Nature Canada

Nature In Spring

Image of Blair Scott

Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern

This blog was written by Nature Canada member Steve Gahbauer and edited by our Professional Writing Intern, Blair Scott. 

I hope all of you had a relaxing long weekend at Easter, good maple syrup outings, and an enjoyable March break. I also hope that you have not missed the nature events of January and February – male raccoons leaving their winter dens to search for females; Eastern Grey Squirrels starting their first annual breeding season; Snowy Owls returning to their Arctic breeding grounds. And I trust you did not forget to celebrate Earth Hour on March 19.

In our region – around the Rouge Urban National Park – we had a mild winter with very little snow and only a few extremely cold days. But now it is spring. Each season has its own beauty and wonder, but there is something special about spring. Ephemeral wetlands form, teeming with biodiversity and supporting a number of rare plants and animals. At winter’s end, tiny frogs with big voices awake from hibernation to sing their songs of spring in search of food and mates. This is the time when we reconnect with nature after the long, dark winter days. This is when we are ready to rediscover wild places; when we are reminded how important it is to protect and conserve them.

There is something thrilling about caring for our few remaining wild places and keeping them that way – forests that have not been logged; wetlands where the only soundtrack is the buzz of dragonfly wings; and streams where the most regular anglers are Kingfishers. As Doug Larson says, “spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe-full of sludge.”

Magnolia Warbler, birds, perch

Magnolia Warbler perched on a branch.

But spring is also a very dangerous time for migrating birds. Birds have migrated for centuries along very particular flight corridors. Unfortunately, as our cities and suburbs have expanded, and as our buildings have reached greater heights, birds have stayed the course – to their peril. Ornithologists have identified collisions with human-built structures to be a leading cause of death for birds in North America. Every year, approximately 25 million birds fatally collide into the windows of homes, offices, stores, cottages and buildings in Canada.

As migratory birds make their way home to Canada, they often do so under the cover of darkness. But when bad weather hits — particularly high cloud cover, precipitation or fog — these birds are forced to fly at lower altitudes where they’ll be attracted to tall lit buildings, communication towers, light beams at airports and lighthouses. When you’re flying at up to 50 km/h, you don’t have much of a chance of survival when you strike glass head on. In fact, most birds die upon impact due to brain damage, and the lucky ones that survive a collision can easily become trapped in streams of artificial lights — flapping in the beam until they collapse from exhaustion or become disoriented.

Special Note:  The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States, which was the first international treaty to conserve wildlife, with a focus on the skies. Unfortunately, many important winged species are at risk of becoming endangered due to multiple threats including habitat loss, impacts from pesticides and climate change. As CWF’s national Wildlife Week ambassador, Yasmin Warsame says, “We need to act now to conserve wildlife for future generations.”

Our winged friends give us so much: songbirds let us know sunnier days are on the way, butterflies visit our flower gardens, bats snack on pesky mosquitoes in our backyards, and bees are so crucial to the pollination process – one in three bites of food we eat can be attributed to the work of these busy insects.

Have a great Spring season and keep in touch with nature.

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