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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

And just ‘who’ is this?
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And just ‘who’ is this?

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Valerie Assinewe, Guest Blogger Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] The Long-Eared Owl is this month's calendar photo! This owl is generally a medium-sized bird, who is approximately 38 cm in length with a 91 cm wingspread. Many people do not know that much about this bird, so outlined below is all the basics about the bird, plus some cool facts so check them out!

Distinguishing Features

    • Ear-tufts are prominent at the centre of its head and mainly blackish-brown with tawny edges.
Photo of a Long eared Owl
  • Tawny-orange facial disk with blackish rim.
  • Yellow-orange eyes.
  • A white “X” across the face.
  • The cere is brown.
  • They have a grey-black beak.
  • Plumage is brown and buff with heavy mottling and barring over most of the body.

Where do they live?

The Long-Eared Owl is found throughout temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. In Canada, you are likely to see this owl living in open woodland in the more southern regions. This bird prefers to nest and roost in dense coniferous thickets or trees with nearby open areas that they would use for hunting.

What does it eat?

These owls primarily eat small rodents, with voles being a favourite. As well, they eat small birds, lizards, frogs, snakes and bats!

Hunting Adaptation

Long-Eared Owls are stealth nocturnal hunters made possible by the following adaptations:
    • Silent hunting made possible by flight feathers with fringed edges and downy surfaces that mute the sound of its passage through air.
    • Large, rounded wings allow buoyant and effortless flying without too much flapping and loss of energy. This means they glide easily and fly slowly for long periods while hunting ground-dwelling prey.
    • A highly developed auditory system, asymmetrically placed ear openings (ears are on the side, behind the eyes), and large, sound-catching facial disk make for precision night hunting.
    • The position of the eyes gives the owl its “wise” appearance but more importantly for its hunting lifestyle binocular vision.
Image view of a Long eared Owl
  • In order to improve efficiency in low light the owl’s eye tubes, not balls, have large cornea, pupil and retina. The retina has more of the light-sensitive (rod) than the colour-sensitive (cone) cells.

What you may not have known. . .

  • Females Long-Eared Owls are actually larger than the males.
  • Plumage colouration provides excellent camouflage when roosting in dense foliage.
  • They swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the indigestible parts in pellets, and this usually happens once per day.
  • They do not build their own nests but appropriate stick nests built in trees by crows and magpies.
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Saved by Popular Demand?
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Saved by Popular Demand?

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel[/caption] A new day may have dawned for Canada’s species at risk. Nature Canada is very pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau  has directed Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to “enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species” as a top priority. Implementing the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is critical to this work. Last week, Nature Canada and seven other nature groups wrote a joint letter to Minister McKenna outlining some of the pressing shortcomings in implementing SARA including:

  • Clearing up the backlog of  scientifically assessed species at risk  not yet declared to be legally at risk
  • Getting caught up in preparing Recovery Strategies for threatened and endangered species
  • Better supporting the work of  COSEWIC, the scientific advisory committee on species at riskImage of Barn Swallow
The previous federal government fell behind badly in legally listing species recommended for at risk status by COSEWIC. The backlog goes back four years, and includes more than 100 species, including Barn and Bank Swallows and the western Grizzly Bear population. Preparing recovery strategies for endangered, threatened and extirpated species at risk—including identification of critical habitat--is another priority. The preparation of recovery strategies needs to be an objective, scientific exercise to identify broad strategies to ensure species’ survival and recovery. You can save endangered and threatened species by encouraging the Minister and the new government to act by Popular Demand!

Here's how you can help today:

Please consider signing Nature Canada’s petition requesting that the Minister immediately list the Barn and Bank Swallows as threatened.

Learn More Here:

To learn more about protecting endangered species, check out these news articles from the Ottawa Citizen: Triage in the wild: Is it time to choose which species live and which die out? Canada, once a global leader in conservation, is among the world’s biggest cheapskates when it comes to spending to save disappearing wildlife. To learn more about biodiversity targets, click here. Email Signup

There is no Planet B
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There is no Planet B

[caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel (At 100% Possible March on Parliament Hill)[/caption] Yesterday, on the eve of the Paris climate talks, 25,000 Canadians, including myself and other Nature Canada folks, marched on Parliament Hill.  A key message?  There is no Planet B—for people, birds, or other wildlife.Image of logo-COP Nature needs to have an important place in the international agreement that comes out of Paris. As Birdlife International’s report explains, the degradation and conversion of natural ecosystems is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (the biggest, next to burning of fossil fuels). Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is a proven and cost-effective approach to mitigate climate change. As well, healthy ecosystems protect communities against flooding, sea-level rise and drought. Conserving, restoring and managing ecosystems sustainably can thus be key elements in climate adaptation strategies. Plan A in Paris needs to focus on protecting nature on Planet A—the only one we’ve got. Email Signup

Bird Tweet of the Week: Northern Hawk Owl
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Northern Hawk Owl

[caption id="attachment_24233" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of Northern Hawk Owl Photo from Flickr, Shirley A. Lannoo[/caption] The Northern Hawk Owl is an infrequent winter visitor to our region, but when one is present it is usually cause for excitement. This owl is rather hawk like in appearance and behaviour, which some biologist attribute to the fact that they hunt during the day unlike most owls! Listen in for more information on this fascinating bird! Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio’s In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to “Bird Tweet of the Week” on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website. This episode aired on Saturday, November 28th, 2015. Email Signup

Nature as our Playground
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Nature as our Playground

[caption id="attachment_21100" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sandy Sharkey - Photographer[/caption] (The following is a guest blog from one of our newest Women for Nature, Sandy Sharkey who is a radio morning show announcer on Boom 99.7 by day and photographer and nature explorer by heart. Growing up, she spent countless hours catching frogs, saving baby birds, and poring over every page of the complete Funk and Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia series… dreaming about seeing each and every one of the animals in those books. You can see more of her amazing photography and thoughts about how amazing nature is at her blog Cabin Road Art.) [caption id="attachment_23578" align="alignright" width="300"]bee and flower (1 of 1) Sandy Sharkey Photo of a bee and flower, by Sandy Sharkey[/caption] I remember seeing the police car up the street but thought nothing of it, being six years old  and quite content with the fact that I had just caught a bucket full of tiny spring frogs. I had no idea that the police car was in fact searching for me. Or that  my family and most of the neighbours were also searching for me. Each day I would normally walk home from Grade 1 and be in my backyard by mid-afternoon. But this day was different, because my class-mate Stewart had told me that there were ‘tons of tiny frogs’ in the swamp behind his house, so naturally I had to investigate. I didn’t think twice about the fact that Stewart’s house was several blocks away, or that anyone would have an issue with my froggy adventure. Once I arrived at Stewart’s place and saw all those hopping frogs, I didn’t have a care in the world. The sun was hanging low in the sky when I finally stopped collecting frogs in a bucket and started to make my way back home. And right after I saw the police car, I saw my Dad. His face was filled with emotion and relief but I also got a stern ‘talking to’, and I was marched back home, where I watched in horror as my Dad took my bucket of tiny spring frogs and emptied all their wiggly bodies onto the grass behind our house. And as spring turned to summer, in the backyard of a red brick house on a very busy street in the suburbs, my tiny frogs grew into adulthood and croaked loudly each and every night. I thought that was fantastic. [caption id="attachment_24239" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo of crows in a snowstorm Photo of crows in a snowstorm by Sandy Sharkey[/caption] Like all the kids in my neighbourhood, nature was not only the backdrop to our childhood, it was how how we spent our days. And we didn’t have to go far to find it. We knew where the garter snakes sunned themselves, which tree branches held the raucous crow nests, and we knew where the turtles would poke their heads through the bulrushes in the nearby swamp. I also grew to learn that I didn’t need buckets or jars or nets. It was much more enjoyable to find creatures in their natural habitat and if it was just for a glance or a fleeting moment, the sight of a butterfly hitching a ride on a breeze became much richer to me than staring at the hapless insect through an empty peanut butter jar. My parents were like all the other parents on the street. They allowed us to treat nature as one giant playground. Sometimes I would run into my brother or sister by the creek or inside my favourite forest (which exists no more, it is a medical centre today) and we were all doing the same thing. Growing up, exploring, observing, playing, learning and whether we knew it or not, we were developing a very strong appreciation for nature. I knew what an American goldfinch was by the time I was 7 or 8, mostly because my Mom called these birds ‘wild canaries’ and I believed her until I got an armload of bird books for my birthday and looked up the actual name for the bird.  My Mom still called them wild canaries. Having a strong childhood connection to nature can lay the foundation for a lifetime of respect for our natural world. It is true that the world today is much different than it was for generations from the 60’s, 70’s, even the 80’s.  Computer games and mobile devices challenge the number of hours in a day that a kid spends outside. Many urban developments take out every tree in a forest, eliminating the rich biodiversity that grew over hundreds of years. But things are getting better. Nature Canada’s 45,000 members and supporters have a strong voice to effect change for nature conservation in both rural and urban communities. Technology and nature don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and there are hundreds of mobile ‘apps’ that identify everything from bird sounds to the bright green moss at the foot of a tree. Digital cameras give children a wonderful view of the natural world. Strapping on a GoPro for a nature hike is exhilarating, healthy, and it feeds a passion for further adventure. Today, a neighbourhood forest. Tomorrow, a mountain top. [caption id="attachment_23587" align="alignright" width="300"]bird day (1 of 1) Sandy sharkey Photo of children at the Bird Day Fair, by Sandy Sharkey[/caption] This past summer, I co-hosted Nature Canada’s ‘Bird Day in Ottawa’, a lively day with educational booths, a birds of prey demonstration, entertainment, and the unveiling of ‘The Official Bird of Ottawa’ (the chickadee). Local school children surprised us with their ‘Flamingo Dance’. It  didn’t matter that we don’t have flamingos in Ottawa (except for a wayward Chilean flamingo dubbed ‘Elisha’ that mysteriously appeared by the Ottawa River in 1997). It was a beautiful day and there were hundreds of children giggling with enthusiasm and peppering the bird experts with questions. Encouraging today’s children to connect with nature is the best way to ensure that nature is protected forever. I am thrilled to be a member of Nature Canada’s ‘Women for Nature’ initiative. Let’s work together to ensure that nature continues to be the ultimate backdrop for children for generations to come. Besides, nature is COOL.  And we get to wear muddy boots. [rev_slider sandyblog] Email Signup

Messengers tell us about the threats from climate change
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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Messengers tell us about the threats from climate change

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Who exactly are these messengers? Birds of course. Birds are one of the best-studied class of species and therefore are able to provide us with information about the overall effects of human-caused climate change. As the world leaders all gather in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, it is important to discuss the impacts on nature caused by rising global temperatures and more extreme weather. [caption id="attachment_24243" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of Semipalmated sandpiper shutterstock Photo of a Semipalmated Sandpiper[/caption] First of all, climate change seriously threatens bird species as well as humans according to a report published today by Birdlife International and the National Audubon Society. The Messengers report goes through the various possible ways in which birds will feel an impact. These impacts could include: shrinking ranges; population declines; new competitors or predators; and increased disease. All of this means higher risks of extinction for some species. Humans populations could also experience the loss of homes, shortages of food and fresh water, and increase of disease from climate change similar to those of birds.  For example, it is expected that by the year 2100, 52 million people will be vulnerable to coastal storm surges. However, there is a brighter side to this report, discussing the measures BirdLife International has already put in place to help birds and human communities. As well, the report brings out suggestions of what could be done for further protection for both people and nature. 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 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 report here. Email Signup

How nature benefits from seeing the new Ministers’ mandate letters
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How nature benefits from seeing the new Ministers’ mandate letters

[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"]Eleanor Fast Eleanor Fast
Executive Director[/caption] Nature Canada congratulates Prime Minister Trudeau on making the mandate letters of all the Cabinet Ministers public for the first time. This means that all Canadians can see what each Minister's goals are. But how will this make a difference to Nature Canada's work? Nature Canada meets regularly with Ministers from nature-related departments, as well as senior civil servants. Knowing what the Minister's and department's goals are is important: it allows us to suggest ways Nature Canada can help the government achieve our mutual goals of protecting and celebrating nature; and it allows us to hold the Minister to account if they aren't reaching their goals. We hope it will make engaging with government more transparent and effective. I'm already wondering how we worked for so long without seeing the Ministers' mandate letters! A couple of specific examples of why seeing the mandate letters is important to Nature Canada's work are: [caption id="attachment_23482" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a caribou Photo of a Caribou[/caption] On environmental assessment. Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation, is  spearheading an important initiative on helping the new government think through options for improving the environmental assessment process. Nature Canada has believed for a long time that EA needs strengthening, and was vocal before, during and after the election. We're pleased to see the government listened. In fact, we see that environmental assessment is a priority for several ministers including the Minister of Environment and Climate Change; the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Minister of Natural Resources, and the Minister of Science. Seeing the mandate letters helps Nature Canada in our work because we can ensure we reach out to all the relevant departments to push for the highest standards in environmental assessment. On protected areas. Nature Canada supports Canada's commitment to the Aichi targets to protect 17% of Canada's land, and 10% of our oceans by 2020. We are pleased that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change's mandate letter includes working to protect 10% of oceans. But where is the instruction to protect 17% of Canada's land? It is conspicuous by its absence! If we couldn't see the letters we wouldn't know it wasn't there, so seeing the letter is valuable. We will be asking the Minister to publicly confirm her commitment to the Aichi targets. That's just a couple of examples of why the mandate letters are important to Nature Canada, there are many more on species at risk, National Wildlife Areas, and the National Energy Board to name just three. If you enjoy policy discussions why not take a moment to read of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change's mandate letter for yourself. Are the issues you care most about reflected in it? I'd love to hear from you. Email Signup

Congratulations on Oil Tanker Ban on B.C.’s Northern Coast
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Congratulations on Oil Tanker Ban on B.C.’s Northern Coast

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel[/caption] Congratulations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who last week directed Marc Garneau, his Minister of Transport to implement a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s northern coast. Crude oil tankers will be prevented from transiting the waters between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and Alaska. The moratorium means that Enbridge will be prohibited from taking massive oil tankers into and out of Kitimat. And this means that the Northern Gateway pipeline, which has intended to bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Ocean, will not be built. Represented by the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) at University of Victoria, Nature Canada and BC Nature played a major role at the project hearings, introducing expert evidence on the project’s potential impacts on threatened woodland caribou and on terrestrial and marine birds. Our lawyers cross-examined Northern Gateway experts at four witness panels for a total of 25 hours. The big issue will be whether the government proposes to implement the ban through legislation or other means.  To be effective, a legislated moratorium would seem to be the best way to proceed. Email Signup

Bird Tweet of the Week: Black Scoter
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Black Scoter

[caption id="attachment_23457" align="alignleft" width="275"] Black Scoter. Photo from Flickr by Kurt Hasselman.[/caption] The Black Scoter is one our stealthiest-looking diving ducks. The male is all black except for a bright yellow protrusion on the base of its otherwise black bill. Whereas the female is all brown in colour. Learn more about the appearance of this duck and its call in this week's tweet of the week! Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Listen to past episodes on our website. This episode aired on Saturday, November 21st, 2015. Email Signup

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