finally able to collect critical knowledge on these birds as they travel continental distances – information which will be crucial to their conservation. The goal of the Eastern Ontario Purple Martin Project is to address knowledge gaps in the species life-cycle by determining their local, regional, and international movements, roost site locations, and post-breeding behaviour. The project aims to significantly contribute to the conservation of Purple Martins in anticipation of aiding the overall plight of aerial insectivores and related environmental issues. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please feel free to stop by Nature Canada’s upcoming Bird Day Festival event on May 31st from 10am- 4pm at Andrew Haydon Park in Ottawa where I will be set up with a booth. You can also look towards upcoming volunteer opportunities such as banding and helping us locate local roost sites.

Sharing Your Voices: What Our Members Are Saying!
Sage Grouse
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Sharing Your Voices: What Our Members Are Saying!

We love hearing you raise your voices for nature! Last fall, we asked you to help us petition our government to create 2 new National Wildlife Areas in our native grasslands and protect the Greater Sage Grouse from extinction. Not only did we forward over 1,500 signed petitions to the Minister, many of you also shared your thoughts, including these few: As a child in rural Saskatchewan, I used to love the songs of the meadowlark. Now like other birds and animals who depend on the grasslands, it is much harder to see or hear them. We need to protect the spaces they need to live. - Margaret, Ontario I took pictures of sage grouse in Alberta 40 years ago and was very impressed with the birds. Species at risk should be protected – I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to experience them too - Allan, British Columbia I was born in Saskatchewan and the prairies were a wonderland teaming with birds and all kinds of animals large & small. It breaks my heart to see all of it disappearing – please save what’s left. - Alice, Ontario. I grew up in southern Alberta and remember watching sage grouse mating dances. I want future generations to witness that marvelous sight too – please act to protect their grassland habitat. - Janis, Quebec. Please let’s give our children a chance to see these beautiful birds in nature. Preservation of wild spaces is of the utmost importance for the whole planet to stay healthy. - Susanne, British Columbia I had the pleasure of witnessing a large sage grouse lek in 1989 – male grouse on the prairie is a spectacular sight. We must save habitat for this amazing species. Please act now. - Malcolm, British Columbia By ensuring that SARA is properly adhered to, many species at risk will be protected. Habitat is critical to the survival of many species at risk and without adhering to the act, their futures are threatened. - Catherine, Alberta. Please do all possible to promote a genuine appreciation of our magnificent wild creatures. They are our most precious inheritance. - Elizabeth, Quebec. These wildlife areas will ensure that my daughter and children of all Canadians be able to see the true beauty of our nation in all its glory. Let Canada be an example to the world in ensuring the protection of our delicate nature. - Mitra, Ontario These wild grasslands spaces are so very important to our own ecosystem and our future. Please protect these areas to protect them from further harming our vulnerable species that live there. - Vivian, Saskatchewan We have saved the peregrine falcon and the whopping crane, let us add the sage grouse to our success. Once a species is gone, it can never come back. You can not put a dollar value on a species. Please create the two national wildlife areas and give sage grouse a chance. - Mary Jane, Quebec It is important that our government recognize the need for protected natural areas, not only for the health of plants and animals but for our mental and physical health. The economy can’t go on expanding forever. We live in a finite world. - Joan, Ontario Thank you to all our members for supporting our work to protect grasslands and the special animals like Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl and Swift Fox that call it home.

Co-caretakers in British Columbia: Active Pass IBA
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Co-caretakers in British Columbia: Active Pass IBA

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="320"]Image of a Bald eagle Bald Eagle[/caption] Brett Hare was an intern with Nature Canada's conservation team in the early part of 2013. He spoke with Rick Whitman, Minas Basin Important Bird Area Caretaker, about his role in the IBA Caretaker program. The Active Pass Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is located within the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, which are a small chain of islands between Vancouver and Victoria. Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel have been co-caretakers at the Active Pass IBA since 2007. The two had known each other previously and were both neighbours to the IBA. “We’re both keen birders” Mike explained.  “We’ve been involved in organized bird watching for a long time. “We created our own hand maps and identified “hot spots” for birds” Michael added. Active Pass is an active marine channel located between Galiano Island and Mayne Island. The two caretakers are located on separate sides of the channel with Michael operating within the Mayne constituency while Mike operates within the Galiano constituency. Active Pass is part of the main ferry route between Vancouver and Victoria, making it one of the busier IBA’s in terms of people passing through the area. Over 100,000 people inadvertently visit this IBA each year as they pass through by ferry. “I make a bird count every time I take the ferry” Mike explains.  “This gives us a fairly accurate snapshot of bird populations in the IBA.” Active Pass is comprised of high, rocky-sandstones and bluffs, with many pocket-pebble beaches and sandy bays.  Mayne Island was a significant site during the gold rush, attracting many to its shores during this time. The area is historically significant for First Nations, with an archaeological site located near Georgeson Bay. Both caretakers initiated a stewardship program designed to involve the community with the IBA. The program asked shoreline property owners if they would volunteer for bird counting to provide accurate data sets on bird numbers and species within the IBA. This led to accurate bird counts being conducted weekly, monthly, and seasonally depending on volunteer support. “We received funding for our work on stewardship programs from various sponsors” Michael stated.  “This funding was used to train residents and create signage for the IBA.” The Active Pass IBA is easily accessible to the public as pedestrians can walk to the various beaches on the islands and ferry access allows those not living near the IBA a chance to travel to the islands and experience the area in a more intimate way. Tidal currents in the area are extremely active. The underwater topography allows for upwelling which brings nutrient-rich water towards the surface, attracting many species of birds and aquatic organisms to the area. Marine mammals such as orcas, sea lions, and seals are common in Active Pass, and recently humpback whales were witnessed in the area which is uncommon. There are 3 species of migratory birds found in large congregations throughout Active Pass including the Pacific Loon, Brandt’s Cormorant, and Bonepart’s Gull. Recently, the levels of Pacific Loon and Brandt’s Cormorant using the pass have been significantly lower than in the previous 10 years. Instead, there has been an increase in other gulls such as the California gull and Mew gull. Bald eagles nest throughout Active Pass, which has had a significant impact on other bird species due to predation. “We don’t have a lot of shorebird mudflat habitats” Michael explained.  “We miss out on a bunch of species.” Both caretakers are involved in a number of educational programs designed to bring awareness to the IBA. “100,000 people move through the pass each year, 1,000 or so per day in the summer” Mike stated.  “We have in the past made approaches to B.C. ferry’s to distribute a brochure or display signage highlighting the Active Pass IBA.” “Having a naturalist on board during the summer educating the public about habitats for birds would be a great way to promote the IBA” Michael added.  “It would be a wonderful opportunity to provide a quick thumbnail about sea birds.” There has been a motion to unite all IBA’s within the area into a single, composite IBA. The chambers of commerce have expressed interest and there have been discussions regarding a regional wildlife festival which would strengthen the unity between the local IBA’s. The Active Pass IBA presents a plethora of marine diversity ranging from whales, sea lions and other marine mammals, to various gulls and other aquatic bird species. Michael and Mike both commented that, “there’s always something new to be seen!”

Youth Voice Shines at Global Congress!
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Youth Voice Shines at Global Congress!

[three_fourth] Stephanie Pineau shares her experience of attending and helping to organize a youth workshop at the 2013 BirdLife International World Congress held in Ottawa, Canada in June. Stephanie completed her practicum for a Master in Psychology at Carleton University with Nature Canada. During her time with us, she focused on coordinating the workshop on youth for the Congress. By Stephanie Pineau The excitement was palpable at this year’s BirdLife International World Congress. Thursday saw the start of a variety of workshops with topics ranging from renewable energy to conservation issues.  However, one workshop stands out in its originality in terms of topic and method used to convey the message contain therein.  ‘A programme for connecting youth to nature’: the evidence is in, connection to nature is beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally for all of us, including youth. That which added the greatest depth, inspiration, uniqueness, and long lasting motivation from this workshop however, was the heartfelt and insightful presentations from two youth. Carlos Barbery, a 13 year old from Gatineau, Canada who first became involved in birding at the age of 4 after learning the call of the raven, kicked off the presentations.  Carlos’ endearing nature was certainly present as he listed off the activities he’s involved in as a young conservationist including many citizen science projects and a birdathon fundraising event for conservation research. Carlos’ knowledge has reached such a level that in some instances he is now acting as the teacher rather than the student leading birding groups and presenting information on conservation at his school. The second powerfully conveyed message came from Tina Lin, a 12 year who has now been birding for only a couple of years. Her charming calm presence on stage was clearly a force of inspiration to the hearts and minds of all delegates in attendance.  Among other things, Tina has translated information from the RRSPB for engaging children in bird watching, for youth in China. While this in itself is immensely impressive, she also took to the stage at the fundraising Gala with guests such as Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan in attendance to discuss youth and nature with former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Secretary of the Treasurer under President George W. Bush, Henry Paulson.  The clarity with which she spoke is suggestive of the fact that we may be overlooking valuable sources of insight by excluding youth from our decision making processes.The inclusion of the youth presenters in the Congress was a refreshing blend of intelligence and innocence as they fearlessly expressed their opinions and achievements to groups of adults.  The message they conveyed highlights the importance of having supportive adults who treat youth with the respect deserving of any human-being regardless of age. Fortunately, the Congress was not all work for our youth presenters. Together with their mothers and some expert birders (of which Carlos is certainly one), they had the opportunity to engage in one of their favourite pastimes.  As the sun came up over lac du soleil in Gatineau Park they encountered a wide range of species including Yellow Warblers, Pine Warblers, Swamp Sparrow, Wood Ducks, a Green Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, and many more species. And as we see from these youth, they not only speak about the importance of engaging with nature in enclosed spaces, but actively seek out nature with all the enthusiasm and wonder (plus a massive amount of knowledge) that we would expect and hope to see in the youth of today. [/three_fourth][one_fourth_last] Gillian, Tina, her mom and Carlos looking for birds Carlos Barbery - youth presentation Tina Lin - youth[/one_fourth_last]

Mayor of Ottawa Declares May 12th Migratory Birds and IBAs Day
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Mayor of Ottawa Declares May 12th Migratory Birds and IBAs Day

[three_fourth] We are thrilled to announce the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, has acknowledged the international significance of the Lac Deschênes-Ottawa River IBA and declared May 12 Migratory Birds and Important Bird Areas Day. Deputy Mayor Steve Desroches will present the proclamation at Bird Fair, held in Ottawa's Andrew Hayden Park on May 12, 2013. Below you'll find the official proclamation that Nature Canada submitted to Mayor Watson's office and which was accepted just in time for Bird Fair! [separator headline="h2" title="Migratory Birds And IBAs Day"] May 12th, 2013 WHEREAS, Ottawa boasts a rich natural heritage, including the globally significant Lac Deschênes – Ottawa River Important Bird Area (IBA), so recognized for thousands of waterbirds and waterfowl that congregate locally on the Ottawa River each spring and fall; and WHEREAS, BirdLife International’s IBA Program in Canada is a science-based initiative to identify, conserve and monitor a network of crucial sites for migration, feeding, resting and nesting habitats of bird populations; and WHEREAS, Nature Canada is the Canadian partner for International Migratory Bird Day, which celebrates migratory birds' spectacular seasonal migrations; THEREFORE, I, Jim Watson, Mayor of the City of Ottawa, do hereby proclaim May 12th, 2013 as Migratory Birds and IBAs Day in Ottawa and encourage residents to celebrate birds at the Lac Deschênes-Ottawa River IBA. [separator headline="h2" title="Journée Des Oiseaux Migrateurs "] ET DES ZICO Le 12 mai 2013 ATTENDU QUE la région d’Ottawa peut se vanter de son riche patrimoine naturel, notamment la Zone importante pour la conservation des oiseaux (ZICO) d’intérêt mondial du lac Deschênes, lieu de rencontre, tous les printemps et automnes, de milliers d’oiseaux aquatiques et de sauvagine sur la rivière des Outaouais; et ATTENDU QUE le programme de ZICO au Canada de BirdLife International est une initiative scientifique visant l’identification, la conservation et la surveillance du réseau de sites de migration, d’alimentation, de repos et de nidification des populations d’oiseaux; et ATTENDU QUE Nature Canada et le partenaire canadien de la Journée internationale des oiseaux migrateurs, laquelle célèbre les migrations saisonnières spectaculaires des oiseaux migrateurs; PAR CONSÉQUENT, je, Jim Watson, maire de la Ville d’Ottawa, proclame par la présente le 12 mai 2013 la Journée des oiseaux migrateurs et des ZICO à Ottawa, et j’encourage les résidents à célébrer les oiseaux à la ZICO du lac Deschênes (rivière des Outaouais). Jim Watson Mayor / Maire [/three_fourth][one_fourth_last] bird fair merlin by SJ Stephen Merlin by SJ Stephen [/one_fourth_last]

Ottawa Bird Fair
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Ottawa Bird Fair

Bird_Poster JPG 2013-bilingual
Join us on Sunday May 12, 2013 from 11am to 4pm at Andrew Hayden Park for Ottawa’s first ever Bird Fair! Come out and “Welcome back birds” in a public celebration of International Migratory Bird Day in the national capital region’s Lac Deschênes Important Bird Area (IBA), found right along the Ottawa River. This IBA is one of 600 sites across Canada recognized internationally for their significance to bird populations. At the Bird Fair we will have lots to do for the entire family including bilingual bird walks, crafts and activities for visitors of all ages, and informative talks, music and other entertainment.  Live falcons will be present at two free-flight shows. Come see displays from local vendors and artists, and we will have something special for Mother’s!

The Buffleheads are Back
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The Buffleheads are Back

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="320"]Image of a Bufflehead Bufflehead Hen on Roberts Bay, by K. Finley and P. Nicklen[/caption] Sunday, October 14, was All Buffleheads Day, the day that -- with startling consistency -- the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), known by some birders as the Spirit Duck for its boundless energy, begins arriving in Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Vancouver Island. Our Important Bird Area Caretaker Kerry Finlay sent us this report on his first Bufflehead sighting of the year: Shoal Harbour Sanctuary, 7:33 a.m., October 16, 2012 As predicted, with an 80 % likelihood, the first Bufflehead, a single female, has appeared in the wake of last night's storm (my barometer hit 1019 mb). She is sitting near the shore on the delta amongst many Wigeons and Mallards. A female Hooded Merganser makes an aggressive rush at her. Buffleheads and Mergansers are closely related and there is probably competition for nesting cavities and latent aggression on the wintering grounds. Always a thrill. 08:31 White-winged Scoter 3, first of season 09:00 Female Bufflehead in the company of a female Hooded Merganser, fly close together from middle of bay to Mermaid Delta. They are evidently comrades and the earlier "aggression" display was apparently play. 10:35 Bufflehead feeding with four Hooded Merganser females. Average dive time 14.87 with wide variation (3.38). She's nervous and skittish, wary of attendant Gulls, and terrified of something underwater - likely a Hooded Merganser, which are bringing up many small crabs. Her erratic dive pattern indicates this is her first taste of salt water. Her underwater forays are nine seconds short of the 24 second winter average. She'll be living on the fat reserves brought from her summer grounds, until she adapts to the sparse diet of her winter habitat. She looks like your typical female, though her cheek patches are large, and when she flies her white "badge" includes two rows of flight feathers. Munro noted in his early monograph that this pattern was the mark of an individual throughout life. It certainly was in the case of VAL. 12:14 Can't locate her. Seems she has moved on. As another data point (now n=16), she hits the All Bufflehead Day target precisely, and further illustrates the unprecedented case of non-random variation around the average. More punctual than the mythological Swallows of Capistrano, more reliable than Wiarton Willie.

Keeping Our Wild Spaces Clean
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Keeping Our Wild Spaces Clean

Great blue heron4_Dan RogallLast week, Dan Rogall, an Ottawa-area photographer alerted us of a great blue heron’s plight that was unfolding in his backyard in Half Moon Bay. The young male had chewed on what appeared to be a plastic onion bag. The bag became entangled in its beak. Dan proceeded to alert local wildlife groups in the hopes that someone could help free the bird of its plastic muzzle. We jumped in and posed the question of how to go about helping this bird to our community of birders and scientists. The consensus was not as satisfying as one would have hoped. Attempts to capture the bird could prove fatal, and so the best route to take was to leave it alone and hope it would free itself. Not the kind of advice that’s easy to heed given the magnetic quality of this particular bird. As the saga unfolded on Facebook, Dan kept us in the loop of the heron’s whereabouts and well being. It’s troubling to see an animal in distress. If only the person who had discarded the plastic bag had done so responsibly. Perhaps he or she didn’t realize that garbage posed a significant threat to birds and other wildlife in the area. I’d like to think so. Can anything positive come of this? We’d like to think that if more people were connected to nature in their area, things like this wouldn’t happen or would happen far less frequently. We are actively involved in educating local Ottawa and Gatineau residents about the great wildlife sanctuary we have right in the centre of the city – the Lac Deschênes Important Bird Area. In fact, one of the species that frequents the area is great blue heron. There’s a good chance the heron of Half Moon bay will pass through the IBA at some point in its life. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can enjoy Ottawa’s Important Bird Area, check out our recently launched website where you’ll find ideas on what to do at the IBA, why the IBA is important to wildlife, and what you can do to protect it. Happy birding! p.s. Dan's latest update is hopeful - the heron appears to be strong and eating. Let's hope he makes it!

Greetings from the Fifth North American Ornithological Conference
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Greetings from the Fifth North American Ornithological Conference

Ted at NAOC Vancouver 2012 Well over 1000 people from the western hemisphere are gathered on the campus of the University of British Colunbia to discuss, debate and present new ideas and science on their passion - birds. The North American Ornithological Meetings are creating a buzz in this part of the country.  With over 700 presentations and even more posters, as well as symposia on topics ranging from conservation priorities for Canada's birds to long distance seed transport and cache selection by Clarke's Nutcracker, the program is loaded with quantity.  Graduate students presenting summaries of their theses, long term researchers sharing findings, new technologies being explained and challenged, in short, basically everything about birds is being talked about. During today's poster sessions, I learned about a program to put wire mesh caps over the outvents from outdoor latrines to prevent owl deaths, an exciting Caribbean birding trail, the recent discovery of large numbers of Piping Plovers overwintering in the Bahamas, and a Columbian effort to establish a long-term bird monitoring station in the Darien. During the sessions, I learned about the latest take on window collisions as a source of mortality for birds, several projects in Canada's boreal region to better understand the impacts of forestry and energy extraction activities on bird populations, biases in geolocators, and preconstruction assessments of offshore wind energy projects near Rhode Island. Many colleagues from Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, and many other organizations in Canada and abroad are present here.  There is a real buzz, and energy in the air.  I am grateful to be here representing Nature Canada.  I'll update about more experiences later this week.

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