Nature Canada

Nature Canada’s trip to Howe Island

On Monday, April 29, I, along with Ted Cheskey (Naturalist Director, Nature Canada) went down to Howe Island, Ontario to meet with Aric McBay. Aric is the Membership Development & Special Projects Manager, of the National Farmers Union.

The intent of our visit was to provide advice and guidance on Purple Martin stewardship. Kurt Hennige (Kingston Field Naturalists), a man with a wealth of knowledge and experience with birds and nature, was also invited to share his expertise. Along with Aric, Tracey Guptill and Tim Dowling were also present and keen to learn the tricks of the trade of Purple Martin stewardship.

what we did

During our time visiting the farm, we learned that they had recently switched from a dairy farm to a grass-fed beef-selling farm. We were pleased to learn that they were all passionate about sustainable, ecological farming and that protecting nature was a high priority for them.

Almost as if we were being welcomed by nature on a farm that prioritizes protecting wildlife, we saw four Broad-winged Hawks high in the skies in the midst of their return migration to the north, followed by a darting Eastern Meadowlark searching the pastures for some insects.

After the excitement of seeing these beautiful birds had waned a little, it was time to check out the newly installed Purple Martin housing units. Even though Purple Martins had not yet arrived on Howe Island, a few Tree Swallows had began piling twigs in some compartments in preparation of attracting a mate and building a nest. While we were checking the compartments, Kurt Hennige and Ted Cheskey were busy sharing multiple lifetimes’ worth of insights that will help Aric in becoming a great steward of Ontario’s largest swallow species.

the highlight

The highlight of this visit was to see farmers and naturalists come together and discuss how to protect vulnerable species by using the knowledge bases that each group possesses. Partnerships between these two groups is essential in protecting wildlife and nature. Many species that naturalists fight to protect are often found on farmlands, and by working together we can increase the chance of saving these species before it is too late.

To end our visit, we were invited inside for some tea with fresh milk from the farm. It was a great opportunity to sit and share ideas about sustainability, protecting bird species and continuing collaboration in future endeavours.

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.