IBA Caretakers: Protecting Birds Across Canada – Quebec
|Gaston Déry at Ile-aux-Pommes IBA
As an Important Bird Area Caretaker for Île-aux-Pommes IBA
, Gaston Dé
ry has been an integral part of transforming what was once a haven for seagulls into an island that supports thriving populations of migratory birds, ducks and other wildlife.
Over the past thirty years, Gaston has worked to restore the island’s bird habitat, turning it into a “paradise for birds”. Over 30 bird species use the island to breed and to refuel on their bi-annual migrations. The island has become such a dependable source of food for migrating birds that Gaston likens it to a tried-and-tested roadside diner along a bird superhighway.
“Imagine you’re on a road trip with your family and you know there’s a restaurant where you can stop and eat. That restaurant is safe, it’s not that expensive and you know that you can always depend on it being there. That’s what Île-aux-Pommes IBA is to migrating birds,” said Gaston, as he described how the island serves the needs of thousands of migrating birds every year.
lies 6 kilometres off the south shore of the St. Lawrence estuary, near the town of L’Isle-Verte Québec and 25 km east of Rivière-du-Loup. Surrounded by five islets, the island is just under two kilometers long and 200 metres wide. But for such as small island it does more than its fair share to support nesting and migrating birds.
The second largest breeding population of Common Eider ducks nests on the island every year, with nearly 2,300 breeding pairs recorded last year. Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull populations also nest in large numbers on the island. Other birds found on the island include American Black Duck, Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Brant, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Plovers, Sandpipers, many species of sparrow such as Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Slate-coloured Junco , American Crow and many species of Hawks and Owls.
|Eider duck in flight at Île-aux-Pommes IBA
For Gaston, becoming a Caretaker of Île-aux-Pommes IBA was a natural next step in his commitment to protecting the birds that depend on the island. He’s been an IBA Caretaker for nearly four years, but in many ways, he has been a guardian of the island for most of his adult life.
Île-aux-Pommes has been in the Dé
ry family since 1927. Ownership was passed down from one generation to the next, and in 1980, the land came into Gaston’s possession. In the intervening years, the island had become a hotbed for research, drawing government scientists and university students to the island to study birds. But the number of ducks coming to island had declined, and a colony of 20,000 seagulls had taken up residence. A lot needed to be done to restore the island so that ducks and other wildlife that had historically nested on Île-aux-Pommes would return in greater numbers.
So when Gaston took ownership of Île-aux-Pommes, he was determined to turn things around. Carrying on the tradition of conserving nature instilled in him by his grandfather from a young age, he decided to lay the ground work for a management plan that would ensure the island would be a haven for birds forever. With the help of Ducks Unlimited, Gaston slowly rehabilitated the island by planting conifers and shrubs that are essential nesting habitat for Eider ducks. What was once a barren island and home of a seagull colony, was transformed to the point where thousands of ducks returned to the island, ushering in a new era of vibrant bird life.
|A flock of Eider ducks at Ile-aux-Pommes
“IBA Caretakers are part of an important network of people who are not only protecting birds, but protecting the planet. It’s important for our society to give back to nature,” said Gaston.
As an IBA Caretaker, Gaston is the ears, eyes and hands on the ground at Île-aux-Pommes IBA. He visits the island most weekends and holidays, monitoring birds, assessing habitats, and conducting other conservation activities. He’s part of a network of over 200 volunteers who watch over and protect Important Bird Areas across Canada. First launched by BC Nature with the assistance of a Nature Canada Communities in Action Fund, the Caretaker network now spans nine provinces. Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are the national co-partners in delivering the Important Bird Areas program and coordinating the IBA Caretakers Network in Canada.
When Gaston’s not at the IBA, he’s bringing his passion for birds and nature conservation to elementary schools in Quebec. By speaking to children about IBAs and the value of protecting nature, he hopes to inspire young minds to embrace a nature ethic in their everyday lives.
“I love inspiring the next generation to become advocates for nature. It’s a powerful experience for me, and I hope, for them too,” said Gaston. “Just a few months ago, the mother of one of the children who saw my presentation called me to say how her daughter came home talking about the importance of loving and protecting nature. It’s moments like these that keep me going!” said Gaston.
As the national sponsor of the Important Bird Area Caretaker Network, TransCanada Corporation committed $1 million in 2009 to support bird conservation efforts in Canada over the following five years.