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Wind Energy Project Jeopardizes Globally Significant IBA
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Wind Energy Project Jeopardizes Globally Significant IBA

Gilead Power Corporation has submitted a proposal to construct a 9-turbine wind energy farm at Ostrander Point, in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Ostrander Point lies within the Ostrander Crown Land Block owned by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and is located just west of the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, near the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The location of the proposed Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park is near the centre of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area and only a few kilometres from the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area – the only National Wildlife Area specifically designated for its importance to migrating landbirds. This globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA) is designated for its high concentration of landbirds during migration as well as waterfowl. Additionally, Ostrander Point is a candidate provincial Area of Natural and Scientific Interest due to its significance for migrating birds and its rare alvar habitats (it is likely it has yet been officially recognized due to this controversial project).

IBAs are some of the most significant sites for birds on earth. BirdLife International the global authority of bird conservation first developed this program in Europe, recognizing that some species of birds are dependent upon very specific places for their survival, and that some places are very important for the survival of large numbers of species. BirdLife is an international partnership, now active in over 100 countries. In Canada, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are the official partners responsible for delivering the IBA program to Canadians. In many provinces, we work in partnership with provincial nature-conservation organizations such as Ontario Nature, to get the program to the ground and work with local individuals, groups, government official and First Nations to ensure that IBAs receive the attention and protection they deserve and need.
Prince Edward Point South Shore Important Bird Area, also called Prince Edward Point Important Bird Area on the IBA Canada website , is one of about 100 IBAs with conservation plans, developed in concert with local community members. When the conservation plan for the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area was developed in 2001, a large number of people, including representatives from the local Ministry of Natural Resources' (MNR) office, contributed to the plan, the mapping of the specific IBA boundaries, and the plan’s recommendations. The Ostrander Point Crown Land Block was one of the key-stone sites within the IBA, which spans a much larger area from Prince Edward Point to Point Petre and which includes offshore areas also for congregating waterfowl. Known as a potential site for rare and threatened species, and connected by scrub and forested shoreline and coastal habitat to the National Wildlife Area, Ostrander is central to the function of the IBA – particularly given that it was in public ownership by the MNR and thus not under the same risks for development as private land. At the time, disturbance from all-terrain vehicles was one of the big issues within the IBA, but in the bigger scheme of things, this was relatively minor, and something that could be managed through education and negotiation. At Ostrander Point, the question was when MNR would have resources to implement a restoration plan to encourage grassland habitat in an area already very significant for birds. No one at the time could have dreamed that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, legally responsible for protecting Ontario’s natural heritage, would consider promoting an industrial wind farm on a site that they were also in the process of nominating as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest for Natural Sciences due to its importance for migrating birds and the rare alvar habitat present there. In 2004, a few years after the publication of the conservation plan, the MNR made a policy decision to make some of its Crown land assets available for “green energy” projects. Such a policy change would make the way easier for small, independent electricity generating projects to take place in central and northern Ontario, where much of the land is owned by the crown. This policy change also opened up the playing field for wind energy developers, but it was not accompanied by efforts to systematically identify areas where wind energy projects should be excluded, as is currently the case with offshore turbines. Rather, projects were proposed and in some cases developed without a policy framework to guide where they would be located. In our view, Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park is the most egregious example of how the good idea of wind energy can end up in the worst of all possible places due to the lack of a planning an policy framework in place. Nature Canada is a strong supporter of the Ontario government’s effort to rapidly deploy wind energy as an essential strategy to meet the urgent need to reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of our energy system. We support most wind energy projects and recognize that projects cannot be developed without some impact to wildlife. However, the development of the Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park crossed a line for us. We see its consequences as extremely risky and potentially catastrophic for birds. We can only hope that either the developer or the Province will come to their senses and withdraw this project. On March 10, 2009, Nature Canada provided Gilead Power Corporation with specific comments on the Draft Environmental Review Report, released in January of 2009. In September 2010, Gilead released a Draft Natural Heritage Assessment & Environmental Impact Study, including reports specific to birds and bats, prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., which is open for comments until November 24, 2010. Nature Canada, in concert with Ontario Nature, took this opportunity to emphasize its opposition to the project. Our position is simply that the proponent, and the government of Ontario reject the proposed Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park; given the significant impact it is likely to have on the area’s birds and bats, and to seek an alternative site for the project outside of the IBA. No more studies are required to confirm the areas significance. Gilead’s own contracted reports on birds leave no doubt about the significance of the site for both migrating birds and breeding birds. Anyone who has birded in this remote part of Prince Edward County knows that, at times, this area can be a “river of birds“ due to its unusual geography and exceptional habitat. Radar studies in the bird report posted on Gilead’s website describe up to 160,000 birds passing through Ostrander Point during the fall migration, of which approximately half were flying at turbine blade height. Both the consultant’s data, and data from near-by Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory demonstrate that high numbers of both familiar species such as swallows and Saw-whet-owl, and at-risk species such as Whip-poor-will and Common Nighthawk would be at significant risk from this project. Swallows and nightjars (Whip-poor-will and Common Nighthawk) are aerial insectivores – species that feed exclusively on flying insects. Insects are known to concentrate around the spinning blades of the turbines, perhaps due to the lower air pressure or the colour of the blades. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots and understand the heightened risk to these species, which concentrate along the Great Lakes shorelines including Ostrander Point, during their migrations. Moreover, this site is one of the most concentrated areas for hawk and owl migration, with numbers of hawks peaking in early October at 70 to 109 observations/hour. On a single day in October, 60 golden eagles, an endangered species in Ontario, and more than 1,000 red-tailed hawks flew over nearby Prince Edward Point. Fourteen conservation priority species from Partners in Flight (of which Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is a partner) breed within Ostrander Point including Northern Harrier, Whip-poor-will (recently listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act), Black-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker, Willow flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Field Sparrow, Savannah sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Meadowlark and Baltimore Oriole. Most of these species are experiencing serious declines in Ontario. The area also has high densities of Wilson’s Snipe and American Woodcock, two species for which the males conduct aerial displays at approximately the height of the turbine blades. Most of the coastal habitat of the lower Great Lakes – Ontario, Erie and Huron has been modified or transformed for human use. Little natural coastline remains. Ostrander Point is natural habitat – alvar, scrubland, grassland, forest and wetland. It is superb habitat for birds and the arthropods, berries and seeds that sustain them. Because it is located on a narrow peninsula (the Long Point peninsula, smaller, but similar to the famous peninsula of the same name on Lake Erie), migrants are concentrated in higher densities during migration due to the funneling effect of the peninsula. Gilead’s Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park has the potential to kill high numbers of migratory birds, permanently damage a significant breeding bird community, and jeopardize the government’s responsibility for protecting s Ontario’s biodiversity. Ostrander Point should not be an industrial wind “park” but rather it should be conserved and managed so that its significance for migrating and breeding birds is ensured in perpetuity. Click here to read Nature Canada’s full comments. Photos by Myrna Wood

Getting out to the IBA at the Albany River mouth
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Getting out to the IBA at the Albany River mouth

Betwixt and between meetings, Peter Rosenbluth and I were able find a guide to take us out to the coast of James Bay where so many birds congregate on their ways north in the spring and south in the mid to late summer and fall. Upon leaving Fort Albany, we encountered Gray Seals playing hide-and-seek with us in the brackish waters, still several kilometres from James Bay. On our 40 minute trip in the characteristic sleek wooden-hull boats used by the Cree to navigate the rivers and the bay, we encountered many Common Goldeneyes, a few Common Mergansers, some Black Scoters, white-winged Scoters, Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles. Spray jumped the gunwales, hitting us on the face and getting our legs wet as the water was increasingly agitated as we moved further out the delta into the expansive James Bay where no longer we were sheltered from the cold wind. The mouth of the delta of the Albany is a myriad of islands with vast tidal flats and wetlands. It is a critical stop-over for several species of shorebird and waterfowl. Our guide explained how the vegetation along the coast is changing though - moving out into the the Bay each successive year. We came ashore on a beach of mud flats and sand. Tidal flats stretched out dozens of metres from the high-tide mark, as the tide withdrew, leaving pools of water amongst the gravel, glacial erratics, mud and sand. There is a slight rise in the land separating the tidal zone from vast salt marshes of rushes, sedges, and horsetail beds. While walking the shore, a flock of 20 juvenile Hudsonian Godwits flew directly over my head, landing just down the beach. The adult Godwits congregate in huge numbers in the IBA in late July and August, laying on layers of body fat to fuel their flights to Southern Brazil, Argentina and Chile. In September, the young of the year come along, also building up in number before their more lazy departure which lasts into October. As many as 10,000 Hudsonian Godwits, about 20 percent of the global population, use this site as an important stop over. In the spring, some even stay around to nest, according to local residents. We also observed Dunlin, Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, and Black-bellied Plover, but only in small numbers. The most common and widespread birds at this time of the year are Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs. They are everywhere along the shore, feeding on something, and constantly moving and being stirred up by us, a blowing leaf, or simply their irrepressible urge to move. The IBA is truly a sight to behold, but also was our guide. A traditional hunter/gatherer, he knew all of the species, (not just birds) was able to identify them without binoculars both by sight and the soft sounds they uttered. He is one of many hunter gatherers in the Cree communities like Fort Albany and Kashechewan who know the land, river and coast better that anyone. It was a great privelege to visit the coast with him. On our return, we observed more seals, a Peregrine Falcon, and a few Rough-legged Hawks along with one of the species that the coastal Cree communities depend upon and drives their annual spring hunt, the Canada Goose.

James Bay visits, Arrival in Fort Albany
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James Bay visits, Arrival in Fort Albany

Today I travelled from Timmins Ontario to Fort Albany, via Moosonee. This is about a two hour trip by a King 100 aircraft which seats about 12 people. Fort Albany is a small Cree village on the banks of the Albany River, about 150 kilometres north of Moosonee, near the coast of James Bay. I'm here with Peter Rosenbluth of Ontario Nature and Annie Metat of Mushkegowuk Tribal Council to meet with people in the communities, and share knowledge on birds and land use planning. There are 17 Important Bird Areas that ring James Bay, many of which are globally important as gathering sites for species of shorebirds such as the threatened Red Knot, Hudsonian Godwit and Semipalmated Sandpiper, and waterfowl including Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Brant, and Black Scoter. Fort Albany and neighbouring Kashechewan made national news a few years back when the water went bad from flooding and many Kashechewan residents were relocated to Timmins. The cost of food and gas is extremely high, as is travelling out. Air travel is the only option for leaving the community. Cree is spoken widely here, perhaps more than English. It is September 27 but surprisingly mild. Only one sign of winter so far. Just after getting off the plane in Timmins, a small flock of Snow Buntings flew over. Otherwise, White-crowned Sparrows were abundant at the Timmin's airport, where I also saw several small flocks of Sandhill Cranes. American Pipits and Horned Larks foraged in the grass near the Moosonee airport terminal, some landing just a few metres from us. Several Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and a Common Goldeneye floated on the backwaters of the river separating the island from the mainland, near the Fort Albany Airfield. Tomorrow Bernie will take Peter and I by boat to the mouth of the river where we will briefly explore the Albany River Estuary and Associated Coastline IBA before returning to the town to join Annie in her daughter's Tepee for an informal community meet. Later in the day an official general community meeting will be held where I will have an opportunity to present the Important Bird Area program, and listen to the interests of local people. In two days we travel downstream to Kashechewan for more meetings including one to the local high school. More posts to come!! Ted

Gulf Spill Lessons Not Heeded by Canadian Government
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Gulf Spill Lessons Not Heeded by Canadian Government

Yesterday BP and the US government announced that the oil spill in the Gulf has been tamed, more than three months after oil began gushing into the sea. Capped a few days earlier, their latest reports are that about 75% of the almost five million barrels of oil that spewed into the Gulf had been eliminated – roughly 25% was “dispersed”, 25% had evaporated and 25% was scooped up by all of those barges. That leaves only about 1.25 million barrels, about five times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled into Prince William Sound in Alaska 20 years ago. The so-called dispersed oil is turning up in water and sand samples at toxic levels, but officials are not talking about this. It appears as if the “out of sight, out of mind” approach is taking hold. In fact, a seemingly contradictory federal report released Wednesday indicated that roughly half of the more than 200 million gallons (750 million litres) of oil that gushed from the well before it was capped could still be in the gulf environment in some form as tiny dispersed droplets, tar balls, surface slicks or oil buried in sand and ocean sediment. Yet even as the clean-up efforts continue, it seems that Canada’s government is ignoring some of the lessons of the Gulf disaster. Today, the Globe and Mail reports that Chevron has been awarded rights to explore a 205,000 hectare deep water parcel in the Beaufort Sea for oil by Canada’s department of Indian and Northern Affairs. This award was granted despite the National Energy Board’s hearings that have yet to start on Arctic offshore drilling, called in response to the Gulf oil disaster. Chevron and its buddies, including Exxon and BP, were pressuring our government to further relax our already lax regulations for drilling onshore in Canada’s Arctic by removing the requirement for companies to demonstrate capacity to drill same-season relief wells. They argue that they have a new technology that makes the relief well unnecessary. Heard this before? Can you imagine a Gulf-like leak in the Beaufort with its very small ice-free window – Mackenzie delta nearby, birds, sea mammals, fisheries, and indigenous communities that live off the sea and the land? This is exactly the wrong approach Canada should take to development in the North. Now is not the time to relax offshore drilling regulations. Rather than do away with the requirement to have advance plans for drilling relief wells in case of a spill, oil companies should be required to actually have relief wells in place before working wells are built. Also, blow-out preventers of the type that failed in the Gulf should be tested regularly. Unlike the United States, Norway and Britain, Canada lacks a regulatory process governing whether or where oil and gas development can happen in the Arctic. Licenses are granted, and contracts signed with oil and gas companies before any environmental assessment by the NEB takes place. The result: exploratory licenses exist in environmentally sensitive areas in the Beaufort Sea, where a blowout would have immediate negative effects on the delicate ecosystems there. Strict regulations, and the will to adhere to them, are absolutely essential for safe, sustainable oil and gas development off of Canada's shores, and in the Arctic.

Ontario government posts initial policy for Offshore wind facilities – a significant move in the right direction
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Ontario government posts initial policy for Offshore wind facilities – a significant move in the right direction

On June 25, the Ontario government posted a discussion paper to inform proposed regulations to govern the development of offshore wind facilities in Ontario on the Environmental Registry. There is a 60 day comment period – extending over much of the summer. The basic tenant of the discussion paper is imposition of a five kilometre exclusion zone from the shoreline of the Great Lakes and other inland lakes such as Lakes Simcoe, St. Clair, Nipigon and Lake of the Woods. The exclusion zone would also apply to large islands. In addition, wind energy proponents would have to conduct site-specific studies to assess potential impacts and implement measures to mitigate any potential impact to ecological features. While the devil is always in the details, a five kilometre exclusion zone should exclude wind facilities from the most significant areas for birds and wildlife on the Great Lakes on other lakes in Ontario. Nature Canada and Ontario Nature have been advocating exclusion of wind facilities from Important Bird Areas, (IBA) and migratory corridors. Most IBAs on the Great Lakes and other Lakes in Ontario would be protected within this five kilometre exclusion zone. The near-shore and coastlines also tend to be the most significant area for migrating and feeding birds. There are some areas beyond the five kilometre buffer that are important for birds or which might fall within a migratory corridor, but in general, those areas will be well known, and exceptional (e.g. Pelee archipelago in Lake Erie, Three Sister Islands Lake of the Woods, islands in extreme Eastern Lake Ontario). The requirements for site-specific assessments should pick these areas up. That said, an effort needs to be made to map migratory corridors as soon as possible before proposals get the green light. Much less understood is how offshore facilities could impact bat populations. Highly technically challenging issues of monitoring impacts and mitigating threats that could occur when weather conditions conspire with a particularly heavy migration movement – (e.g. – low ceiling forces migrants into lower flight paths through turbine blads) need to be addressed if we are to have confidence that offshore wind facilities are not inflicting an impact on specific populations of wildilife. Also the complex assessment of cumulative effects of numerous offshore and on-shore projects in Canada and the United States must be considered and factored into approvals of specific projects. Nature Canada will carefully assess this policy and provide detailed comments to the government of Ontario. That said, the first impression is that this is a positive move that should protect wildlife, particularly birds, from the potential damaging impacts of wind facilities.

Wind Farm on Wolfe Island is killing large numbers of birds and bats
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Wind Farm on Wolfe Island is killing large numbers of birds and bats

Stantec Consulting Inc. has just released a very important study on post construction impact of a wind farm with 86 2.3 megawatt wind turbines on Wolfe Island near Kingston, Ontario on birds and bats. The data on which the assessment was made was collected between July 1 and December 31, 2009, or the "reporting period." In short, the result of the monitoring reveals shockingly high numbers of fatalities of both birds and bats. Here are the facts stated in the report: over 600 birds were killed, equivalent to 6.99 birds per turbine for the "reporting period", and 1278 bats, or 14.7 per turbine. The reporting period was six months and did not include the massive pulse of birds in the spring migration or wintering raptors. The casualties included 8 Bobolinks, 28 Tree Swallows, 7 Purple Martins, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 6 Turkey Vultures, 2 American Kestrels and a Merlin, among other species. Bat fatalities included 54 Hoary Bats, 44 Eastern Red Bats and 36 Silver-haired Bats. It is interesting and very troubling to note the selective impact these turbines are inflicting on certain groups of animals, such as the aerial insectivorous birds like swallows and martins which are in serious population declines, raptors, and migratory bats. The Stantec report converted the fatality rate into birds or bats per megawatt per reporting period, rather than the more standard birds or bats than per turbine per year as is traditionally used. This reporting technique, that I would call spin, diminishes the shockingly high impact of these structures. As turbines get bigger and more efficient at generating energy, our tolerance for their impact increases, according to this flawed logic. Many proponents of wind power, including CANWEA, quote studies that cite two birds per turbine per year as the impact of turbines. Indeed it was birds and bats per turbine per year that was the standard metric used for reporting impact. If we see through the spin of the report in using birds/bats per megawatt per "reporting period", there is no denying the impact of this project is too high and beyond tolerance. In the meantime, Prince Edward County, including the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area, Amherst Island, Wolf Island (both Important Bird Areas), offshore locations near the Duck Islands, and many areas along Lake Erie and elsewhere in the Country have either existing or proposed wind farms. We hope that this report, and the stir it will cause, will wake up those agencies charged with protecting our wildlife to put brakes on the chaotic expansion of wind farms into places that they clearly should avoid. Wind energy is a good idea. Let's "keep good ideas in good places." In the wrong places - Important Bird Areas and migration corridors for example - wind energy is a bad idea and our wildlife, which does not have a voice, continues to pay the price for our lack of foresight and greed. I fear that the Stantec report will be the first of many that will chronicle this sad legacy that we are creating. Photo credit: Merlin by Marty Burke

Hey, it’s Migratory Bird Day – more or less, so let’s celebrate!
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Hey, it’s Migratory Bird Day – more or less, so let’s celebrate!

Don’t you feel great these days! It is spring; the tulips are flowering en masse in Ottawa; winter parkas are giving way to skirts and shorts; the fruit tree blossoms are perfuming the neighbourhood parks; lots of reasons to rejoice. However, what I enjoy most is hearing for the first time of the year the familiar voice of a bird migrating through my yard, or a nearby wood announcing that it is back. Likely last spring or summer was the last time that voice was heard. Many of these birds are transients, moving through our cities, yards and farms, on their way north, most likely to the boreal forest. The seasonal bird migration in many parts of the world is amazing, awesome and inspiring. Not surprisingly, some people have made a big celebration out of the annual bird migration. International Migratory Bird Day was founded in 1993 by the US Fish and Wildlife Dept., the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to celebrate and raise awareness of bird migration. Festivals and events have been promoted in many countries of the Americas around this day, typically around the 2nd weekend of May though it has become less and less important what actual day it is. In 2006, the World Migratory Bird Day was founded by the United Nations Environment Program and African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement as an answer of sorts to the popular Americas program. It is growing in popularity and is sponsored also by BirdLife International, of which Nature Canada is the Canadian co-partner along with Bird Studies Canada who are celebrating their 50th anniversary in a few days. In Canada the migration of birds is one thing that defines our country. Take the massive boreal forest as an example. It covers about 60% of the country from Newfoundland to British Columbia, to the Mackenzie delta in the Northwest Territories. Birds are essential to the healthy ecology of the boreal as consumers of defoliating insects, dispersers of seeds from plants, and general keepers of the forest. The healthy growth of trees is intricately linked to healthy songbird populations. The pulse of life that infuses the boreal each spring, that brings out the swarms of midges and blackflies, also brings these birds back from their tropical wintering area to raise families and reproduce successfully. Ninety percent of the birds of the boreal leave it each year to migrate south. Most of the ducks and waterfowl in the boreal end up in the southern United States or Mexico, or along the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. The coastal wetlands of the southern US that is currently threatened by the BP Oil spill is one of the most important destinations for our waterfowl and other wetland birds including the herons, bitterns, and rails. For our boreal songbirds including as the flycatchers, vireos, swallows, thrushes, warblers, and sparrows that breed there, the top five winter destinations are: USA 1,150,000,000 Mexico 680,000,000 Brazil 200,000,000 Columbia 110,000,000 Venezuela 60,000,000 Then there are real long-distance migrants, the terns and the millions of shorebirds - or "sandpipers" as some people call them. Most of the shorebirds that have long-tapered wings which carry many of the them from the Canadian Arctic to coastal or inland destinations in South American or even Europe or Africa. The Arctic Tern pictured above migrates to Tierra del Fuego Migratory birds link us together, across continents, across cultures, across time and space. The Wood Thrush that I hear singing its heart out in Gatineau Park was sharing its habitat only a month ago with Manakins, Elenias, and Antbirds in mid-altitude tropical forest in Nicaragua. The Purple Martins nesting near the Ottawa river may have come all the way from Sao Paulo State in Brazil and made that phenomenal 9,000 to 10,000 kilometre trip in less than three weeks! So, if that bird you hear has the cool and gentle sway of a samba rhythm in its voice, or the festive energy of a Mariachi band, maybe it is telling you something about where it lives when not in Canada! Indeed we have much to celebrate because of our migratory birds. We also have much work to do to protect individual birds, their populations and their species. The work, like the birds, must be international in scope. So, for the time being, enjoy the migration. Contemplate its scale and magnitude. Learn about the feats that birds perform to migrate such distances. Reduce risks to birds migrating through your yard or neighbourhood (see FLAP website) Attend a bird festival somewhere near you. However, most importantly, tune into the migration now, and connect yourself to something much greater than you can imagine! Photos by Shutter Stock Photo 1 Sandhill Cranes Photo 2 Arctic Tern

Wind energy assault poised for major bird flyway in Southern Ontario.
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Wind energy assault poised for major bird flyway in Southern Ontario.


On Saturday March 27, in Leamington, Kingsville and Harrow, Ontario, Southpoint Inc, a wind energy company based out of Leamington, is holding public meetings on its proposal to build over 700 offshore wind turbines between Rondeau Provincial Park and Holiday Beach Important Bird area on Lake Erie, and off the southern shore of Lake St Clair.

These developments are within, or proximate to, a cluster of globally significant Important Bird Areas (IBAs) including world famous Point Pelee IBA, Greater Rondeau IBA, Holiday Beach/Big Creek IBA, Pelee Island Archipeligo, and Eastern Lake St. Clair IBA. This area is a rare a point of convergence of the Atlantic and Mississipi flyways, the major bird highways followed by hundreds of millions of birds flying north into central and northern Canada in the spring and south after the breeding season in the fall, in some cases as far away as Tierra del Fuego.

In other words, the area where the wind turbine density will be highest is perhaps the most significant migratory pathway in inland North America. Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are also prone to severe weather and fog, which are conditions that are known to amplify the potential for migrating birds to collide with structures like wind turbines.

In addition to these concerns for birds, local residents, including officials from all levels of government, are opposing this proposal over fears of contamination of drinking water from the turbine installations. Construction activity will disturb the bottom sediments of the lakes which contain extremely high levels of toxins and known carcinogens from heavy industries upstream.

Due to the nature of the Ontario Government’s Green Energy Act, the door is wide open to encourage green energy. While this piece of legislation is certainly laudable, it can do as much damage as good if not applied thoughtfully and with care to protect biodiversity and cultural values like clean water.

We believe that in fairness to the wind industry, wind industry companies should not be wasting their resources on proposals and undertaking justification studies in areas where clearly the projects would undermine biodiversity and cultural values. Clearly, the Southpoint proposal would do this as it is currently framed. The Province needs clear policy on where wind energy is to be encouraged and where it must be excluded.

Concerning off-shore turbines in the Great Lakes, it must also be remembered that the Great Lakes are a shared resource with the United States of America. Several states border the Great Lakes and share the waters. Michigan already has guidelines with regard to offshore wind installations that, if applied in Ontario, would render the Southpoint project entirely unfeasible.

We cannot have a pell-mell approach to industrializing this common resource with one jurisdiction upholding high protection standards and another lacking in standards. The International Joint Commission was established for this exact reason, yet proposals like Southpoint’s are forging ahead and the provincial government appears to be averting its gaze from international obligations.

We encourage those living within range of these meetings to attend and express opposition to the proposals.

We implore Southpoint to withdraw its 1400 megawatt wind project from Lake Erie and Lake St Clair.

We encourage the Government of Ontario to re-establish a moratorium on offshore turbines until a clear policy that protects biodiversity and cultural values from industrial wind farms and other “green energy” initiatives is adopted.

Finally, we urge the province of Ontario and the Federal government to thoroughly consider the consequences of offshore wind installations in the Great Lakes within the context of its international obligations and expectations through treaties, conventions and the International Joint Commission.

Oceanic, alpine and grassland birds vulnerable to climate change: New Report
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Oceanic, alpine and grassland birds vulnerable to climate change: New Report

On March 10, the State of the Birds 2010 Report on Climate Change was released. Though this report was written about birds of the United States of America, many of the examples and conclusions are very relevant to Canada. The report presents a gloomy picture for many species already facing threats from many other factors such as habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species. This report follows the 2009 State of the Birds Report describing how approximately a third of the 800 species that occur in the United States are in varying states of decline and imperilment. "For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development", United States' Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "Now they are facing a new threat - climate change - that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction." The report is the product of a collaboration between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organisations including partners from National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the U.S.), the American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report assessed the impact of climate change on each bird species, resulting in a classification of high, medium or low vulnerability. In the final analysis, specific groups of species appear much more vulnerable than others, due to one or a combination of the five following factors: • migration status • breeding habitat dependence • ability to disperse • highly specialized species • reproductive potential Most vulnerable were all 67 seabird species such as Murres, Albatroses, Puffins, and Petrels due to both threats to low-lying coastal breeding areas from flooding and alterations to food supplies caused by changes in ocean currents and ocean surface temperatures. Canada has large numbers of seabirds on Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Coasts that share these vulnerable characteristics. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are familiar with some of the enormous colonies of seabirds in places like Ile Bonaventure on the Gaspe Peninsula, or Cape St Mary’s in Newfoundland-Labrador, or have watched seabirds feeding from the Vancouver-Victoria ferries on Southern British Columbia. A second group considered highly vulnerable to climate change are those species breeding in Arctic and Alpine regions. They are considered to have limited options for movement as they live in, and depend upon habitats in the coldest and highest locations. As these areas warm up, as they are expected to dramatically do, species such as Ivory gull and White-tailed Ptarmigan may suffer the consequences. Grassland species are also believed to be vulnerable to climate change. As grasslands in the central basin of North America warm, they will also become more arid. Some species respond to the changing climatic and habitat conditions by shifting their ranges northward. However, much of the northern part of the grassland ecosystem in central North America has been converted to row crops that can not support most grassland bird species. In Canada, some grassland species that are likely already suffering the consequences from the combination of climate change and habitat conversion to industrialized agriculture include Spragues Pipit and Chestnut-collared Longspur. Many of the prairie potholes in southern Saskatchewan, south-western Manitoba, and south-eastern Alberta are also expected to dry up, threatening populations of the majority of waterfowl species that live in North America. Most species in aridlands, wetlands, and forests were attributed relatively low vulnerability to climate change. However some species that occur in Canada including Bicknell’s Thrush, Whip-poor-will and Olive-sided Flycatcher may be particularly vulnerable due to habitat dependencies. While painting a worrisome portrait of what could be in store for many species, the report does suggest many solutions through actions, planning and collaboration of individuals and organizations that can have positive impacts on bird populations and mitigate some of the impacts of climate change. Some of the examples include conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, managing coastal areas differently, and using incentives to avoid deforestation to reduce carbon emissions and encourage habitat protection or restoration. While many examples of this report could apply to Canadian birds, it is time that a “State of the Birds” including an assessment of climate change impact on bird populations, was completed for Canadian birds to inform conservation planning, monitoring and research efforts here. Through the Migratory Bird Convention, the Convention on Biodiversity, and the Migratory Bird Convention Act, among other Canadian legislation, Canada has legal and ethical obligations to assure that its bird populations are protected and managed appropriately. In order to do this, we need a clear understanding of the status of our birds, as our friends and colleagues to the south of us have done. Photo credits: Atlantic Puffins (Newfoundland) Shutterstock Ivory Gull Simon Stirrup Chestnut-collared+Longspur Al MacKeigan Whip-poor-will Alan Woodhouse

The Coyotes are coming, run, run
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The Coyotes are coming, run, run

Some "hunters," an Ottawa Councillor and others in the Ottawa area are whipping up a frenzy in the public media (CTV, CBC) about recent sitings of Coyotes within the city limits of Ottawa. This story repeats itself every few years, as these stealthy canids surface in broad daylight, evoking panic in some of the citizenry. The headline is often accompanied by a photograph of the teeth-baring, garbage-eating vermin. Quite frankly the reaction of some of the public and media to seeing a Coyote is totally exaggerated and misguided. Little is known about the actual Coyote numbers, though it is frequently reported that numbers are increasing by some ‘authority’ such as a City councillor. This winter (2010), there does appear to be a shortage of wildlife in the region, reflected in Christmas Bird Count results from the Ottawa and other regional counts. Trees and shrub seeds, often the foundation of the diet of many bird species and mammals over the winter are sparse this year. This might mean fewer of everything, including small mammals. This could be a contributing factor as to why we see the occasional Coyote wandering around – they are hungry. Are Coyotes dangerous to people? After the tragic attack on a young woman in 2009 in Cape Breton, we might conclude that they are. However, this is where we need some perspective. There were 17 attacks on people attributed to coyotes in Canada between 1988 and 2006, none fatal. In Toronto alone in 2006, 689 dog bites were “investigated.” In Toronto, 10 to 15 percent of the reported bites require sutures to close the wound. It is likely that the Cape Breton tragedy was an extreme aberration. Aberrant behaviour is something that is not restricted to humans or coyotes for that matter, but examples abound with numerous species; however with Coyotes, as with their close and larger relative the Timber Wolf, these examples, fortunately are highly exceptional. For many First Nations, the Coyote is considered “the trickster,” cunning, intelligent, a clown at times, and a wanderer. As a member of the dog family, native to North America, Coyotes habitat of choice are open grasslands and steppes of the mid west. Like many grassland species, Coyotes expanded across most of eastern North America as the forests were opened up in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, the Coyote has now spread eastward as far as Newfoundland, evidently crossing the channel between Labrador and the island. Coyotes are crepuscular or nocturnal, but certain times of the year are active during the day. About the size of a small German shepherd, they are opportunistic predators, often hunting alone, but sometimes hunting in packs. Coyotes have many characteristics that make them successful despite massive campaigns by wildlife control zelots to exterminate them. They are generalists in their food preferences, capable to killing small deer, but more often eating rabbits, ground hogs, meadow voles, bird’s eggs, carrion, and a wide range of plant food such as berries. Possessing an extremely acute sense of smell, keen eyes and excellent hearing as well as superior intelligence, coyotes are able to operate in as cities, as long as there are green spaces with potential den sites, cover and access to food. Coyotes are believed to be normally monogamous and mate in February or March. Gestation takes about two months, after which three to seven pups are born. Likely in cities, coyotes are important predators of nuisance rodents such as rats and mice. Coyotes are also known to breed with feral dogs. The offspring are called coydogs. Coyotes also likely breed with wolves where their populations overlap. Coyotes are an integral part of our ecosystems including urban ecosystems. The highly subsidized populations of urban wildlife such as squirrels, geese, rats and mice are the staples of the urban coyote’s diet. They bring net benefits to wherever they occur, though like all creature including ourselves, they are not perfect and there are occasionally aberrant or ‘bad’ individuals. We should not be alarmed when we see a coyote in the ravine, or even walking on a city street. If the behaviour is aberrant, yes, we need to act. However, we do need to keep better track of our own pets and treat them with the respect and care that they deserve, which includes not letting them wander freely and not exposing them to dangers.

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