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The Biggest Global Bird Event of the Year: International Ornithological Congress Vancouver
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The Biggest Global Bird Event of the Year: International Ornithological Congress Vancouver

[caption id="attachment_36273" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey, click for contact information Ted Cheskey, Naturalist Director.[/caption] Ted Cheskey, Naturalist Director of Nature Canada attended the 27th International Ornithological Congress in late August, in Vancouver with about 2000 other delegates from around the world.  The congress was organized by the International Ornithological Union and co-hosted by Bird Studies Canada (BSC), Nature Canada’s co-partner in BirdLife International.  Here is a first person account of the week-long event.

Canadian Migration Monitoring Network - Friday

Many other national and international bird partnerships organized meetings around the IOC to take advantage of their supporters travelling there and being the same place at the same time.  The Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, the network of bird observatories across Canada, did just this, and organized their biannual meeting on Vancouver Island just prior to the Congress.  I arrived on Friday morning at Vancouver airport, and quickly travelled to Vancouver Island where I joined the CMMN meeting.  Many of the CMMN organizations are part of Nature Canada’s Cats and Birds partnership, and are also part of the Canadian Nature Network.  Nature Canada’s recent priority of helping small organizations (like bird observatories) become stronger through “engagement organizing” is something that interests several of them.   I shared a new resource that Nature Canada has created on engagement organizing as part of my participation in the meeting.  A highlight of this meeting for me was attending Dr. David Bird’s talk about the use of drones in ornithological research.  Dr. Bird is also well known as an advocate for the Canada Jay to be recognized as Canada’s official bird.

Delta tour - Saturday

[caption id="attachment_38310" align="alignright" width="368"] Anne Murrary talks about Boundary Bay.[/caption] BSC organized a bus tour of the Fraser Delta for about 40 participants representing a wide range of interest groups sharing interest in protecting the Delta.  We made four stops to experience key habitats and issues.  At each stop an expert provided a commentary on a major issue for participants. For example, Anne Murray, past Nature Canada Board member and author of two books on Boundary Bay, shared her thoughts on the history of and challenges faced in this biologically rich section of the Delta.  Roger Emsley of BC Nature talked of his campaign to stop a major expansion of the container shipping terminal at Robert’s Bank that threatens habitat which supports hundreds of thousands of Western Sandpipers and other species.  At another stop, we visited a farm, where the farmer, whose barn was home for the Endangered Barn Owl, lamented about how rodenticides used on some farms in the Delta are gradually killing off the Barn Owls.  This trip painted a rich portrait of this remarkable area and the incredibly complex issues and relationship affecting it.  Nature Canada is calling for protection of the Delta and a re-invigorated version of the Fraser Delta Management Plan.

Partners In Flight all-day session - Monday

Partners in Flight (PIF) is a network of organizations throughout the Western Hemisphere engaged in all aspects of landbird conservation from science, research, planning, and policy development, to land management, monitoring, education, and outreach. PIF’s mission is: “keeping common birds common and helping species at risk through voluntary partnerships”. To halt and reverse bird population declines before they are listed as threatened or endangered is a cost effective and common sense business model for the future.  As many PIF partners were attending the IOC, this “side event” was organized to bring PIF partners together to share international conservation initiatives.  Many of the participants were from Latin American countries with which Canada shares the same birds (they breed in Canada and spend their non-breeding season in Latin America).  Nature Canada works with PIF partners on the Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative among other initiatives.

Congress Official Opening – Monday

Organizers of the Congress including a rich mix of culture, art and science, and twinned the Congress with their week-long inaugural Vancouver International Birding Festival.  The festival included outings throughout the region for visitors, and pre and post Congress outings for the delegates.   Official remarks were made by dignitaries, including newly minted Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, the Provincial Minister of the Environment for British Columbia, the Honorable George Heyman, and Dr. Lucia Liu Severinghaus, President of the International Ornithologists Union.  After two inspiring speeches by the respective Ministers, Dr. Severinghaus took the stage and lamented how she wished that the same thoughtfulness, inspiration and commitment to environmental protections and bird conservation expressed by the Ministers’ speeches needed to be brought back to her country, and those of most of the other delegates that lack positive political leadership on the environment.  This was indeed a moment when I felt proud to be Canadian!

Canada Night - Tuesday

Canada Night celebrated Canada, and some of the people who have made great contributions to bird science and bird conservation.  The featured event was a speech by renowned Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.  Ms Atwood talked about the many issues that impact birds, naturally including roaming cats. She gave a humorous introduction to her graphic novel series Angel Catbird, which aims to raise awareness and motivate positive action on the issue of cat predation on birds.  Listen to an excerpt of her talk by clicking here.  This was another proud moment for me – to be Canadian and to be part of the Nature Canada campaign that was kick-started by Ms Atwood to Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives. [caption id="attachment_38312" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Margaret Atwood in cat ears and bird wings delivers power messages on solutions to bird predation by cats in her unique style[/caption]

Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative (CWICI) - Wednesday

Nature Canada has been involved in efforts to recover the population of Canada Warbler since 2013.  We host the CWICI website on behalf of the partnership and have contributed significantly to this initiative.  I presented to a room of 30 scientists and conservationists, the history of the CWICI.  The international effort to develop a range-wide integrated conservation plan for this threatened species is nearly complete.  At the session, we focused mainly on the challenges on its non-breeding grounds, the majority of which are between 800 and 2000 metres along the northern Andes from Venezuela to Colombia.  That is where the main threat to Canada Warbler is thought to exist.  Dr. Anna Gonzales, who very recently received her PhD in part for her work establishing the connectivity between breeding grounds and wintering grounds, provided a summary of her findings for the group.  We had a lively discussion on the value of promoting shade-grown coffee in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America to support the Canada Warbler, and other species with which it shares this habitat. In Canada, Balzac’s and Birds and Beans are two retailers who sell certified, bird-friendly coffee.  Nature Canada staff drink only Bird-friendly coffee in the workplace.

Poster on Horned Grebe - Thursday

In 2015, while conducting surveys led by Nature Canada along Charlton Island in the territory of the Cree Nation [caption id="attachment_38311" align="alignright" width="300"] Figure 2 Myself with Editor of the Birds of Nunavut, Anthony Gaston with my poster[/caption] of Waskaganish, in Southeastern James Bay, Marc-Antoine Montpetit, our crack birder, found a family of Horned Grebes, including adults and two young, in a beaver pond just back from the shore.  He went on to find three other families over the next several days on other beaver ponds.  That discovery represents a significant range expansion of the species at risk.  The nearest confirmed breeding is over 700 kilometres to the west and about 1300 to the east.  I was able to present this story in the form of a poster at the IOC, during one of the poster sessions.  The way that works, is that I put my poster up for three days, and had to stand in front of it for 90 minutes on Thursday afternoon to engage interested passersby.  We are always grateful to work with the Cree communities around James Bay.  One of the unexpected benefits of this work, largely focused on shorebirds, is the discover of threatened species in places where they were previously unknown.

Stewardship Roundtable

The final event in which I participated was called the Stewardship Roundtable, organized by the BC Stewardship Centre and BSC.  The Roundtable consisted of a series of 90 minutes sessions, that included a panel of experts presenting, followed by an open discussion on significant bird conservation issues of interest locally and beyond.  This Roundtable was also open to the public and attracted many people who were not attending the Congress.  Our Cats and Birds Program Manager Sarah Cooper and I were panelists with three other cats and birds experts on one of the first sessions on stewardship solutions to this difficult problem.   We had a lively but polite discussion that included the participation of Dr. Pete Marra, Director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre.  After that session, went immediate to a second panel, this time under the theme of agriculture and birds.  One of my fellow panelists was Dr. Christy Morrissey, of the University of Saskatchewan.  Dr. Morrissey is a world expert on the impact of neonics on birds and other wildlife, though she largely steered clear of the issue in the session. My presentation was on the relationship between trends in agriculture in Canada and trends in bird populations. [caption id="attachment_38309" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Agriculture and Birds panelists including Dr. Morrissey on far left and me, third from the left[/caption]

A final word

Most of this post is about the events I participated in, mainly as a presenter. But one of the reasons why there is enormous value in these types of conferences is the casual and formal conversations with colleagues, friends and potential partners that take place every day at this type of event.  On that level, the meeting was extremely rich, and I am grateful to Nature Canada for supporting my participation, and to Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson for supporting Sarah Cooper’s participation.
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IBA Local Action Fund
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IBA Local Action Fund

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager[/caption] Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are injecting new energy into the Important Bird and Biodiversity (IBA) program. Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of volunteer hours have been invested in protecting birds at Canada’s IBAs.  We are committed to keeping Canada’s IBAs as a centrepiece of our site-related bird conservation work. From 2008 to 2014, Nature Canada and in some cases First Nation partners, aimed to get an ‘on-the-ground” stewardship and advocacy presence in IBAs from local groups and individuals.  Over this entire period, Nature Canada and BSC have worked hard to protect Canada’s IBAs through outreach, advocacy with governments and industry, and mobilization of citizen scientists to monitor IBAs. A year into the new phase of IBA conservation work: the IBA Local Action Fund has worked to protect and conserve birds from coast to coast, including three in Nova Scotia, one in New Brunswick, one in PEI, one in Newfoundland-Labrador, three in Quebec, two in Manitoba and two in British Columbia. Thanks to the support of thousands of donors—Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are working with local groups on specific projects to protect, restore and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. Here are a few features on how we are putting your membership to work protecting Canada’s birds!


[caption id="attachment_34523" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of Black Oystercatchers Black Oystercatchers[/caption] Laskeek Bay IBA, Charlotte BC Project: Fostering local champions to protect seabirds Summary: The Laskeek Bay Conservation Society has worked with local individuals to monitor and manage invasive predator species, namely racoons and rats, that are threatening breeding birds in the Laskeek Bay IBA. The Laskeek Bay IBA is a nationally significant breeding site for a multitude of seabird species, including Ancient Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, and Glaucous-winged Gulls. The Laskeek Bay Conservation Society will continue to develop environmental stewards and enhance local capacity to understand and support this IBA. [AnythingPopup id="209"]
[caption id="attachment_34524" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of Great Blue Heron by Jim Dubois Great Blue Heron by Jim Dubois[/caption] K’ómoks IBA on the Coast of British Colombia Project: Working with First Nations Guardian Watchmen on the K'omoks IBA. Summary: BC Nature has worked with First Nations Guardian Watchmen, who monitor & protect lands & waters on First Nations' territories along the Vancouver Island coast. The partnership has worked to identify shared bird conservation issues and lay the groundwork to integrate bird monitoring into current Guardian Watchmen stewardship programs. Both the K'omoks Guardian Watchmen and Haida Gwaii First Nations members have been engaged in this active stewardship program. [AnythingPopup id="211"]
[caption id="attachment_15193" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Burrowing Owl Burrowing Owl[/caption] Oak and Plum Lakes IBAs, Manitoba Project: Cultivating local leadership to protect a mosaic of habitats and species. Summary: The Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBAs provides a unique mosaic of habitats on the northeast periphery of the Northern Great Plains. Oak Lake is part of the Eastern Mixed-grass Prairie Regional Priority Area, an area prioritized for its high biodiversity value, high concentration of Species At Risk, and its unique ecological/biological landscapes. These diverse habitats are home to a number of species that need protection. Nature Manitoba has worked with indigenous groups and non-indigenous communities to establish a caretaker and stewardship network for this IBA. [AnythingPopup id="212"]
[caption id="attachment_34525" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Red Knot Red Knot[/caption] IBAs of Manitoba’s Hudson Bay lowlands: Seal River Estuary IBA, Churchill and Vicinity IBA, Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point IBA, Kaskattama River Estuary IBA, Manitoba Project: Monitoring Hudson Bay Coastal IBAs in Partnership with First Nations. Summary: Nature Manitoba has worked to engage local community members from Churchill and local First Nations in stewardship and monitoring on Hudson Bay coastal IBAs. The IBAs of Manitoba’s Hudson Bay lowlands are poorly known and susceptible to a range of threats from climate change to disturbance. This area is of high significance for many species including Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black Scoter, Rusty Blackbird, Red Knot, Hudsonian Godwit and Cackling Goose. The IBA Program is now recognized by a number of people living and working around Churchill and has raised awareness of this area for High Arctic shorebirds. [AnythingPopup id="213"]
[caption id="attachment_34526" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Semipalmated Sandpiper Semipalmated Sandpiper[/caption] Minas Basin IBA in Nova Scotia (Bay of Fundy) Project: Developing a Safe Shorebird Roost Site in the Minas Basin IBA. Summary: The food-rich mudflats of the Minas Basin IBA support over 100,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers in addition to tens of thousands of other shorebirds during fall migration. Because of its very high ecological value as shorebird stopover site, the Minas Basin is designated as both an IBA of global significance (Semipalmated Sandpiper is the primary IBA trigger species) and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site of hemispheric importance. A number of beaches are primary high tide roost sites used by shorebirds in the Minas Basin IBA. Intense summer recreational pressures, particularly striped bass fishing, coincide with peak fall migration in August. Through community events and outreach to local recreational users, businesses and tourism operators this project is will on its way to creating safe spaces for roosting shorebirds. Next steps the partners hope to build a volunteer program to support the continuation of these strategies in future years. [AnythingPopup id="214"]
[caption id="attachment_34527" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Roseate Tern Roseate Tern[/caption] North Brother Island IBA, southwestern Nova Scotia, Universite Saine-Anne, Church Point, NS Project: Collaborative effort to protect the Roseate Tern breeding colony in the gulf of Maine. Summary: This is a collaborative effort between stewards from Université Sainte-Anne and long-time North Brother Island IBA steward to protect the Roseate Tern population on North Brother Island through habitat assessment and enhancement activities and human impact mitigation. In order to protect the North Brother Island IBA, the Roseate Tern and other species of conservation interest, the group has worked to experiment with different management techniques to protect nesting Roseate Tern from predators and habitat degradation. 35 active volunteers supported this stewardship work over the past year, 12 of which are new to bird conservation stewardship! [AnythingPopup id="216"]
[caption id="attachment_6102" align="alignright" width="320"]Image of a piping plover Piping Plover[/caption] Island Nature Trust IBA, PEI Project: Collaborative effort to protect the Pipling Plovers in the Island Nature Trust IBA. Summary:  Local groups worked to minimize human disturbance of tourism while educating visitors of the importance of the Island Nature Trust IBA and the Piping Plovers that breed there. The Island Nature Trust staff and volunteers developed conservation conscious training programs and educational materials to the community in order to protect the Piping Plovers. Building the capacity of local watershed groups and Mi’kmaq conservation groups will continue to build community awareness and support local decision-making that considers IBAs in the context of their ecological sensitivities. [AnythingPopup id="217"]
[caption id="attachment_29460" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Atlantic Puffin by Chris MacDonald Atlantic Puffin by Chris MacDonald[/caption] Point Lepreau and Maces Bay IBAs surrounding the Bay of Fundy, NB Project: Co-operative efforts to protect the Bay of Fundy from potential oil spills. Summary: The entire Bay of Fundy is of critical importance for the Atlantic Flyway, which migrating birds use in spring and fall as they travel between breeding and overwintering grounds.  With existing shipping and industrial activity and the potential of increased oil tanker traffic from the Energy East project, there is real concern about the impact of potential oil spills on birds and marine life.  As Energy East has demonstrated little interest in studying the impact of oil spills, Nature NB wishes to work with local partners to develop a strategy to increase awareness of the risks and impact of oil spills, encourage action at local IBAs and incite public insistence on protecting the environment upon which so many birds populations depend.  The groups have worked on implementing adequate safety measures to protect migratory birds and their habitat. [AnythingPopup id="218"]
[caption id="attachment_24800" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Bufflehead Bufflehead[/caption] Port L’Hebert and Port Joli harbours IBA, southwest shore Nova Scotia- Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre Society Project: Building a public campaign to create a new marine protected area that would protect coastal IBAs in Nova Scotia.    Summary: Nova Scotia local groups have worked to increase awareness in order to protect Port L’Hebert and Port Joli harbours IBA home to a number of species including Ipswich Sparrows, Piping Plovers, Green-Winged Teals, Norther Pintails, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads and more. By engaging local residents, fishers, the Mi’kmaq community, and local landowners, has worked with volunteers to work with Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect the marine environment, bird life and biodiversity in these IBAs. [AnythingPopup id="219"]
[caption id="attachment_23621" align="alignleft" width="300"]Semipalmated Sandpiper Semipalmated Sandpiper[/caption] Ile aux Basques et les Razades IBA. rois-Pistoles, Québec. Project: Collaborative management action plans to protect Common Eiders on the Ile aux Basques et les Razades IBA. Summary: The “Societe Provancher d’histoire naturelle du Canada” with the collaboration of some partners, including scientists from universities, volunteers and environmental organizations, undertook research to inform management actions to preserve nesting species on the island. They wanted to find the best method to manage Double-crested Cormorants in order to preserve a small population of breeding Common Eiders as well as some shorebirds. Their habitats are strongly impacted by the increase in cormorant populations. Volunteers made a mapping of the vegetation of the Razade Islands for students to analyze. The Societe Provancher will continue to invite volunteers from previous years to continue their involvement in the project. [AnythingPopup id="220"]
[caption id="attachment_26228" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Snow Goose Photo from Flickr, Tony Battiste[/caption] Battures-de-Beauport IBA - Groupe d'éducation et d'écosurveillance de l'eau.   Project: Creating a community of concern for the Battures-de-Beauport IBA to protect Shorebirds. Summary: The “Groupe d’éducation et d’écosurveillance de l’eau” (G3E) created an educational program about the Les Battures de Beauport IBA called“1, 2, 3 ZICO!” project. The IBA is in a very heavily populated area with many sources of disturbance including industry, shipping, pollution and significant recreational pressures.  The area is known for its huge concentrations of Snow Geese and also as a stop-over for migrating shorebirds.1, 2, 3 ZICO (Zone Important pour la Conservation des Oiseaux – the French name for IBAs). The campaign was successful in raising awareness of the conservation issues affecting the IBA and the need for the development of solutions to protect the area among local residents and policymakers. [AnythingPopup id="221"]
[caption id="attachment_26191" align="alignleft" width="275"]Image of an Atlantic Puffin Atlantic Puffin[/caption] Witless Bay, Newfoundland Labrador Project: Engage local community in workshops to reduce human threats to Atlantic Puffin colony. Summary: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Newfoundland-Labrador Chapter worked to protect the Atlantic Puffin colonies in the Witless Bay, IBA. For six years, CPAWS NL has worked within communities in close proximity of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve to rescue and release puffins and petrels who become stranded on the mainland because of attraction to artificial lights. Light attraction from the local town is a source of mortality for young birds. The CPAWS local chapter has worked on a community solution to this problem so that young Atlantic Puffins and Leach’s Storm Petrels are not victims of local lights. The project has worked to reduce human disturbance to nesting seabirds in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve IBA; to increase knowledge and engagement among local citizens in the stewardship of the IBA; to increase awareness of the IBA and its conservation needs among the general public and visitors to the region. [AnythingPopup id="222"]
[caption id="attachment_35184" align="alignright" width="200"]Image of a Common Murre Common Murre[/caption] Baie de Brador IBA, Ile aux Perroquets, Point Amour, and the Strait of Belle Isle IBA, Labrador:  Quebec Labrador Foundation (QLF) Project: This project has worked to improve local knowledge of the value of the Baie de Brador IBA, threats to its birds, and result in increased community engagement in IBA stewardship and support for the Migratory Bird and Sanctuary. Summary: Through meetings and workshops, the project worked to inform, guide, and motivate local leaders to reduce disturbance to the IBA and promote its ecological value. It worked to train youth to ID seabirds, prevent disturbance from boats, and conduct beach clean-ups. [AnythingPopup id="226"]
Habitat degradation, climate change, pollution, and human impact pose grave threats to Important Bird Areas and Canadians need to band together to protect these critical habitats and wildlife. The IBA Action Fund was created to give much-needed funding to protect hundreds of species of birds across Canada - and now you can help too! A gift today will be put to action to: • Protect Habitat from several threats • Save hundreds of species that call these IBAs home • Help on the ground efforts to maintain and conserve IBAs for generations [button link="https://netdonor.net/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1909&ea.campaign.id=76229" size="large" target="_self" color="red" lightbox="false"]Give a gift today![/button]

The Killdeer Bird, and its Real Estate in the Capital
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The Killdeer Bird, and its Real Estate in the Capital

Recent news about the now-notorious nesting killdeer[1] at the site of Bluesfest, one of Ottawa’s largest outdoor events, has led to many asking the question: what regulations are in place in Canada to protect nesting bird species from destruction or interference?


This article was written by Brodie Badcock-Parks, a Nature Conservation Intern at Nature Canada. The Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA)[2] is a law enacted by the Parliament of Canada in 1917 (updated in 1994) aimed at “protecting and conserving migratory birds – as populations and individual birds – and their nests”. It is one of the oldest conservation laws in Canada and was established in response to the bilateral Migratory Birds Convention, 1916, between the United States and the United Kingdom (on behalf of Canada). The act offers legal protection for over 350 species[3] and their nests, with its regulations explicitly stating that, “no person shall hunt a migratory bird” (s. 5) or “disturb, destroy or take a nest, egg, nest shelter […] of a migratory bird” (s. 6a). Under the MBCA, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is mandated to protect individual and populations of these birds and their nests, and regulates potentially harmful human activities that could affect or endanger them.  Permits issued by ECCC are required for activities including hunting (e.g. waterfowl), scientific research, or nest disturbance/transport, among others. [caption id="attachment_37722" align="alignright" width="300"] A Killdeer Bird, photo by Robert Sivinski.[/caption] A prominent element of the MBCA was the creation and designation of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries[4], protected areas established for the conservation of migratory birds in Canada. Currently there are 92 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries[5] in Canada, which span over 11.5 million hectares in nine provinces and two territories. In Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, no hunting of any kind is permitted and stricter permit regulations are in place for researchers who wish to disturb nests and habitat. Individuals who unlawfully hunt or disturb migratory birds protected under the MCBA will face heavy fines and could potentially face time in prison. Recently, ECCC has cracked down on violations of the Act, with recent charges being laid against three Ontario hunters in May 2018[6] (combined reparations totaling $19,000), as well as two migratory bird traffickers in Newfoundland[7] in December 2017 (both charged with heavy fines & loss of hunting permits). Corporations who violate the MCBA will often face larger fines and are added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. Notable corporate violators of the Act have included Syncrude Canada Ltd., who were fined upwards of $3 million[8] for the deaths of approximately 1600 ducks on its tailing ponds near Fort McMurray in 2010; as well as Canaport LNG, fined $750,000 after over 7500 migratory songbirds were killed[9]after being drawn to a gas flare in Saint John in 2013. In short, the Migratory Birds Convention Act is an important piece of legislation because it protects an integral part of ecosystems all across Canada. Migratory birds are a key indicator of the overall health of our environment[10] and attempts to disturb or harm these birds should not be taken lightly. Continued enforcement of this Act to protect listed species like the killdeer, a species facing large declines in population across North America[11], will produce positive benefits not only for the birds, but for the environment as well. [caption id="attachment_37721" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Signage at Grand Manan Migratory Bird Sanctuary in New Brunswick (Photo: Environment and Climate Change Canada)[/caption]
For media coverage on this topic, please consult the following CTV National News clip from June 25, 2018 discussing the famous killdeer nesting at the Lebreton Flats, (site of Ottawa’s upcoming annual Bluesfest concert), featuring Nature Canada’s very own Naturalist-Director, Ted Cheskey! A small bird, nest and four eggs hold up major Ottawa music festival, from CTV News on Monday, June 25. Ottawa Bluesfest hatching plans after Killdeer nests at site of main stage, from the Ottawa Citizen on Monday, June 25. Bluesfest awaiting OK to move 'bluesnest', from CBC News on Monday, June 25.
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Sources Sanzenbacher PM, Haig SM. 2001. Killdeer Population Trends in North America (Tendencias Poblacionales de Charadrius vociferus en Norte América). J. Field Ornithol. 72(1):160-169.
 

Canadians of all ages Celebrate Migratory Birds
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Canadians of all ages Celebrate Migratory Birds

On May 12th, folks from all over Canada gathered at their local nature clubs to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day. This day of celebration included events (such as bird watches, bird banding, and bird demonstrations) for keen birders and enthusiasts, as well as activities for children interested in learning about their winged friends on their migratory journey back home to Canada. With numerous events occurring in every Canadian province, World Migratory Bird Day celebrations were met with great success! Many events were happy to promote their festivities. Below is a map marking the events that we gathered across the country


Here are a few pictures that we gathered from just a few of these World Migratory Bird Day events happening all across Canada.


[caption id="attachment_37052" align="alignright" width="275"] Photo of birding walks by the Edmonton and Area Land Trust.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_37051" align="alignleft" width="271"] Kids doing arts and crafts with Earth Path in Ottawa, ON. Photo courtesy of Earth's Path.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_37055" align="aligncenter" width="206"] Photo by Nature Saskatchewan from their various Bird Day events in Regina, SK.[/caption]  
[caption id="attachment_37053" align="aligncenter" width="655"] Birding walks at the Humber Arboretum Bird Blitz in Toronto, ON.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_37056" align="alignleft" width="330"] Photo of birders in Toronto, ON by Tommy Thompson Park.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_37057" align="alignright" width="441"] Bird demonstrations at Rouge National Urban Park, photo courtesy of Wild Ontario.[/caption]                    
[caption id="attachment_37054" align="aligncenter" width="475"] Birders at Bird Studies Canada in Long Point, ON. Photo courtesy of Jody Allair.[/caption]
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Nature Canada’s Thoughts on the State of the Birds Report
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Nature Canada’s Thoughts on the State of the Birds Report

[caption id="attachment_36273" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey, click for contact information Ted Cheskey, Naturalist Director.[/caption] This blog was written by Ted Cheskey, the Naturalist Director at Nature Canada. BirdLife, the global authority on the status of birds, and the global leader for bird conservation, recently published its State of the World’s Birds, five years after the previous State of the World’s Birds was released at the Global Congress of BirdLife International in Ottawa.  As Canadian co-partner of BirdLife, it behooves Nature Canada to share some of the key findings and messages of this landmark report. This is a serious document that is chalk full of valuable information on the state of the world’s birds.   North American birds receive little attention compared to the avifauna of the rest of the world, and that is fine.   The report is structured as a story-telling document, with a narrative starting with the value of birds, and diving deep into the threats and problems facing them, and concluding with a review of the important tools and initiatives needed to turn around the fortune of our feathered friends.  Each section has multiple case studies to provide examples in support of that particular part of the narrative.   Here are some of the highlights from my reading: [caption id="attachment_36862" align="alignright" width="300"] State of the World's Birds, Taking Pulse of the Planet. Photo courtesy of Bird Life International.[/caption] There are more species now then before even though they are going extinct at a faster rate.   That seems counterintuitive, and but here is the scoop.  The science of taxonomy is rapidly evolving and what we once may have considered as one species, in some cases, we now recognize a dozen.   You get the picture.  So if 5 of that dozen go extinct, we still end up with 7 species where before we had one.  So the number of species on earth is 11,121 based on the 2016 “Checklist of the Birds of the World,” meaning that the number of species counted in previous approaches was about 10% lower than it really is, according to current science. So about extinction – as many as 183 species “may have been lost” in the last 500 years.   What doesn’t bode well is that about 40% of all bird species are currently in decline whereas only 7% are increasing while the remainder is stable.   2486 species are globally threatened or near-threatened.  This is where I noticed a few familiar names on the list – Snowy Owl, Atlantic Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake – common species in parts of Canada. They have all been up-listed to “Vulnerable.”   Yikes! Agricultural expansion and intensification followed by logging, and invasive species ranked as top three threats to birds.   Intensive agriculture impacts 1091 globally threatened species, logging affects 734, and invasive species threatens 578.   Neonic pesticides, widely used in agriculture in Canada still are mentioned in one of the case studies as a contributing factor to grassland species declines.  We know that they are impacting aerial insectivores also (not just bees).   Nature Canada recently did a national campaign on neonics, calling on the Canadian government to ban them. Logging is a huge threat that impacts the forest birds in Canada, but which is much more acute in their tropical wintering areas.   In the case study on logging, a graph shows that South America holds most of the world’s forest-dependent bird species – not surprising, as we know that Amazonia is the lungs of the earth. Invasive species impact is most acute on islands and for island-restricted bird species.   Seventy five percent of the globally threatened species on islands are mainly threatened by invasive species like mice, rats and cats, whereas only 13% are impacted by invasive species on continental landmasses.   Rats and mice are the biggest problem, threatening 250 species, following by cats at 202 species.  Nature Canada knows the cat issue well and recognizes that feral cats on islands can devastate small animal population.  Most of the bird extinctions associated with cats have been island restricted bird species.  For more information on our campaign to keep cats safe and save bird lives visit www.catsandbirds.ca. [caption id="attachment_36864" align="alignleft" width="300"] Barn Swallow, Richard Cameron.[/caption] Another human-associated threat that takes a huge toll on seabirds is fishing gear.  Gill nets kill about 400,000 seabirds annually whereas longline hooks kill around 160,000.   One hundred and ninety three species of seabirds are impacted and threatened by industrial-scale fishing. Finally climate change is portrayed as the elephant in the room, exacerbating many of the other threats and adding considerable uncertainty.   More species, about twice as many, will be negatively impact by climate change than positively impacted, according to BirdLife’s analysis of birds in North American and Europe. In the section on solutions, a few things rise to the surface that resonate with me, and with what we need to do here in Canada and in the Americas.

  1. Protect IBAs. In Europe, BirdLife partners have done a good job of getting official legal protection for IBAs as Special Protected Areas.  Protection has increased from 23% in 1993 to 70% in 2016.   Compare that to Canada’s 35% protection of IBAs in 2016, and you can see that we have a long way to go.   We hope that the Federal Government’s commitment to the Pathway to Target One – to protect at least 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine habitat will prioritize IBAs which collectively account for less than 3% of the land cover.  We should include as part of our Target one commitment as commitment to legally protect over two-thirds of our IBAs in Canada.
  2. Recover species at risk. BirdLife has many examples in their case studies of how a committed group of people saved a species from extinction.   We have experienced that in Canada ourselves with the Whooping Crane and to an extent, the Kirtland’s Warbler.  But the list of threatened bird species continues to grow in Canada, doubling from 47 to 94 between 2001 and 2018.  The federal government needs to show better leadership in species at risk recovery by timely listing decisions and more concerted multi-species project recovery support.  There also needs to be an investment in international conservation as many of the threats to birds that breed in Canada occur in the tropics or on their migration paths.
  3. BirdLife partners in Cambodia are showcased in one of the 50+ casestudies, in terms of producing a “wildlife friendly’ rice that supports five critically endangered bird species.   Nature Canada promotes “bird friendly coffee” consumption in Canada to support the Canada Warbler and many other bird species on their tropical wintering grounds, reminding Canadian coffee drinkers that their choice of what coffee to consume can positively or negatively impact the birds that are here.   We are also initiating a project in Ontario to work with farmers to develop beneficial practices for birds on the farming landscape.
The report ends with a call to support the sustainable development goals of the United Nations.   While sobering in its analysis, I finished reading the State of the World’s Birds feeling hopeful from all of the amazing case studies of people making a small difference that adds up to a big difference.  Change starts locally, and we all have the ability and reason to be part of positive change for our birds and nature. Ted Cheskey
Please consult the following for more information on the state of birds in Canada. One in eight bird species threatened with extinction, global study finds in the International Edition of the Guardian.
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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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Reviewing a successful year for Nature Canada and looking forward

[caption id="attachment_34309" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Graham Saul Graham Saul,
Executive Director[/caption] What does nature mean to you? As all of our members know, a huge part of our Canadian identity revolves around the nature experience and we have a responsibility to protect it, celebrate it and support it. I am excited to be joining Nature Canada at such an exciting time – now more than ever it is becoming clear that we need to come together to conserve nature and protect wildlife. After reviewing the 2016-2017 Annual Report, it is evident that Nature Canada is a wonderful community to join. Reflecting on last years accomplishments, I am heart warmed and motivated to know that it is because of our members, because of your support, that Nature Canada was able to do so much for nature and wildlife. With each and every one of these successes comes an opportunity. An opportunity to engage more Canadians in the protection of nature and wildlife across Canada. I am so proud to know that our donors, volunteers, staff and community partners have accomplished so much in the last year and I am excited to build on that success.

  • Ensuring the protection of Barn and Bank Swallows are finally listed as a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) on March 17. Nature Canada will also continue to press governments to take conservation action on other species of swallow, including the Purple Martin, which is likewise showing worrying signs of population decline in eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. One of the first shocking statistics I learned when I started here is that Purple Martins are declining at a rate of 5-7% per annum. [caption id="attachment_26344" align="alignright" width="300"] Red Knots in flight[/caption]
  • The Important Bird Area Local Action Fund was built to support on the ground stewardship and community engagement to protect hundreds of species and critical habitat at 12 Important Bird Areas across the country. Looking forward, I am excited to see Nature Canada’s partners conserve these habitats, protect the species that live there and engage the community members to rally around their local IBAs. Our conservation team is looking forward to building these partnerships to engage more Canadians in bird the stewardship and conservation of these Important Bird Areas.
  • In June, the federal government committed to specific reforms of environmental laws that were dismantled by the former government in 2012. Success is much closer on key Nature Canada proposals. Nature Canada will continue to advocate for stronger environmental legislation as the various bills wend their way through Parliament. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to make sure the Canadian federal government puts environmental laws in place in order to make sustainable, science-based decisions that will protect nature, wildlife and the health of all Canadians!
  • Nature’s Canada’s Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives program is already achieving great success. Thanks to our program, 1500 owners have pledged to keep their cats indoors or under control which results in 24,000 bird lives saved. By engaging Canadians and working with municipal governments, we will be able to protect even more cats and birds.
  • The NatureHood program continues to grow, connecting kids to nearby nature in 14 cities across the country. This past year, in thanks to funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada, NatureHood connected over 14,000 kids and families to nature in collaboration with our 13 regional partners through 246 public events (such as Bird Day events, Christmas Bird Counts for Kids and local nature walks) and outreach to 177 school classes. Instilling a passion and respect for nature in the next generation is essential in protecting and conserving nature and wildlife for years to come.
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Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Gosling Foundation announce new Local Action Fund to advance conservation of birds and their natural habitats
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Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Gosling Foundation announce new Local Action Fund to advance conservation of birds and their natural habitats

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ottawa, ON (February 3, 2017)―Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Gosling Foundation are announcing the launch of a new Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Local Action Fund today that provides local organizations with grants to engage more people in protecting IBAs. The Fund will help to coordinate local actions to help protect, restore or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem integrity within threatened IBAs. “Nature Canada is very excited to be partnering with Bird Studies Canada and the Gosling Foundation to help local communities engage in nature conservation,” says Eleanor Fast, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “This new Fund will make a difference in helping to protect birds and their habitats across the country.” “This partnership is an excellent example of the importance of working together collaboratively to ensure that our birds survive and thrive,” says Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada. “Through the generous support from the Gosling Foundation together we will be able to mitigate threats and enhance the protection of Canada’s most important areas for birds.” BACKGROUND As Canadian co-partners in BirdLife International, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada have delivered the IBA program in Canada for 20 years.  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 agreed 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.      To arrange a Nature Canada interview, please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie, Nature Canada Media Specialist 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenze@gmail.com Nature Canada   To arrange a Bird Studies Canada interview, please contact: Elaine Secord, Communications & Public Affairs Manager 519-586-3531 ext. 111    Cell: 519-586-7251 esecord@birdscanada.org  Bird Studies Canada

What You Didn’t Know About Manawagonish Island
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What You Didn’t Know About Manawagonish Island

[caption id="attachment_29148" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Asma Hassan Asma Hassan, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Asma Hassan.  Manawagonish Island is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area or 'IBA' located just southeast of New Brunswick. The island has a rich history with regards to the species that inhabit it and the habitat it provides. The Nature Trust of New Brunswick has owned the island since 1992 when the original owners donated the land to the organization. So what is so interesting about the history of Manawagonish Island? It is a significant research site for scientists. Scientists have been tracking seabirds on the island since as far back as 1940. One particular area of their study is the effect of pesticides on the seabird population of the island. The Canadian Wildlife Service, scientists at the New Brunswick Museum and a dedicated bird enthusiast named William Astle have made significant contributions to this topic. In addition to their research on pesticides, they have also studied the movement patterns of seabirds such as Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. This specific study was conducted in 1984 using a banding method to track the movement of the seabirds. The results of the study suggest that both the Great Black-backed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants move northward into the Northumberland Strait after the breeding season. The research conducted by these researchers is available online for interested academics and fellow bird enthusiasts.Image of a Gadwall The island has undergone significant ecological changes in the past few decades. Once upon a time, Manawagonish Island was covered in beautiful spruce and fir trees, but changes in vegetation led to a significant decline in these trees. In order to create a hospitable environment for the island’s avian inhabitants, the Nature Trust actually constructed poles to substitute as trees for the purpose of nesting in 2007. There have been substantial changes in the island’s sea bird population. In 1948, two pairs of Great Blue Herons were recorded on Manawagonish Island and by 1979 there were at least 44 active nests. The number of Gadwall birds in Manawagonish Island has also been increasing since the early 1900s, though the population is still very small. The really interesting thing here is that the island was not even a known nesting place for Gadwall until the 1930s. Reports prepared by Astle and Donald McAlpine of the New Brunswick Museum also indicate a large increase in Great Black-backed Gulls since 1940. Manawagonish Island has a long history of providing a haven to the birds that have made the island their home. Though people are permitted to visit the island, they should take all necessary precautions so as not to disturb this sanctuary. It is an area that Nature Canada wants to see designated as a National Wildlife Area to provide federal protection to all species and habitats on the island. You can also learn about other proposed protected areas here.

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