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November Calendar Image: Hermit Thrush
Photo by Hui Sim
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November Calendar Image: Hermit Thrush

The November 2018 Calendar image is taken by Hui Sim, who said the following of the experience leading up to capturing this photo. “This is the third sighting I have had of this elusive but hauntingly beautiful songbird in my friend’s yard, but the first and only time I have seen it on the Scarlet Firethorn, a shrub that, thanks to the great number of reddish/orange berries it bears in the fall and winter, is a big hit with the usual repertoire of wintering birds. No other bird was present during this encounter - and my subject was content to sit there and contemplate its surroundings. The warm yellow tones you see in the background are courtesy of the autumn gold leaves of the neighbour's weeping alder.

This image truly captures the Hermit Thrush in its natural environment - feeding on berries, its food of choice, before a late fall migration.


The Hermit Thrush is an unassuming bird whose melancholy song can be recognized in forest openings or along trails. During the summertime months the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests, often in clearings or near the edges of trails. They migrate north earlier in the spring and linger later in fall than the other brown-back thrushes, and as such, is  the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America, most often,near berry-bearing plants, as it is in our cover image! A Hermit Thrush's chunky shape is similar to that of an American Robin, differing in size, as it is only slightly smaller. It has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that is a characteristic that sets it apart from similar species in its genus, such as the Wood Thrush or Swainson's Thrush. As a forager, the Hermit Thrush spends much of its time on the ground, picking up insects from leaf-litter or soil. On occasion it can be seen picking up patches of grass and shaking them, to release any insects that may have been hiding in it! Its diet is made up of mostly berries and a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others! Hermit Thrushes usually make their nests in and around trees and shrubs, but they can also get more creative! Nests have been found in mine shafts, golf courses and even in cemeteries! It is the males that usually gather food for the nest, while the females feed the nestlings. The nestlings are typically ready to fly at about 12 days. Unfortunately for bird lovers, Hermit Thrushes rarely visit backyards, and are not generally interested in bird feeders. Our only opportunity to see a Hermit Thrush nearby is, as was Hui's, before their late fall migration when they forage on the ground or eat berries in yards with trees or shrubs.

Watch to the video below to find out what to listen for, to identify a Hermit Thrush!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9beet-fhAE&feature=youtu.be  

Tag, you’re it! – An update on Nature Canada’s new Save our Swallows initiative
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Tag, you’re it! – An update on Nature Canada’s new Save our Swallows initiative

Aerial insectivores (birds that feed on flying insects while airborne, including swallows) are the most rapidly declining group of birds in Canada. Earlier this month, I returned from five days of very exciting fieldwork where, in partnership with Dr. Kevin Fraser of the University of Manitoba’s Avian Behaviour & Conservation Lab, we deployed 54 Motus tracking tags on Purple Martins along the shores of Lake Erie. This was Nature Canada’s fifth year conducting fieldwork to track Purple Martins, but it was one of the first opportunities for fieldwork as part of our exciting new Save Our Swallows initiative. This project, supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, aims to mobilize specific communities for the conservation and recovery of Ontario’s declining and at-risk swallow populations. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a collaborative research project (operated by our partners at Bird Studies Canada) which tracks the movement of small flying organisms (like birds) across an array of automated radio telemetry receiver stations around the world. This is done with tiny, ultra-lightweight radio transmitters that broadcast a unique signal several times each minute. Consider the small radio transmitter (or Motus tag) like a backpack: first, we affix the backpack on the backs of Purple Martins before they begin their long migration down to Brazil for the winter. If during their journeys, these tagged Purple Martins come within range of one of the over 300 Motus receiver stations distributed throughout North and South America, the signal emitted by their backpack will be detected by the station. When detections across multiple stations are combined, we are able to map the journey of these incredible long-distance migrants across thousands of kilometers! [caption id="attachment_38053" align="alignright" width="225"] Adult female Purple Martin sporting a Motus tag & tracking band (© Brodie Badcock-Parks)[/caption] Purple Martins, the largest member of the swallow family, have been experiencing steep population declines since the mid-1980s[1]. It is estimated that the species is currently experiencing a decline of about 4.5% per year in Ontario. The reasons for this decline are complex but are likely due to a number of threats that occur between their North American breeding grounds and South American over-wintering habitat – which is why it is very important to learn more about their movements and behavior through migration-tracking research. Some other local threats to the population could be due to pesticide use, weather impacts due to climate change, or factors associated with their pre-migratory roosts. Our first set of Motus deployments this season was at Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO) near Amherstburg, Ontario. Over two days at Holiday Beach, we worked with partners from the Observatory, as well as from the Ontario Purple Martin Association to deploy 31 tags at the HBMO Purple Martin colony. We then traveled up to Sparta (near Port Bruce), where we deployed the remaining 23 tags. In total, we tagged 16 adults and 38 nestlings, including five complete families! One of the reasons for tagging complete families (i.e. both parents & all nestings) is to determine whether entire families migrate as a unit to their wintering grounds (like a long family vacation!) or if they travel separately. [caption id="attachment_38055" align="alignleft" width="254"] A 17-day-old Purple Martin nestling outfitted with a Motus tag (© Ted Cheskey)[/caption] Furthermore, it is our hope that the data that comes out of these deployments will provide more information regarding critical swallow roosts along the Southern Great Lakes. At the end of their breeding season, Purple Martins, as well as other swallows, will form large roosts (think of them like large dormitories) along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, before they start their journey to the Northern region of Brazil. These roosts are largely a mystery in terms of their composition and dynamics, but one thing we do know is that they contain many, many swallows, including Purple Martin: some roosts contain thousands of swallows, while others contain hundreds of thousands - large enough to be detected by weather radar! Overall, Nature Canada’s trip down to Southwestern Ontario to deploy Motus tags on Purple Martins was a big success! It is our hope that through this exciting research, we can learn more about the life cycle of these declining species, as well as focus on ways that we can work together to save our swallows in Ontario.


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[1] Nebel S, Mills A, McCracken JD, Taylor PD. 2010. Declines of aerial insectivores in North America follow a geographic gradient. Avian Conserv Ecol. 5(2):1. [online] http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00391-050201

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.
 

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas
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Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas

This blog was written by writing intern Gabriel Planas Over the history of nature conservation in Canada, parks and protected areas have been little more than backdrops to human recreation rather than concerted efforts to preserve natural environments. As a result, these projects often forced indigenous populations to relocate or imposed heavy jurisdictions that eliminated Indigenous practices and economies that benefited Canada’s biodiversity. Fortunately, in 2015 the Indigenous Circle of Elders (ICE) was formed to advise the Federal Government of Canada on ways in which Indigenous communities can contribute to Canada’s commitment to reaching the Aichi targets by 2020. These targets were created in 2010 during the Conference of Parties in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture of Japan when countries from around the world, adopted a plan regarding biodiversity. In order to meet these targets, the federal government has been working in tandem with ICE in order to establish Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) around the country. IPCAs focus on protecting and conserving ecosystems through indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems. Indigenous communities in these areas take on the responsibility of protecting and conserving ecosystems. While the individual conservation objectives of each IPCA will differ, all of them endeavor to elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities, by affirming the validity of Indigenous legal traditions, customary and cultural practices as well as their abilities to help conserve biodiversity in Canada. [caption id="attachment_34526" align="alignleft" width="366"]Image of a Semipalmated Sandpiper Semipalmated Sandpiper[/caption] IPCAs present a unique opportunity to heal both the land and the people who inhabit it by moving towards true reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settler societies. Things once withheld or unavailable to these communities may be developed through these areas, such as a stable foundation for local Indigenous economies, opportunities for Indigenous peoples to reconnect with the land and the revitalization of indigenous languages. The promoting of respect for the knowledge systems, protocols and ceremonies of Indigenous peoples provide an opportunity for Canadians to formulate a greater understanding of Indigenous cultures. While these areas mainly centre on promoting Indigenous communities and their cultural independence, IPCAs have profound benefits for Canadians. These areas have the ability to alleviate the stress of unsustainable human and industrial development. Indigenous groups who will operate these areas integrate holistic approaches to conservation of biodiversity that results in healthier ecosystems. These ecosystems in turn provide cleaner air and water which contribute to healthier populations and a reduction of Canada’s contribution to climate change. It is vital to both our environment and Canada’s obligation to reconciliation that areas like these are supported. They allow Indigenous communities to flourish in ways that were previously unavailable to them and promotes their culture practices in a positive manner that may just help Canada reach its Aichi target by 2020.

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Sunny Seeds: Helping the environment with Sunflower Power
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Sunny Seeds: Helping the environment with Sunflower Power

[caption id="attachment_30818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jill Sturdy Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager[/caption] Here at Nature Canada, we have found the next generation of voices for nature! A third grade class from the Lakeview Public School in Ottawa created a business, Sunny Seeds, with the proceeds of  $676.00 in sales donated to Nature Canada. Last Thursday, on June 7th, our NatureHood Program Manager, Jill Sturdy was invited to visit the class and present the work that Nature Canada is doing. Although, Jill had brought gifts for the students the true surprise was the level of enthusiasm, commitment and passion that the class showed. When the Grade 3 class first started their business, they partnered with BMO to develop the business model. After setting the groundwork of their business plan, they researched several local charities whose mission aligned with their intent. After many hours of research, the students decided that their their business mandate aligned with that of Nature Canada’s. The students were happy to know that we help connect Canadians with Nature and by selling sunflowers they were doing so too. The Sunny Seeds came to the forefront of our attention at our local Bird Day event, when they were sharing our booth at the Ottawa Children's Festival to sell their Sunny Seeds. These students drew people towards their booth and were convincing enough to have them support their cause. Their high quality sunflower seeds came from the Ontario Seed Company and packs were sold for $3.50 each and two for $6.   At their first event they had already raised an impressive $183.00. Needless to say, they were impressed with our history; 75 years strong and over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas protected. Sunny Seed’s goal is “to get people to grow sunflowers to help the environment.”

“Did you know, when you plant sunflower seeds, you remove all the toxins from the soil and air?” a student  excitedly shared with Jill. “Sunflowers help with pollution.”  
Not only did Sunny Seeds raise awareness for the environment, but by planting and growing these sunflower seeds, they reminded us how important native plants are for pollination. Since sunflowers are a popular flower during summer, this is the perfect time to plant some in your own back yard. Sunflowers are known to produce a sweet pollen mixture that attracts bees and other insects. When the pollinators arrive, they get their feet wet with the pollen as they drink the plant’s nectar. The plant relies on this pollination process and so do we. We didn’t have to spend much time with the students to realize how well prepared they were! The students recounted their Bird Day experience with excitement. They were overjoyed to welcome home migratory birds from down south for the summer as well as learn about different species of birds. We were equally excited to learn that the students can spot and name many endangered species and birds in their own backyards. Sunny Seeds have made our lives brighter and we want to thank this incredible class and their exceptional leader, Miss Lindsay Mattesz for making a difference with SUNFLOWER POWER.

Thank you to the Grade 3 class at Lakeview Public School!

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Add Some Bird Friendly Plants to your Garden!
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Add Some Bird Friendly Plants to your Garden!

This blog was written by guest blogger Katherine Forster. As an urban biophilic entrepreneur, Katherine  divides her time between promoting sustainable and ecological gardens to urban and suburban faith communities and sharing her joy of urban nature through her Wild. Here. online initiative.


Backyard birdwatching can be a fun pastime for both humans and cats.  Planting native plants in your garden helps attract more local and migrating birds.  Birds, as do most wildlife, need three things: food, water and shelter (both for safety and for nesting).  Many larger trees and shrubs provide two of these three requirements: nourishment for birds in many forms, including nuts, berries, seeds and even insects (that are attracted to the tree pollen and nectar). They also provide important shelter, safely above ground away from most predators.  Flowers and other plants can also provide some of these habitat needs and even with a small garden we can help out our feathered friends. [caption id="attachment_37264" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo by Susanne Swayze.[/caption] It’s important to choose plants that come from a neonicotinoid-free source – two good options are a local nature centre’s plant sale or an organic garden nursery. When you’re choosing plants, consider adding a variety that bloom in different months – see if you can include a few for spring when birds are returning from their winter homes and some in autumn when birds are in need of extra nourishment stores for their long journeys south. Native plants can also offer safe hiding spots and shelter – thorny plants and evergreens give birds a great location to safely hide from predators even in the winter. When you’re looking at where to plant, keep in mind the same rule that should be applied to bird feeders: have them located closer than 0.9 metres to any window (so that any impact won't be severe) or farther than 9.1 metres (so that they won't accidentally hit the glass when flying away). To read more about keeping birds safe at your feeders, including placement considerations for both window collisions and predation, see http://catsandbirds.ca/blog/keeping-birds-safe-at-your-feeders.

Here are five native plants to consider

CUP PLANT (Siliphium perfoliatum): These brilliant yellow flowers can grow up to 3 metres tall.  They prefer sunny, moist areas and provide great shelter if grown in a large, tight bunch.  They also provide water (which is held in their leaves) and seeds that are enjoyed by many birds. BEEBALM (Monarda didyma): This summer flower, which does best in wet, partly-shaded areas of your garden, attracts hummingbirds and bees with its bright red colour.  Allow the flowerhead to dry out on the plant and keep it up for the winter season in your garden when birds are looking for seeds. [caption id="attachment_37261" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo of Black-eyed Susans by Susanne Swayze.[/caption] BLACK-EYED SUSANS (Rudbeckia hirtadrought): This is an early summer yellow flower that provides seeds for birds and is another that can be allowed to dry up and left out for the winter.  It's a drought tolerant plant that is easy to grow in a sunny spot and reseeds itself.  However, keep it watered and add some mulch (to help retain moisture) so that it can look its best. VIRGINIA CREEPER VINE (Parthenocissus quinquefolia): This native vine provides shelter and late summer berries for various birds and can be used in small spaces where height offers the best growing option.  Keep it in dry shade as this will slow it from spreading quickly into other parts of your garden.  Do not allow it to attach with its aerial roots to wood siding or gutters. WILD ROSE (SHRUB) (Rosa rugosa): This is a small shrub that grows up to 1.8 m tall in full sun and will offer shelter and nourishment to birds.  It can also tolerate dry periods.  Both the branches and stems are covered in small thorns and once it has flowered the pink blooms become rosehips which are eaten by songbirds. When choosing other plants for your garden, consider other local native plants that can provide groundcover, berries or even soft nesting material (such as silky grass tassels) and fill out the entire gardening calendar with blooms of varying sizes and colours to benefit diverse insects, which in turn benefits birds.  And remember that birds like messy areas where insects may hide: keep leaves on the ground for the winter, add some twigs and straw in a hidden corner and enjoy your birdwatching!
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Sources Illinois Wildflowers Gardening Know How Fatal Light Awareness Program

Feathered Vagabonds: Facts about Bird Migration
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Feathered Vagabonds: Facts about Bird Migration

This article was written by Nature Canada guest blogger RuiLin Guo. Migration is an astounding feat. And birds truly exemplify the wanderer’s spirit – over 4000 species are regular migrants, which is around 40% of all known bird species in the world! Over the past several weeks, a myriad of birds made the airborne trek from their wintering grounds back to their breeding sites in Canada. Perhaps you've seen the spectacular diversity of species at birding hotspots like Point Pelee, or maybe you've simply enjoyed the extra birdsong around your home. With birds arriving predictably as clockwork year over year, it's easy to forget how incredible an undertaking migration really is. As we wrap up this year's spring migration season, here are some fascinating facts about feathered migrants from around the world: [caption id="attachment_37102" align="alignright" width="300"] Arctic Tern in Inner Farne.[/caption] The ultra marathon: The record for the longest migration ever goes to an elegant seabird, the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea). Their longest recorded journey was over 80,000 km – the equivalent of circling the earth three times! Arctic terns chase the sunshine, experiencing two summers as they travel from their breeding grounds in the Arctic circle to Antarctica. The high flyers: Climbing Everest is a remarkable achievement, but what about flying over it? Bar-Headed Geese (Anser indicus) migrate clear over the Himalayan mountain range and reach altitudes of over 9 km above sea level, making them the world's highest-flying migrants. The highest altitude ever though? That record goes to a poor Rüppell's Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), which unfortunately got sucked into a jet engine at over 11k m above sea level! [caption id="attachment_37105" align="alignleft" width="300"] Bar-headed Goose, photo by Dr. Tejinder Singh Rawal.[/caption] The small but mighty: Hummingbirds may weigh no less than a nickel, but they make astounding long-distance journeys year after year. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) can fly 2100 km between Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the southeastern US every year, possibly travelling non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico! While not an overseas journey, the longest-distance hummingbird migrant is the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) - one was recorded to have travelled a staggering 5600 km! Rufous Hummingbirds follow the blooming of flowering plants along the west coast, between Alaska and Mexico. The non-stop action: The Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), a type of long-billed shorebird, is a true picture of endurance. They have the longest recorded non-stop flight of any bird, flying for 9 days over the Pacific Ocean without stopping for food or rest. [caption id="attachment_37103" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.[/caption] The big feast: Such intensive migratory feats require a lot of energy and many birds undergo something called hyperphagia, where they can more than double their weight! Each year before migration season, many birds feed intensely so their stored fat can then be used for energy while migrating. The nomads: While most people think of migration as “going south for winter”, there are actually many types of migration, some of which are far less predictable. Nomadic birds such as waxwings (Bombycilla spp.) wander erratically within their range based on the availability of food and water, while irruptive migrants like Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) undergo highly unpredictable migrations en-masse far outside their usual range. These are just some examples of the incredible migrations undertaken by birds - truly among the greatest travellers of the animal kingdom. So the next time you hear the first robin's song heralding spring or see geese flying in orderly V's in autumn's glow, maybe you'll take a moment to reflect on their journeys.


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Sources https://www.audubon.org/news/9-awesome-facts-about-bird-migration https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/featured-stories/birds/alaskas-amazing-rufous-hummingbird/ https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3484329/Now-s-long-haul-flight-Tiny-hummingbird-travels-1-300-miles-WITHOUT-break-yearly-migration.html https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/animal-migration-13259533 https://www.thespruce.com/types-of-bird-migration-386055
 

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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Downy Woodpeckers: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Eh?
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Downy Woodpeckers: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Eh?

[caption id="attachment_36988" align="alignleft" width="150"] Guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit.[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. You know what Canada is great for? Birds. Seriously though…Canada is home to birds of prey, song birds, water birds, shore birds, year-round birds, migratory summer birds, etc.! As different species inhabit various ecosystems, or biological communities, birds really do demonstrate how much biodiversity Canada’s is blessed with. Besides flying, birds have fascinating evolutionary adaptations which is why bird-watching isn’t just a hobby, it’s a whole learning experience! Today’s honourary species could be nicknamed the avian toolbox since it has a drill, hammer, googles, balance, and even a lasso! Who can this be? Canada’s smallest and most familiar woodpecker; the Downy Woodpecker! If banging your head at high speeds all day sounds like a headache waiting to happen, well Downy woodpeckers make it look as easy as pie.


[caption id="attachment_36991" align="alignright" width="300"]Downy Woodpecker, photo by Cheryl Fagner. Photo by Cheryl Fagner.[/caption] Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Canada except Nunavut and Labrador. They prefer to dwell in deciduous forests, but can be seen among woodlands, orchards and open-fields. They show sexual dimorphism which means differences between male and female. All males have a red cap at the back of their heads. Downy Woodpeckers are omnivores with a menu of beetles, caterpillars, ants, and larvae, but will compliment berries, seeds, sap, and other invertebrates if available. This is why Downy woodpeckers are no strangers to bird feeders! The famous drilling and drumming done by Downy Woodpeckers are thanks to that toolbox mentioned above. Like all woodpeckers, they have specialized beaks, tongues, skulls, eye lids, and neck muscles, forming a helmet to protect from brain damage and other injuries. The skull is made up of tiny bones called trabeculae that form a mesh-like enclosure around the brain cavity. This acts like a spongy shock absorber. And ever notice a woodpecker’s body placement on a tree? Woodpeckers orientate their bodies at 90˚ angles to begin pecking. This way, they minimize the rotational forces working against them and in turn protect their brain further. Isn’t that awesome? Their “drill and hammer” is their beak! The Downy woodpecker has a chisel-shaped beak precisely for boring holes into tree trunks. Like any tool, the wear and tear would render the tool inefficient over time. However, the cells that make up the Downy’s beaks renew themselves constantly so that their beaks stay sharp all the time! [caption id="attachment_36994" align="alignleft" width="300"] Illustration courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.[/caption] So that leaves the “lasso”?! Surprisingly, all woodpeckers have really long tongues. Like twice to three times the length of their beaks! This is due to a lengthened hyoid apparatus, which is a fancy term to describe a series of bone, muscles and cartilage that make up the tongue. The apparatus allows the tongue to stretch to great lengths and rake up the waiting insects inside the tree. Yummy! And there you have it, the avian toolbox. There’s a lot more details to each adaptation for which scientists are researching into more depth. The mechanics of a woodpeckers has already started to help engineers improve headgear for pilots and sportswear. Not only do Downy Woodpeckers provide a really cool and unique drumming sound, they will inspire new safety gear for humans. And that…is pretty fantastic. Drill on Downys!
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Sources https://www.beautyofbirds.com/woodpeckertapping.html https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/downy_woodpecker/lifehistory http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Picoides_pubescens/ http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/downy-woodpecker http://blog.nwf.org/2014/12/8-wonky-and-wonderful-woodpecker-adaptations/=
 

Bird Day Eh: Canadian Birders Come Together
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Bird Day Eh: Canadian Birders Come Together

Every year, the second Saturday of the month of May is dedicated to celebrating the journey of migratory birds for World Migratory Bird Day. Last Saturday, May 12th, Canadians in over forty-five cities across the country celebrated the return of migratory birds at Bird Day events. It was a day of celebration marked by nature walks, bird counts, & activities for birders of all ages to learn more about the journey and challenges that millions of migratory birds face every year to return to Canada. This year was the 25th anniversary of the celebration, and to commemorate this milestone, Nature Canada teamed up with Bird Studies Canada and Quebec Oiseaux to create and provide support to a network of organizations hosting Bird Day events across Canada. There were a combined forty-eight events in British-Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova-Scotia, Prince-Edward-Island and Newfoundland & Labrador. Here are a few photos from the event that took place in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Children's Festival at LeBreton Flats Park. We were honoured to have Algonquin Elder, Annie Smith St-George open the day with a smudging ceremony, and that Environment and Climate Change Minster Catherine McKenna attended the event to lend her voice to birds in Canada.


[caption id="attachment_36910" align="alignleft" width="383"] Falcon Ed at the Ottawa Bird Day Event.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_36905" align="alignright" width="389"] Young Nature lover at the Ottawa Bird Day Event.[/caption]              

Nature Canada would also like to thank it's local partner, Earth Path, for joining in on the fun with many bird-related activities at the Festival. As well, we would like to acknowledge the financial support of Science Odyssey, without which this World Migratory Bird Day Event could not have taken place.
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