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Time To Get Use To A New Acronym – Key Biodiversity Areas or KBAs
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Time To Get Use To A New Acronym – Key Biodiversity Areas or KBAs

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager[/caption] Get ready Canada for a new site-based conservation tool. Nature Canada is thrilled to be part of the leading edge of groups charged with introducing Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) to Canada.  Building on Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), which are about birds if you weren’t sure, KBA covers all visible forms of biodiversity from mammals to millipedes. Identifying and protecting them will contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, just as IBA protection is helping birds. KBAs are identified by applying the criteria and thresholds included in the “A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas” approved by the Council of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in April 2016. This standard applies to all levels of biodiversity (genetic, species and ecosystems). There are 11 criteria grouped under five categories:

  1. Threatened biodiversity;
  2. Geographically restricted biodiversity;
  3. Ecological integrity;
  4. Biological processes; and
  5. Irreplaceability through quantitative analysis.
The Standard and its criteria were developed through extensive consultation and build on four decades of experience in identifying sites of biodiversity importance including IBAs identified by BirdLife International, as well as efforts to identify Important Plant Areas, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, KBAs under previous criteria and related approaches. KBAs are not legally protected areas though. They are much like IBAs in this respect. They do, however, provide a strong biological basis for protection–something that Nature Canada will be mobilizing its partners and supporters to help ensure. [one_half] [caption id="attachment_35690" align="alignnone" width="460"]Image of Red Knots Red Knots, photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_35691" align="alignnone" width="460"]Image of bird watchers on Charlton Island Garry and Marc-Antoine on Charlton Island[/caption] [/one_half_last] KBAs were introduced to Canada during a workshop led by the IUCN and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that was associated with the annual meeting of the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) in Quebec this past fall. Emerging from that meeting was a National Coordination Group (NCG) for KBAs and the elements of a plan to introduce and implement a KBA program in Canada. Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada (BSC), as Canada’s official BirdLife Partners, with over 20 years of developing and implementing IBAs in Canada, are on the National Coordination Group for the Initiative. One of the first steps in the KBA process will be determining which IBAs satisfy the KBA criteria.   BSC is currently conducting that assessment, but at a crude scale, most of the IBAS in Canada that are “globally significant” (e.g. one percent or more of the global population of a species) will become KBAs. IBAs will not disappear, but some will gain the additional status of KBA. The federal government is very interested in supporting the KBA initiative, given the strong potential for KBAs to add value to its Pathway to Target One initiative to protect at least 17% of Canada’s lands and inland waters and at least 10% of its marine and coastal territories. Nature Canada is ready to engage its Nature Network, consisting of provincial and local partners, in the KBA initiative. Local naturalists are one of the best sources of knowledge on species occurrence and abundance. We believe that the naturalist community has tremendous knowledge to contribute to identifying and monitoring potential KBAs. We are also counting on local support to help secure legal protection for these areas. Stay tuned for more on KBAs!
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Nature Canada shines at the Latornell Symposium
Purple Martins pair at bird house complex
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Nature Canada shines at the Latornell Symposium

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager[/caption] The Latornell Conservation Symposium is one of Ontario’s premier annual events for conservation practitioners, policy makers, environmental NGOs, and academics. The Ontario government, Conservation Ontario, the University of Guelph and many other organizations sponsor the symposium. It provides a unique forum to share work, research, and ideas with others working in the same or a similar field including those who interpret and enforce the policies that protect nature. This year’s symposium in late November explored the succession of science, knowledge, policy and organizations and the nature of this change on the environment. Nature Canada’s Ted Cheskey and Megan MacIntosh participated in Wednesday’s proceedings, and presented Nature Canada’s work to protect and recover the rapidly declining Purple Martin and Threatened aerial insectivores as part of a session called “On a wing and a prayer: the plight of our birds.” The three-hour session featured a screening of the full-length documentary “The Messenger,” introduced by film Director Sue Rynard and Producer Joanne Jackson, followed by presentations from Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds and member of Nature Canada's Women for Nature, Dr. Doug Tozer from our BirdLife Canada partner Bird Studies Canada, and us. [caption id="attachment_35490" align="aligncenter" width="599"]Image of group at Latornell Conservation Symposium From left to right: Doug Tozer, Bridget Stutchbury, Sue Rynard, Megan MacIntosh and Ted Cheskey holding Maple Syrup bottle gifts from the conference that look suspiciously like bottles of contraband.[/caption] Despite the length of our session, and our position as last speakers, we were able to hold the attention of over 60 attendees, who engaged us with many questions. Our presentation described our stewardship work focused on housing management with the Ontario Purple Martin Association and our applied research with Dr. Kevin Fraser of the University of Manitoba. Both project components are supported by many local partners and volunteers. Nature Canada receives financial support from the Habitat Stewardship Program of Environment and Climate Change Canada as well as the Ontario Ministry of Nature Resources Species at Risk Stewardship Fund to do this work. We were able to present some of our findings from recovering data tags that provide insights into the incredible migration route and timing of Martins. This was our moment to share the extraordinary news from this work that members of this species that breed thousands of kilometres apart, gather on the same islands at the same time in the Amazon River basin of Brazil. [caption id="attachment_35489" align="aligncenter" width="601"]Image of Megan MacIntosh presenting Megan MacIntosh presents to a captivated audience the results of her field work.[/caption] Another key finding with significant conservation implications is with regard to post breeding, and pre-migratory roost sites. This summer, Megan and her crew located several of these giant, multi-swallow species roosts, some with over 20,000 individuals, which would qualify them, on their own, as Important Bird Areas. Roosts are poorly understood, and difficult to monitor, and even locate, though they can house tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of birds for several weeks prior to their southward departures. These roosts are largely located in wetlands along the southern Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. The concentration of birds at single roosts renders them vulnerable to different types of human activity, which may be a contributing factor to the declines. Our goal was to put up a flag for roost site protection in the conservation and resource management community. Judging from the response after our presentation, we have made our first good steps. We were thrilled to share the stage with Sue, Joanne, Dr. Stutchbury and Dr. Tozer and speak proudly about Nature Canada’s work, which we hope to continue at some level in 2018.

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Partnering to protect bird habitat
Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) at Pelee Point, Point Pelee National Park, Onatrio, Canada. Canada's most southern tip, located just meters below the 42 nd. parallel.
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Partnering to protect bird habitat

Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Gosling Foundation are excited to announce a new partnership to advance conservation of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA). The new IBA Local Action Fund launched on February 3rd provides local organizations with grants to engage more people in protecting local IBAs and coordinate local actions to help protect, restore or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem integrity within threatened IBAs. IBAs are sites that support specific groups of birds and range in size from very tiny patches of habitat to large tracts of land or water. They are identified using criteria that are internationally Image of a bird watcheragreed upon, standardized, quantitative, and scientifically defensible. This makes IBAs an important tool for identifying conservation priorities, and fostering greater success in the conservation of bird populations.  As Canadian co-partners in BirdLife International, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada have delivered the IBA program in Canada for 20 years.  Further progress on protecting IBAs depends on action at the local level and thanks to generous funding from the Gosling Foundation, we are thrilled to jointly announce the IBA Local Action Fund. The IBA Local Action Fund projects could look and be quite different across Canada, but will all feature local groups implementing conservation action within priority IBAs.  The range of projects qualifying for funding could include:

  • Science-based advocacy and targeted engagement organizing in support of long-term protection status for IBAs;
  • Local on-the-ground activities to reduce threats, raise awareness, and restore biodiversity;
  • Establishing and supporting Caretaker Groups to monitor their IBAs and advocate for the conservation of IBAs;
  • Raising local voices with municipalities to recognize and conserve IBAs through land use planning, zoning and other regulatory and policy tools; and,
  • Partnering with indigenous communities to build support in, and gain protection for IBAs on their traditional lands.
To find out more about the IBA Local Action Fund and how to apply, please visit here.
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Baie de L’Île-Verte & the Cacouna Marsh
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Baie de L’Île-Verte & the Cacouna Marsh

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption] This blog was written by Writing Intern Blair Scott. In 1980, Environment Canada declared Quebec’s Baie de L’Île-Verte a National Wildlife Area (NWA). The designated area comprises roughly 322-406 hectares of marsh wetlands (les zones humides des marais) that serve as a critical habitat for many endangered species and unique, life-supporting flora. While Environment Canada leads the management of this NWA, several other organizations have endowed the region with their own terms of ecological significance. In 1987, the Ramsar Convention designated Baie de L’Île-Verte a Wetland of International Significance,” and in 1986, L’Île-Verte Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) was officially recognized; consequently, the region has been listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Baie de L’Île-Verte is located on “the south shore of the Upper Estuary of the St. Lawrence River 30km northeast of Rivière-du-Loup” (Environment Canada, 2015). It is home to southern Quebec’s largest sprawl of Spartina marshes, which provides crucial habitat for the American Black Duck. This critical link of dependence catalyzed the need for protective action and special wetland status. The importance of this area is not exclusive to any one species, however; over 130 bird species take refuge in its hybrid terrestrial-aquatic habitat, with approximately 35,000 birds migrating through its territory every spring, and 10,000 passing through in the fall. Over thirteen species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act are found here, including Peregrine Falcon, Short-eared Owl and Bobolink. [caption id="attachment_24471" align="alignright" width="253"]Image of a female Bobolink on a branch Photo of a female Bobolink by Kelly Colgan Azar[/caption] The stringent protection and monitoring of Baie de L’Île-Verte has ensured that public access to this location will not compromise conservational priorities. But the hard work of environmental stewardship is seldom complete, and human development seems to encroach upon every ostensibly-pristine paradise. Unlike its NWA-protected neighbour, Marais de Gros-Cacouna (Cacouna Marsh) has not been granted the conservation exemptions afforded by such status. This is unfortunate as this region of the St. Lawrence is invaluable to Canada’s threatened Beluga whale population – providing the only known breeding grounds for this beautiful marine mammal. While hunting during the 19th and 20th centuries was the impetus driving the mass decline of this species, modern-day pollution – in the form of chemical pollution and oil spills, especially – poses a great threat if adequate protections are not put into place. According to IBA statistics, the Cacouna Marsh is one of the three most vital shorebird sites on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. It, too, has been designated as an Important Bird Area, but has yet to gain the conservation justice it deserves. Notable bird species observed here include the Black-bellied Plover, Nelson’s Sparrow, Wilson’s Phalarope and Marsh Wren. Key fish species include the American Eel, American Shad, Atlantic Herring, Atlantic Sturgeon, Capelin, Rainbow Smelt and Stickleback. In light of these facts, Nature Canada is proposing a westward expansion of the current NWA safeguarding Baie de L’Île-Verte, so that it includes the Cacouna Marsh Important Bird Area site. You can learn about more areas that are proposed to be protected here

Wetland Facts:

What do wetlands have to do with water? These amazing ecosystems have adapted to low oxygen levels that would be unfit for a large number of species, and in spite of this, act as intermediary sinks that filter our water. Wetlands are also factory powerhouses pumping out gazillions of insects! These, in turn, feed hundreds of thousands of animals who are all intricately connected in a complex web of trophic levels. In addition, wetlands are often connected to oceans, lakes and rivers, serving as canals for anadromous fish (i.e. fish who migrate between saltwater and freshwater locations: living most of their lives in saline waters, but preferring to spawn in freshwaters). Wetlands come in many shapes and sizes: marshes, bogs, fens, swamps, wet meadows and vernal pools – to name a few! For more information on the ecological services that wetlands provide, or the St. Lawrence wetlands network, click here!
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Nature Canada to make first submissions to NEB Energy East review Panel 
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Nature Canada to make first submissions to NEB Energy East review Panel 

[caption id="attachment_26979" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Adam Bond Adam Bond, Articling Student[/caption] Nature Canada will be the first Intervenor in the country to address the National Energy Board (NEB) Panel reviewing TransCanada’s application to build the Energy East Pipeline. In preparation for the NEB Panel Sessions in Saint John, New Brunswick (NB) starting Monday August 8th, I have travelled to the Bay of Fundy. First thing Monday morning, Nature Canada will lead the way in making submissions to the NEB in order to ensure that proponents’ evidence is rigorously tested and the Panel is provided with the facts about the risks the pipeline poses to nature. Immediately after arriving in Saint John, it was clear that the city is unique. New Brunswick is a province dominated by impressive landscapes. Driving south on Highway 1 there is a seemingly endless expanse of mountainous forests and meandering rivers. Dotted along the highway are small communities of some of the kindest people you will ever encounter. Arriving in Saint John, the landscape takes a significant change. The city stretches out around a massive port and is joined across the Saint John River by a network of highways and bridges. Mills, shops and urban sprawl break the natural landscape almost instantly on the drive down Highway 1. The expanse of nature pauses in Saint John for the small town and its city of industry. [caption id="attachment_28597" align="alignright" width="350"]Image of Saint John River Saint John River in Fredericton, NB[/caption] This morning, I had an early meeting at the Irving Nature Park to walk through the Saint’s Rest Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Nature Canada is working with Nature NB to coordinate our submissions to the NEB Energy East Panel, and we invited some journalists to take a walk through the IBA and discuss the Energy East Pipeline. The low tide at Irving Nature Park exposed a 28 foot cliff-face, mostly still covered in seaweed, and an enormous sandy beach. Salt Marshes surrounded a boardwalk and a thick fog cloaked all but the shoreline of island IBAs stretching into the Bay of Fundy. An oil spill from a super tanker on the shipping route a few kilometres from Saint’s Rest could decimate the salt marshes, wide sandy beaches and coastal forests all along the Fundy coast. The impact on migratory birds, fish, and marine mammals would be devastating. Dozens of vehicles were parked at the various parking spots near Saint’s Rest, with many friendly East Coasters waving and smiling good morning as they started on their bike rides, hikes, or dog walking. There can be no debate that New Brunswick is Irving country, but there can also be no doubt that this country loves its nature. Balancing the benefits and risks of Energy East will not be an easy task for the NEB in Saint John.

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Wanted: Govenlock Pasture for National Wildlife Area
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Wanted: Govenlock Pasture for National Wildlife Area

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] Perhaps when some gaze onto the rolling hills and plains of the Prairies, they see little but tumbleweeds skipping across an empty, mundane frontier. But those who know Canada’s Prairie grasslands know just how abundant the biodiversity of this region is, and how important it is to protect for animals, plants and humans, alike.

Do you think you know the Prairies?

  • Did you know that Canada’s Prairie grasslands must withstand extremes year-round? In fact, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “average weather” in this region is atypical.
Perhaps because it has to endure constant ups and downs, droughts and floods – while also serving as a quintessential icon for Canadian ranching, and habitat for some of Canada’s most endangered species!
“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.
The grasslands of western Canada range from the tall-grass prairie of Manitoba to the aspen parkland bordering the boreal forest and shortgrass and sagebrush grasslands of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, all serving as important sinks absorbing greenhouse gases.  These grasslands are imperilled due to the impacts of monoculture agriculture, urbanization, oil and gas development and climate change. Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba together have 82 community pastures comprising over 9000 km2. Govenlock – one of these unique pastures – is approximately 200 km2, and provides important grazing for livestock, while also serving as a critical habitat for at least 13 federally-listed species at risk, including Greater Sage-grouse, Burrowing Owl and Ferruginous Hawk. Govenlock is also part of an  Important Bird Area (IBA) designated as nationally significant  by Birdlife International. To understand the history of managing Prairie grasslands, like Govenlock Community Pasture in southwest Saskatchewan, we must look back to the Great Depression. An unforgiving drought swept the region in the 1930s, heavily eroding soils, and reducing arable farmlands to a desert-like state. In 1935, the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (PFR Act) was implemented, and served as the prime force guiding Prairie reclamation and conservation efforts. A successful and long-praised program that operated under this Act was the Community Pastures Program. sage-grouse2_Wayne LynchIn 2012, widespread confusion surged when the former Conservative government abandoned the Community Pastures Program, in favour of transferring the PFRA pastures to the provincial governments, with Saskatchewan committed to privatizing its pastures. Furthermore, the federal government did not conduct the environmental assessments cited as necessary to determine how this move would impact endangered species or grassland ecosystems During its years, the Community Pastures Program – aided by federal financing – proved to be highly beneficial for rehabilitating the grasslands, as demonstrated by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) conducted in 2007. Addressing this point, Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada, raised the question, “If the Community Pasture Program was so beneficial in 2007, why was it terminated in 2012?” Ultimately, grassland management in the Prairies must strike a balance between livestock production and grassland rehabilitation and conservation – which is integral for the survival of several endangered species, and for the longevity of the grasslands themselves , itself. With that said, progress has been made over the past year. In August 2015, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) agreed to transfer management of Govenlock Pasture to Environment Canada.  Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and Alberta Wilderness Association are now seeking to have this community pasture assessed and designated as a National Wildlife Area. You can support the protection and management of this important habitat by signing our petition to keep grasslands safe!
Canada simply cannot afford to lose more grasslands — probably the most imperilled ecosystem in Canada.”  – Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada

[button link="http://e-activist.com/ea-campaign/action.retrievestaticpage.do?ea_static_page_id=4826" size="medium" target="_self"  color="red" lightbox="false"]Learn about other proposed protected areas and how you can save wilderness now![/button]

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A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA
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A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] On February 26, the Environmental Review Tribunal ruled on the challenge of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) to the Renewable Energy Permit issued to White Pines Wind Inc. The Tribunal accepted APPEC’s arguments that the project, with its 27 industrial wind turbines along Lake Ontario, would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat populations. The Tribunal also recognized that the project “presents a significant risk of serious harm to migrating birds” and that “clearly the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” However, the Tribunal determined that the project would not cause serious and irreversible harm to bird populations. Nature Canada applauds APPEC, and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in particular, for leading the charge to protect the shores and offshore waters of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The IBA is of great significance to many different groups of species including waterfowl offshore, migratory birds that use the entire south shore as stopover habitat and species at risk including Whippoorwill, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Golden Eagle. [caption id="attachment_26704" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of wind turbines Wind Turbines on Wolfe Island. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] However, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the Permit Holder in deciding that the impact on these species would likely be insignificant and could easily be offset by compensatory habitat and mitigation. With regard to Whippoorwill, a nocturnal aerial insectivore that has lost over 75% of its population in Canada since 1970, it is most unfortunate that the Tribunal did not take a precautionary approach in its decision, as the Tribunal did recognize that there is an evidence gap as to whether the compensatory habitat would be of any value for Whippoorwill. Instead, the Tribunal seemed to base its decision on the fact that Whippoorwill has not been reported as a collision casualty with wind turbines ever in Canada. The Tribunal appears to have put less weight on the fact that the industrialization of the area could render it unsuitable for the species. The area of the undertaking for this project has a strong breeding population of Whippoorwill, which is isolated from other regional breeding populations on the Canadian Shield north of Belleville. The Tribunal also accepted the argument of the Permit Holder’s experts that risk to migratory birds could be mitigated and did not pose a serious threat, despite its acknowledgement, as previously noted, that “the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” The Tribunal decision and its earlier decision on the Ostrander project now stand as regrettable precedents for the proposition that wind projects do not cause serious and irreversible harm to migratory bird populations or avian species at risk. Countering the professional consultants engaged by the wind energy industry is clearly a challenge to the local groups such as APPEC who lack the proponent’s financial resources. This makes it all the more impressive that the APPEC did convince the Tribunal that the project would cause serious and irreversible impacts to the Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat.

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The world is lacking on the protection of migratory birds
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The world is lacking on the protection of migratory birds

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] It is said that more than 90% of the world's migratory birds are inadequately protected due to a lack of coordinated conservation efforts across the globe. A new study recently came out in Science calling for a higher level of collaboration around the world to help save migratory birds, as many of them are at risk of extinction. The research had indicated huge gaps in the conservation of these birds since some countries have ranges well covered by protected areas and while others do not. From the 1,451 migratory bird species, it was said that 1,324 of them have improper protection in at least one part of their migratory journey. Two species were even indicated as having no protection whatsoever! Photo of an Arctic Tern As a result, there has been a major impact on the populations. Half of migratory bird species are experiencing a significant drop in population, and they have been for the last 30 years. These bird species rely on the various habitats in each country for breeding, food, and rest so it is key to ensure that they have the appropriate protection. So just how far do migratory birds travel? The Arctic Tern may be the one that is most noted for the distance it travels. It is said that in their lifetime, the Arctic Tern flies the equivalent to the moon and back three times. Other birds such as the Blackpoll warbler flies three days nonstop from eastern Canada all the way down to South America! This goes to show how important these areas are and the great length they go through to get there. For 75 years, Nature Canada has worked to protect habitat for species at risk in Canada and internationally. Nature Canada is the Canadian co-partner in Birdlife International and implements the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area program with BSC and regional partners. With our work in this program, we want to preserve birds and their habitats so that we can continue to learn more from these feathered creatures. Read the full article from Birdlife International. Email Signup

The Northern Gannet – majestic in flight and raucous on land
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The Northern Gannet – majestic in flight and raucous on land

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Valerie Assinewe, Contributing Writer Valerie Assinewe, Contributing Writer[/caption] Over the ocean, the Northern Gannet wheels and soars majestically in the sea wind but on land, it waddles and stumbles in its raucous, smelly and crowded colony. This is what I remember most of our visit to Bonaventure Island. On our eastern Canada camping trip in 1987, my family and I were able to visit the Bonaventure Island colony of the Northern Gannet. From the boat tour and the walk to the colony on the cliff, we learned some interesting facts about this bird (additional facts from a recent internet review are in parenthesis):

  • They are not seagulls as I thought but rather seabirds (more closely related to Bobbies and other birds of the order Suliformes).
  • The gannets up close are large (Length: 85-97 cm). They have long narrow wings (Wingspan: 170-192 cm) and a long neck. The adult plumage is white with black tips to the wings and a yellowish head. There is a ring of bluish skin around the eyes.
  • The colony is a breeding site so it is only active between March and September.
  • The nests are on any ledge or flat ground, often perilously close to the cliff edge and always just out of pecking range of the neighbours. Much pecking, flapping of wings and cries ensue when nesting territories are crossed even by adults landing just too close or chicks roaming from their nests. [caption id="attachment_23302" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo of Northern Gannets by Matt Shetzer Photo of Northern Gannets by Matt Shetzer[/caption]
  • The mound nest consists of seaweed, feathers and plant material.
  • Both parents feed the young by regurgitation.
  • The birds standing face to face, wings out, knocking bills together and bowing are mated pairs greeting each other. The birds looked the same to me but apparently,one could identify the female from the male: the females have green lines on the toes whereas the males have more yellowish lines. Wary of the bird’s sharp beak and respectful of the locale signage of disturbing the nesting area, I trusted the word of the guide for this ID tidbit.
Some other important facts about the Northern Gannet:
  • Generally, only one pale blue, chalky egg is laid in late April or May.
  • The incubation takes between 43 and 45 days, and is carried out by both parents.
  • Juveniles are greyish-brown in colour with white freckling. The white colouration increases to maturity.
  • The age at first flight is between 84-97 days.
  • From their colony, gannets can travel over 200 km in search of mackerel, herring, capelin and sand lance.
  • Between September and March, i.e. the non-breeding months, the gannets range southerly along the Atlantic coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. Immatures (younger than 5-6 years) tend to winter further south than the adults and may remain south of the breeding grounds in summer.
  • Northern gannets are a sentinel species (or bioindicator) of the state of the Gulf of St. Lawrence because they have an expansive feeding ground in this region and  their diet is rich in fish that can provide information on the abundance of its prey and the degree of contamination of the ecosystem.
[caption id="attachment_23305" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Northern Gannet Image of a Northern Gannet[/caption] Canada is home to six Northern Gannet colonies. Three are along the east coast of Newfoundland: Funk Island, Baccalieu Island and Cape St. Mary’s. Three others are in the Quebec portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence: the colonies of the eastern tip of Anticosti Island, Bird Rocks in the Magdalen Islands and Bonaventure Island, which together make up 75% of the North American population of the Northern Gannet. All six colonies are designated as Important Bird Areas (IBA). Should your travels take you anywhere near these colonies, do visit because these birds are truly magnificent to watch and the colonies are a study in group behaviour and an indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.                 Email Signup

Ontario Environment Ministry turns its back on birds . . . again . . . says Environment Commissioner
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Ontario Environment Ministry turns its back on birds . . . again . . . says Environment Commissioner

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey  Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] In 2013, then Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller stated that industrial-scale wind energy projects should be excluded from Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA). Since then, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) approved two major projects in extremely well-known and highly significant eastern Ontario IBAs – one on Amherst Island and a second on the south shore of Prince Edward County. Another wind energy project at Ostrander Point, also located within an IBA with globally rare alvar habitat and rich in threatened species such as Blanding’s Turtle and Whippoorwill, may also be approved soon. The MOECC has done it again with its shoddy treatment of another serious bird conservation issue, attracting the ire of the interim Environment Commissioner Ellen Schwartzel. The issue this time is birds colliding with windows in Toronto. Environment Canada studies estimate that 25 million birds die annually from collisions with windows in Canada. The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) has documented the toll of migrating birds by buildings in Toronto for decades.toronto-412354_1920 This issue is the MOECC handling of a March 2014 request by two applicants under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR), to investigate their allegation that bird collisions caused by reflected light at two Toronto buildings was a contravention of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). In making their case, the applicants pointed to a February 2013 decision by the Ontario Court of Justice which found that the reflected light from buildings is responsible for bird deaths and is considered a “contaminant” under the EPA. The Commissioner’s Report called Small Things Matter – By the Numbers, includes a section “Fatal Attraction: When Birds Hit Buildings,” in which the Commissioner is highly critical of the MOECC’s handling of the EBR request. The Commissioner has “several major concerns” with the MOECC’s handling of case, calling the MOECC’s disregard for EBR guidelines (a five-month delay for no apparent reason) “inexcusable.” The Commissioner took exception to the MOECC’s reasons for denying the request. “This implies that the Ministry does not consider the adverse effects caused by reflected light (both in general and in the specific alleged contravention) to be serious enough to warrant an EBR investigation. The Commissioner disagreed with such a position; the death and injury of thousands of birds, particularly endangered and threatened species, is a serious issue. The significance of this threat was established in the Ontario court’s 2013 judgement in the bird death case: “to be clear, I do not view the death and injury of hundreds if not thousands of migrating birds as a matter of merely ‘trivial or minimal’ import.” Another concern raised by the Commissioner was with the MOECC’s underlying message in its decision to deny this application that the MOECC will not actively regulate the impacts of reflective buildings on birds. Instead, it appears that the MOECC’s preferred approach is to ignore its regulatory responsibility and leave it up to property owners and managers to voluntarily follow guidelines and suggested strategies. In other words the MOECC seems to be saying that the fact that there are voluntary guidelines available is enough. Whether anyone is using them or not doesn’t matter. [caption id="attachment_23355" align="alignleft" width="300"]Artuso_Canada Warbler_8027_imm Photo of a Canada Warbler by Christian Artuso[/caption] The Commissioner goes on to say that “the bigger, underlying problem . . . is that the Ontario court decision created a regulatory gap that the MOECC has failed to address. . . . If the MOECC had undertaken an investigation, it could have thoughtfully worked through the most appropriate and effective means . . . to address any adverse effects caused by reflections from the buildings named in the application.  . . . . Given the scale of bird mortalities caused by building collisions, the MOECC unequivocally has a role to play in addressing this serious problem.” The Commissioner concludes with this recommendation: "The ECO recommends that the MOECC publicly clarify how it will regulate reflected light from buildings to protect birds, now that an Ontario court has ruled that it is a contaminant under the Environmental Protection Act.” The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change should be standing up for nature and defending the public interest. In this most recent case, as well as the industrial wind projects on Prince Edward County’s south shore and Amherst Island, the MOECC is sitting down. The victims of their decision are the threatened species of birds, and the people of Ontario whose interests they should be defending. To read more on the Environment Commissioner's thoughts, click here. Email Signup

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