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Connect with Nature: Set up a backyard bird feeder
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Connect with Nature: Set up a backyard bird feeder

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] As the weather gets colder and some birds prepare for a long winter at home, this is a perfect time to set up a backyard bird feeder. Backyard feeders provide birds with a good source of energy for the cold winter months and create excellent bird watching opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your backyard birding experience. Choose the right feeder: There are lots of feeder types to choose from. Depending on your region, you could be visited by dozens of different bird species. The ideal feeder is sturdy enough to withstand winter weather, easy to clean and tight enough to keep bird feed dry. Suet bird feeders can be particularly good for birds this time of year because of the high energy content in suet mix, made from hard fats and other ingredients like peanuts or cornmeal. Hopper, or “house” feeders, offer good protection from the winter weather and are attractive to a wide range of feeder birds. Want to attract as many bird species as possible? Provide several different feeder styles and types of feed to maximize the species you see in your yard. Pick a good location: Place your feeders in a quiet area where they are easy to see and convenient to refill. If you can, offer birds a refuge by placing feeders close to trees or shrubs where they can wait their turn to feed. Another factor to consider when choosing a location is the risk of window collisions. Birds can perceive a reflection in your window as a pathway through your house, so make sure to choose a location that will reduce this risk. Find out more about the issues with window collisions here.Image of a Downy Woodpecker Keep it clean: Birds can become ill from leftover bits of seed and bird droppings that accumulate on feeder trays. Give your feeder a thorough wash with soap and water every few weeks or more often if necessary during heavy feeding periods. If you are setting up a suet feeder, make sure to be extra vigilant about keeping it clean. Suet mix can spoil easily in warmer weather. Get to know your visitors: Bird watching continues to be one of the most popular pastimes around. Keep an eye on the birds that frequent your feeder and spend some time observing their size, shape, colour and behavior. If you’re having trouble identifying the species, snap a quick photo and use a field guide or allaboutbirds.org to narrow the possibilities. Make your observations count: Once you’ve got your bird feeder up and running, consider joining Project Feederwatch. Participants in this project periodically count the birds that appear at their feeders and submit their data to Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada's co-partner in delivering the Important Bird Areas Program. By submitting your data, you’ll be helping scientists determine how bird populations are changing across North America. It’s open to all skill levels and is a great way to contribute to an international bird conservation effort.

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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!

Thank you Salvadora
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Thank you Salvadora

[two_third]
Ometepe Island Nicaragua and Cabot Head, Bruce Peninsula Canada  have lots in common and lots to share thanks in part to Salvadora Morales.  Salvadora, a Nicaraguan biologist and bird specialist currently working for Fauna and Flora International in Managua, just returned to her home country after spending 19 days in Canada thanks to the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO).   BPBO runs a migration monitoring station to track bird populations moving over the Bruce Peninsula every spring and fall. Approximately 40 species of birds monitored at BPBO's Cabot Head field station on the eastern tip of the Bruce peninsula spend their winters in Nicaragua, and many more pass through Nicaragua, the largest of Central American countries, on their ways further south.
Included in this list are familiar and less familiar species such as Blue-winged Teal, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Ovenbird, Prothonotory Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark, etc.
In 2003/4, BPBO began collaborating with a Nicaraguan conservation group to support the monitoring of birds in Nicaragua and efforts to conserve bird habitat. Salvadora has been the driving force of this partnership from the Nicaraguan side from the beginning.  She was coordinating the Monitoring Avian Over-wintering Survivorship (MoSI) program in all of Central America at the time.
In 2009, Salvadora was instrumental in helping plan a trip to Nicaragua by 12 BPBO members, led by myself and current BPBO President Rod Steinacher.  She also acted as guide on a few of our outings.
In 2010 and 2011, BPBO hosted two young Nicaraguan ornithologist/educators who were working for Salvadora on Ometepe Island, for 25 days of training at it Cabot Head Field Station.
2010 – Thanks largely to Salvadora's efforts, Ometepe Island in Nicaragua was accorded World Biosphere Reserve Status (just as the Niagara Escarpment has).
2011 – A linking exchange project is initiative between a school on Ometepe Island and a school in Tobermory.
May 4, 2012 BPBO brings Salvadora to Canada to visit the Research Station, meet the students and teachers and the school, further develop the linking schools projects, and participate in her first Birdathon.
May 22, 2012  Salvadora visits Ottawa, participates in an Ottawa Field Naturalist outing at Mud Lake Conservation Area, and makes two presentions on: bird conservation issues in Nicaragua to staff at Environment Canada, hosted by EC's International bird program staff. and on ecotourism (birding) opportunties in Nicaragua (particularly Ometepe Island) to Ottawa Field Naturalists Bird Study Group.
This project has raised awareness in both countries about our shared species of birds and built an appreciation for our cultures.  To conserve Canada’s birds, we must work closely in partnership with people in the countries where "our" birds spend their non-breeding seasons - which amounts to most of their lives!
Nicaragua is the largest Central American country with over 710 known species of birds but also the highest rates of deforestation, and many economic, political and social challenges.  Nicaraguans are strong and proud people who have had more than their share of suffering.  Most of the country is safe and its potential as an ecotourism destination is only starting to be developed.
Supporting international efforts to conserve our birds is tremedously important.  The imminent State of Canada's Birds Report will tell us that 78% of Canada's bird species migrate out of Canada every year.  The data will also reveal as troubling finding: the further they go, the worse they fare.
Here are a few things that we can do as individuals to support our birds outside of Canada:
  • support a conservation groups working in Latin America and the Caribbean
  •  support Canadian bird observatories working in latin America and the Caribbean
  •  use our shared species to connect to communities in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • purchase bird-friendly organic shade-grown coffee from Central America
  •  spend your tourist dollars on sustainable ecotourism opportunities such as planning a vacation that includes a stay on Ometepe Island and supports the ecologically sustainable tourism activities there.
Images and figures:
1. Loation of Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory and Nicaragua (stars)
2. Salvadora with students on Ometepe Island 3. Salvadora on Ottawa Field Naturalists field trip
 
 
[/two_third] [one_third_last]Image of North and South America Image of children Image of hikers[/one_third_last]
 

Let the Birding Begin!
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Let the Birding Begin!

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400"]Image on Team Cuckoo and the Mayor of Pelee Island Team Cuckoo and the Mayor of Pelee Island: Merilyn Simonds, Graeme Gibson Jr, Graeme Gibson Sr, Rick Masse (Mayor), Margaret Atwood, Wayne Grady, Ian Davidson (kneeling)[/caption]

The Pelee Island Spring Song Race officially began at noon today!
Over 140 people have registered and 7 teams of birders have fanned out across the island in a 24-hour marathon birdwatching event.
The island is a globally important bird area and a critical staging area for migratory birds. Over 300 species have been recorded on the island, including some of Canada's rarest breeding species -- Prothonatory Warblers, Acadian Flycatcher and Yellow-breasted Chats.
Celebratory events like this are helping to raise the profile of birds and efforts to conserve their habitats across Canada and throughout North America. This year, I have been asked to be the event's celebrity birder -- and I've joined up with literary icons and renowned birders Graeme Gibson, Margaret Atwood, and co-authors of Breakfast at the Exit Cafe Wade Grady and Merilyn Simonds to form Team Cuckoo!
We aim to spot 100 species over the next 24 hours. The Spring Song Race is held each year during the height of migration season by the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, which has been a strong supporter of bird monitoring on the island and the cause of nature conservation.
Wish us luck -- and happy birding.

Newfoundland Adds IBA Caretakers
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Newfoundland Adds IBA Caretakers

[two_third]Julie Cappleman is a resident of Portugal Cove South, Newfoundland and Josie Osborne calls Tofino, British Columbia home. They live on opposite sides of the country, but one thing brings them together – a love of birds and nature and a passion for sharing it with their communities. Both women are volunteers with the Important Bird Areas Caretaker Network. As guardians of their respective Important Bird Areas (IBA), they watch over and protect the birds and habitat found in each IBA.Julie and her husband, Dave Shepherd, are Caretakers for Mistaken Point IBA and Cape Pine-St Shott’s IBA, which are located on the Avalon Peninsula on the rugged coast of southeastern Newfoundland.  Avid birders, they have been birding in the area with friends and local naturalist groups since they moved here a few years ago.“We’ve always been interested in nature and birds,” said Julie. “When Rosalind Ford, the IBA Caretaker Network coordinator, contacted us about becoming Caretakers, we thought it would be a good fit. We’ve been Caretakers since last fall.”When Julie is not leading interpretive walks in Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, she’s counting birds and reporting her findings on eBird, an online record of bird sightings widely used by scientists and recreational bird watchers. “Quite a few of our friends are birders, so I’ve added their relevant sightings within the IBAs to eBird,” said Julie. Mistaken Point is a hotspot for wintering Purple Sandpipers and thousands of Common Eiders that stop to re-fuel before migrating north. The Cape Pine-St Shott’s Barrens area attracts large numbers of American Golden Plover and Whimbrel, which congregate to feed during their fall migration before migrating non-stop to South America. Mistaken Point and Cape Pine-St. Shott’s are two of nearly six hundred Important Bird Areas in Canada. The Canadian IBA Program is a cornerstone in science-based, site-specific conservation for birds and biodiversity which has been co-delivered by Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada since 1996. With the spring migration around the corner, Julie is looking forward to the arrival of birds from all over the world. When storms roll in from the sea, as they often do along the coast, birders in Cape Race are sometimes treated to rare sightings of far flung birds. “We’ve had sightings of vagrant birds in the past,’ said Julie, “They’re blown off course and out of their normal range when they end up at Mistaken Point or Cape Race. At different times of the year we’ve been lucky to spot Pacific Golden Plover from Siberia, Ivory Gulls from the arctic, Northern Lapwings from Europe and Fork-tailed Flycatcher from the Caribbean.” Important Bird Area Caretakers like Julie are caring for over two hundred IBAs across the country, playing a pivotal role in ensuring birds and their habitat are protected. The IBA Caretakers Network was launched in 2006 by BC Nature in British Columbia with financial assistance from Nature Canada's Communities in Action Fund, and is supported by national sponsor TransCanada Corporation. In 2009, TransCanada Corporation committed $1 million over the next five years to support Nature Canada's bird conservation efforts.Other key donors like Wildlife Habitat Canada, McLeans Foundation and Environment Canada have provided additional support, some of which was directed to the Atlantic Region. You can find out more about becoming a Caretaker and explore Important Bird Areas in Canada at ibacanada.ca. What are IBA Caretakers doing in other parts of Canada? Read more Caretaker profiles to find out. [/two_third] [one_third_last] Dave and Julie Julie Cappleman and Dave Shepherd cliffPurple Sandpipers in flight. Photo: Cliff Doran IMG_9151Purple Sandpiper. Photo: Julie Cappleman [/one_third_last]

IBA Caretakers: Volunteers Protecting Birds at Important Bird Areas
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IBA Caretakers: Volunteers Protecting Birds at Important Bird Areas

Hilda and Bruce Noton (2)
Bruce and Hilda Norton at Rice Lake IBA. Photo: Shelly Fisher
For nearly forty years, Bruce Norton has been visiting Rice Lake, Saskatchewan and admiring the abundant wildlife that it supports. Located just 25 km from Saskatoon, it’s the site of an Important Bird Area that is home to large populations of ducks, shorebirds and other wildlife. So when Bruce and his wife Hilda attended a meeting where volunteers were being recruited to care for and watch over Important Bird Areas in the Saskatoon region, they saw an opportunity they knew was too good to pass up.“When I heard about the Important Bird Area project, Hilda and I decided this was something we’d enjoy doing,” said Bruce, “We’ve been at Rice Lake on and off for about forty years, so it seemed like a natural place to volunteer.”As members of Nature Saskatoon, a local naturalist group, Bruce and Hilda had visited Rice Lake Important Bird Area many times on bird watching trips before becoming Important Bird Area Caretakers. In fact, many of the group’s members are avid birders and bird watching is a weekly group activity.
North side (8)
Rice Lake Important Bird Area. Photo: Shelly Fisher
A semi-permanent marsh surrounded by agricultural lands, Rice Lake is an important wetland for waterbirds, especially Franklin’s Gull. Over 3,000 pairs of nesting Franklin's Gulls, representing more than 1% of the estimated global breeding population, have been recorded at this site. The lake is also an important staging site for waterfowl including Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Mallard, and Canada Goose. Not only do Bruce and Hilda make regular visits to Rice Lake IBA to monitor birds and changes to the landscape, they share these observations with local farmers whose land abuts the IBA. “I’ve found that a lot of farmers are conservationists who have an interest in birds and in the IBA,” said Bruce. Farmers will often share their observations of birds passing through their land, adding to the greater pool of knowledge about the wildlife that uses Rice Lake to breed, nest and refuel before long migrations. For Bruce and Hilda, their volunteer work is as much about making observations of the IBA as it is informing local stakeholders on bird conservation issues. “Agriculture is changing, the climate is changing, and we’re not quite sure what this will do to wildlife,” said Bruce, “I think it’s important to have monitors around the country to keep track of how these things are affecting birds and wildlife on the ground.” Bruce and Hilda are a part of a network of over 200 volunteers who watch over and protect Important Bird Areas across Canada. First launched by BC Nature with the assistance of a Nature Canada Communities in Action Fund, the Caretaker network now spans nine provinces.  Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are the national co-partners in delivering the Important Bird Areas program and coordinating the IBA Caretakers Network in Canada. Are you a member of a naturalist club in your community? If you are actively involved in conserving and protecting natural spaces in your area, joining the IBA Caretaker Network could give you the support and guidance to do more! You can find out more about becoming a Caretaker and explore Important Bird Areas in Canada at ibacanada.ca As the national sponsor of the Important Bird Area Caretaker Network, TransCanada Corporation committed $1 million in 2009 to support bird conservation efforts in Canada over the following five years.

IBA Caretakers: People Protecting Birds Across Canada – Vancouver Island
Photo by Tofino Photography
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IBA Caretakers: People Protecting Birds Across Canada – Vancouver Island

[caption id="attachment_10877" align="alignright" width="288"]Photo of Josie Osborne Photo by Mike Farrow[/caption] Vancouver Island is well-known for its giant conifers, abundant wildlife and rugged coastline. First time visitors are easily blown away by the magnitude of nature – there’s no better place to feel the strength and beauty of the natural world than at the foot of a towering Douglas fir. On the west coast of the island you’ll find another stunning gem – mudflats. Big ones.Tofino Mudflats Important Bird Area covers the largest set of tidal flats on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s also where you’ll find Josie Osborne taking young nature enthusiasts on their first birding outing.Josie, a marine biologist and staff member at the Tofino Botanical Gardens, has cared for the Tofino Mudflats IBA for nearly six years. After living with a self-professed ‘bird block’ for many years, Josie found the Important Bird Area Caretaker program to be a natural fit with her educational and interpretative work in her previous position with the Raincoast Education Society. “I like to tell people that birding is like tennis, you learn tennis best when you play with someone just a little better than you,” said Josie, “If you go out with someone who knows their birds just a bit better, you can pretty quickly reach their level. And then you are both learning together.” Once a month in winter, Josie leads a group of people of all ages on to the mudflats where they practice their newly acquired bird identification skills. Expert birders from the area will often come out to help beginner birders learn the ropes. Josie helps coordinate a program, “Learning Better Bird Skills”, which makes birding accessible and brings people together around a love for nature. “The program is as much about birding as it is about bringing people together out in nature on a regular basis,” said Josie, “In a recent survey, we learned that the number one reason people came birding was for the social aspect.” Image of adult with two kids birdingAn ardent advocate for nature, Josie sits on the advisory committee for Tofino Mudflats IBA which meets twice a year to discuss issues affecting the mudflats. As a committee member, she liaises with representatives from government and environmental groups to ensure the IBA is protected and remains a haven for wildlife. For amateur birders hoping to hone their birding skills, Tofino Mudflats Important Bird Area provides no shortage of tidal pools and rocky out-croppings to explore. Covering 32 square kilometers, it includes six mudflats and serves as a critical stop-over site for migrating birds. Locals and tourists are treated to quite a sight when tens of thousands of Western Sandpipers pass through on their biannual migrations. It’s such a spectacular event that organizers of Tofino’s Annual Shorebird Festival have timed the festivities around the spring migration. If you happen to be in Tofino in May, why not stop by and take part in fun, family-friendly activities? Bird watching will be part of the mix, but so will other events, including an art show! Tofino Mudflats IBA is one of nearly six hundred Important Bird Areas in Canada. The Canadian IBA Program is a cornerstone in science-based, site-specific conservation for birds and biodiversity which has been co-delivered by Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada since 1996. Acting with regional conservation partners, both organizations have built an exhaustive IBA database, finalized almost one hundred site conservation plans and helped communities implement more than 150 local projects. Important Bird Area Caretakers like Josie are caring for over two hundred IBAs across the country, playing a pivotal role in ensuring birds and their habitat are protected. The IBA Caretakers Network was launched in 2006 by BC Nature in British Columbia with financial assistance from Nature Canada's Communities in Action Fund, and is supported by national sponsor TransCanada Corporation. In 2009, TransCanada Corporation committed $1 million over the next five years to support Nature Canada's bird conservation efforts. Are you a member of a naturalist club in your community? If you are actively involved in conserving and protecting natural spaces in your area, joining the IBA Caretaker Network could give you the support and guidance to do more! [button link="http://naturecanada.ca/get-involved/volunteer/" size="medium" target="_blank " icon="leaf" color="blue" lightbox="false"]Become an IBA Caretaker today[/button]

IBA Caretakers: A Social Network
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IBA Caretakers: A Social Network

A.Murray, Boundary Bay
Anne Murray, Boundary Bay-Roberts Bank-Sturgeon Bank IBA
Last week we heard from Gaston Déry, an IBA Caretaker for Iles-aux-pommes IBA, Quebec. In this post, we return to British Columbia to speak with Anne Murray, IBA Caretaker for the Fraser River Estuary: Boundary Bay-Roberts Bank-Sturgeon Bank IBA.After speaking with Anne, I was struck by the similarities between the IBA Caretaker Network and the online social networks that are increasingly a part of our everyday lives. The concept of spreading a message through a social network is quite simple. Engage one person with influence and you inform and engage their entire network of friends.The Important Bird Area Caretakers Network works in much the same way. An IBA Caretaker is someone with ties to the people in their community who care about nature and have an interest in protecting it. Through the Caretaker Network, they connect their community with communities across Canada that care for and protect birds and their habitat. “It’s like any social network in an organization. We can reach more people that way.” said Anne Murray, past president of BC Nature, “Caretakers are the local people at an IBA who can regularly be in contact with regional and national coordinators of the Important Bird Area program. They’re also the people who spread awareness about the IBA in their community.” Canada’s IBA Program is a cornerstone in science-based, site-specific conservation for birds and biodiversity. Co-delivered by Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada, the program has been in place since 1996. Acting with regional conservation partners, Nature Canada has built an exhaustive IBA database, finalized almost 100 site conservation plans and helped communities implement more than 150 local projects. In 2006, after successfully launching the IBA program in British Columbia with financial assistance from Nature Canada's Communities in Action Fund, BC Nature took the lead in pushing the program even further. Anne Murray, who was on the Board of BC Nature at the time, helped launch the IBA Caretaker Network in British Columbia. “We wanted to ensure that the Important Bird Areas program was sustainable in the long term and one of the ways I could see of doing that was to set up a network of volunteers who knew the sites and were close to the sites,” said Anne, “The idea was that BC Nature and the other partners would provide Caretakers with information, advice and guidelines on how to monitor, promote and protect an IBA – then we’d let them run with it.” Nearly six years later, there are close to 200 IBA Caretakers across Canada. This year, with the addition of Caretakers in Ontario and Quebec, there are now Caretakers in every province in Canada. The network’s expansion has been possible with the support of the IBA Caretaker Network’s national sponsor, TransCanada Corporation, who in 2009 committed $1 million over five years.
boundary bay DNCB
Anne (third from right) goes birding with the Casual Birding group of the Delta Naturalists Society. Photo: Delta Naturalists Society
Over the years, the network’s success in effectively protecting birds and their habitat comes from the collective efforts of Caretakers across the country. “People already involved in their site are given help and capacity to do more. That’s what’s been really good about the program,” said Anne, “The regional and national partners of the IBA program provide support, organize meetings with government and get other people involved – that really helps to build the capacity of the program. Being a part of that is very valuable. You’re much more effective when you are part of something bigger than if you’re on your own.” For Anne, joining the Caretaker Network was a natural next step in her conservation work – she was already actively advocating for the protection of the Fraser River Estuary when the network launched.  As one of the Caretakers for Boundary Bay-Roberts Bank-Sturgeon Bank Important Bird Area, Anne is involved in everything from conducting bird surveys to giving public presentations on IBAs. Her public outreach includes publishing books on the ecology of the Lower Mainland and writing columns on timely conservation issues affecting the Fraser River Estuary in the Georgia Straight, a widely circulated local paper. Not surprisingly, the proximity of the Boundary Bay-Roberts Bank-Sturgeon Bank IBA to the city of Vancouver presents a unique set of conservation issues. Urban and industrial expansion and recreational pressures threaten to degrade the ecosystems that are arguably one of the most important habitats for migrating and wintering waterbirds in Canada. Western Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, Northern Pintail, and many other species of bird and fish need the mudflats and intertidal marshes of the IBA to survive. IBA Caretakers like Anne have brought greater awareness of the challenges facing urban Important Bird Areas and the unique value they hold for wildlife.
dunlins Brunswich point & Reifel DNCB
Dunlin in flight at Reifel, part of the Boundary Bay IBA. Photo: Delta Naturalists Society
“In the past 20 years, public awareness of the environmental value of Important Bird Areas like Boundary Bay-Roberts Bank-Sturgeon Bank IBA, has slowly increased,” said Anne, “That’s due to the many caring people who advocate for their protection. I hope that my work as an IBA Caretaker helps to contribute to that awareness.” Are you a member of a naturalist club in your community? If you are actively involved in conserving and protecting natural spaces in your area, joining the IBA Caretaker Network could give you the support and guidance to do more! You can find out more about becoming a Caretaker and explore Important Bird Areas in Canada at ibacanada.ca Next week, we’ll hear from Josie Osborne, Caretaker for Tofino Mudflats IBA on Vancouver Island. Stay tuned!

IBA Caretakers: Protecting Birds Across Canada – Quebec
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IBA Caretakers: Protecting Birds Across Canada – Quebec

Gaston Déry
Gaston Déry at Ile-aux-Pommes IBA
As an Important Bird Area Caretaker for Île-aux-Pommes IBA, Gaston Déry has been an integral part of transforming what was once a haven for seagulls into an island that supports thriving populations of migratory birds, ducks and other wildlife. Over the past thirty years, Gaston has worked to restore the island’s bird habitat, turning it into a “paradise for birds”. Over 30 bird species use the island to breed and to refuel on their bi-annual migrations. The island has become such a dependable source of food for migrating birds that Gaston likens it to a tried-and-tested roadside diner along a bird superhighway. “Imagine you’re on a road trip with your family and you know there’s a restaurant where you can stop and eat. That restaurant is safe, it’s not that expensive and you know that you can always depend on it being there. That’s what Île-aux-Pommes IBA is to migrating birds,” said Gaston, as he described how the island serves the needs of thousands of migrating birds every year. Île-aux-Pommes lies 6 kilometres off the south shore of the St. Lawrence estuary, near the town of L’Isle-Verte Québec and 25 km east of Rivière-du-Loup. Surrounded by five islets, the island is just under two kilometers long and 200 metres wide. But for such as small island it does more than its fair share to support nesting and migrating birds. The second largest breeding population of Common Eider ducks nests on the island every year, with nearly 2,300 breeding pairs recorded last year. Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull populations also nest in large numbers on the island. Other birds found on the island include American Black Duck, Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Brant, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Plovers, Sandpipers, many species of sparrow such as Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Slate-coloured Junco , American Crow and many species of Hawks and Owls.
Eider-f vol-2
Eider duck in flight at Île-aux-Pommes IBA
For Gaston, becoming a Caretaker of Île-aux-Pommes IBA was a natural next step in his commitment to protecting the birds that depend on the island. He’s been an IBA Caretaker for nearly four years, but in many ways, he has been a guardian of the island for most of his adult life. Île-aux-Pommes has been in the Déry family since 1927. Ownership was passed down from one generation to the next, and in 1980, the land came into Gaston’s possession. In the intervening years, the island had become a hotbed for research, drawing government scientists and university students to the island to study birds. But the number of ducks coming to island had declined, and a colony of 20,000 seagulls had taken up residence. A lot needed to be done to restore the island so that ducks and other wildlife that had historically nested on Île-aux-Pommes would return in greater numbers. So when Gaston took ownership of Île-aux-Pommes, he was determined to turn things around. Carrying on the tradition of conserving nature instilled in him by his grandfather from a young age, he decided to lay the ground work for a management plan that would ensure the island would be a haven for birds forever. With the help of Ducks Unlimited, Gaston slowly rehabilitated the island by planting conifers and shrubs that are essential nesting habitat for Eider ducks. What was once a barren island and home of a seagull colony, was transformed to the point where thousands of ducks returned to the island, ushering in a new era of vibrant bird life.
Murray's flock of eiders
A flock of Eider ducks at Ile-aux-Pommes
“IBA Caretakers are part of an important network of people who are not only protecting birds, but protecting the planet. It’s important for our society to give back to nature,” said Gaston. As an IBA Caretaker, Gaston is the ears, eyes and hands on the ground at Île-aux-Pommes IBA. He visits the island most weekends and holidays, monitoring birds, assessing habitats, and conducting other conservation activities. He’s part of a network of over 200 volunteers who watch over and protect Important Bird Areas across Canada. First launched by BC Nature with the assistance of a Nature Canada Communities in Action Fund, the Caretaker network now spans nine provinces.  Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are the national co-partners in delivering the Important Bird Areas program and coordinating the IBA Caretakers Network in Canada. When Gaston’s not at the IBA, he’s bringing his passion for birds and nature conservation to elementary schools in Quebec. By speaking to children about IBAs and the value of protecting nature, he hopes to inspire young minds to embrace a nature ethic in their everyday lives. “I love inspiring the next generation to become advocates for nature. It’s a powerful experience for me, and I hope, for them too,” said Gaston. “Just a few months ago, the mother of one of the children who saw my presentation called me to say how her daughter came home talking about the importance of loving and protecting nature. It’s moments like these that keep me going!” said Gaston. As the national sponsor of the Important Bird Area Caretaker Network, TransCanada Corporation committed $1 million in 2009 to support bird conservation efforts in Canada over the following five years.

IBA Caretakers: People Protecting Birds Across Canada – Saskatchewan
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IBA Caretakers: People Protecting Birds Across Canada – Saskatchewan

Last week, we heard from two Important Bird Area Caretakers in Alberta, where young naturalists and city dwellers are getting involved in bird conservation.This week we follow Ted, Nature Canada’s manager of bird conservation, as he heads to Saskatchewan to speak with Lori Wilson, IBA Caretaker for Reed Lake IBA.Like many Caretakers, Lori has been an avid birder from a young age. She’s also part of a group of local naturalists who regularly monitor birds in the area. Hear Lori talk about her reasons for joining the IBA Caretaker Network and about an innovative project that links communities in Canada, the United States and Mexico through a shared interest in protecting migratory shorebirds.
Lori, already an active birder in her community, brings her interest in bird monitoring and her network of local birders and naturalists, into the IBA program by becoming a Caretaker. They are part of a larger network of volunteers that participate in the IBA Caretakers program. Their work promotes effective bird conservation in Canada. Do you want to protect your local birds and habitat? Consider becoming an Important Bird Area Caretaker! You can find out more about becoming a Caretaker and explore Important Bird Areas in Canada at ibacanada.ca. Stay tuned for our next post where you will hear from a Caretaker in Quebec who owns a very special island in the St. Lawrence.

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