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BirdLife Report Sounds New Alarm for the Rufa Red Knot
Claudio Timm
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BirdLife Report Sounds New Alarm for the Rufa Red Knot

Ted Cheskey, click for contact informationThis post was written by Ted Cheskey, Naturalist Director at Nature Canada. The feature image above was taken by Claudio Timm. BirdLife International released a report recently about an alarming drop in numbers of the Endangered Species at its key stopover site at Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.  The report revealed that January 2018 surveys of this area, led by Guy Morrison, renowned Canadian shorebird scientist and pioneer of shorebird conservation in the western hemisphere, found only 9,840 individuals, a 25% drop in the number of birds over the same period last year, and the lowest number ever recorded since the surveys began. [caption id="attachment_36300" align="alignright" width="300"] Horseshoe Crab, photo by Marc Peck.[/caption] It is speculated that the decline was driven by a bad year for Horseshoe Crab populations on the north Atlantic.   Much of the Rufa Red Knot population migrates north in the month of May in a non-stop flight from Brazil to the Atlantic coast of the USA.  Most birds take refuge on the beaches of Delaware Bay for a week or two, to take advantage of the billions of Horseshoe Crab eggs, freshly laid in the sands by female crabs emerging from the ocean, to restore their spent fat supplies, the fuel that powers their migration.  In 2017, the crab numbers were low and the timing of their emergence delayed, meaning that there was less food at this key stopover when the migrating Knots needed it most.  Many birds likely left Delaware Bay, en route to the Arctic with lower fat supplies, meaning that they arrived on their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic in a compromised state.  The theory is that this compromised state results in lower reproductive output as the window for breeding is extremely short in the arctic and birds need to be in top health when they arrive on the breeding grounds to have a successful breeding season. This plummet in the population of the Rufa Red Knot, related to Horseshoe Crab population fluctuations, was already noted in the early 2000s.  Human harvest of the crabs, and possibly climate change are implicated as likely reasons for the decline.  A small population, like that of the Rufa Red Knot is vulnerable to extinction, especially because of its dependence on a relatively small number of sites during its mammoth 30,000 km annual migration.  Even when something negative happens to one site, most or all of the birds can be impacted.    Recognizing, protecting and managing key stopover sites in favour of these birds is essential for their survival. [caption id="attachment_36305" align="alignleft" width="300"] Lillian Trapper at Delaware Bay 2011[/caption] Here at Nature Canada we are trying to do our bit to help the Rufa Red Knot.  For example, Nature Canada, with the support of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, supports the Moose Cree First Nation’s efforts to nominate and recognize a Western Hemisphere Reserve Network Site within their homelands along James Bay.  Southern James Bay is of tremendous importance to the Rufa Red Knot, especially for the flight south from the breeding grounds.  There are no Horseshoe Crabs in James Bay, but there are tiny clams and other invertebrates on which the Knots and hundreds of thousands of other shorebirds feast.  Rufa Red Knots stop over along James Bay by the thousands starting in late July with the adults followed by juveniles from mid August to early September.  After fattening up, they continue on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence or the Atlantic coast of Canada and the USA, before flying over the Atlantic to the north coast of South America, on route to Tierra del Fuego. The Moose Cree have become increasingly involved in shorebird conservation and monitoring since Lillian Trapper of the Moose Cree participated in WHSRN’s 25th anniversary celebration on Delaware Bay in 2011.  As well as being one of the presenters at the official ceremony, Ms Trapper also participated in shorebird capture and banding on Delaware Bay, led by renowned Red Knot scientist and advocate Dr. Larry Niles.  In the past few years, more Moose Cree have participated in summer shorebird camps on their homelands, organized by the Canadian Wildlife Service and in the spring at the Delaware Bay.  This involvement is building local interest and capacity to monitor shorebirds and promote conservation and awareness within their Nation at this extremely important site for the Knot, which is also of extreme importance to geese and other waterfowl that are a staple in the local Cree diet.  The Moose Cree’s interest and determination to ensure a healthy ecosystem for all wildlife and protect this and other areas in their homelands is inspiring. [caption id="attachment_36303" align="alignright" width="300"] Red Knots, photo by Paul Smith.[/caption] Since 2012 Nature Canada has also worked to protect shorebirds in partnership with the Cree Nation Government, the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, the Cree Trappers Association and the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board, in the Eeyou Istchee region (James Bay Cree – Quebec) of James Bay thanks to financial support from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship program (HSP).  We have succeeded in proving the importance for shorebirds and species at risk, including the Rufa Red Knot of Rupert Bay, of the southeastern side of James Bay, including the islands within the homelands of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish.  Much of this area is part of a new candidate Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).  To learn more about the importance of James Bay Cree homelands to shorebirds, check out this short Youtube video.


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Climate change is changing you
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Climate change is changing you

This blog was written by Luca Bonaccorsi and published by our partners at Birdlife International the week of November 11, 2016. This piece was further edited by Sam Nurse. A new study reveals ongoing alterations in shape, size, sex and distribution of animals and plants are due to man-made warming.  Paolo lives in an area that is getting hotter. He must have noticed that his children are smaller than they should be. And not just in stature – their arms and legs are proportionately smaller than you'd expect.  Mohamed lives in an area increasingly susceptible to drought. He has noticed that his skin is growing thicker and lucid and waterproof, increasing substantially his water retention. In Lola’s village there used to be about one man for every woman. Now, men are hard to find. [caption id="attachment_26344" align="alignright" width="247"] Red Knots in flight[/caption] It’s what you would actually see if we could firstly, fast forward time and secondly, limit the level of insulation of the human species from changes in the environment due to progress and technology. How do we know for sure? Because when it comes to animal and plants, things are no different. The scary processes described above are in fact documented trends affecting our fauna and flora. These are the new findings revealed by a study led by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, BirdLife International and other institutions, published this week in the prestigious journal Science. The study contains a vast number of unsettling data. Some salamanders have shrunk in size by some 8% over the past 50 years (equivalent to the average human becoming 15 centimetres shorter). Over the same period Red Knots have had smaller offspring with shorter bills (not as good for foraging hence affecting negatively their growth prospects). The opposite is happening to some mammals in colder area where warmer weather means more food: American Martens and Yellow-bellied Marmots are getting bigger. Likewise, melanism (such as that witnessed in black panthers or crows) is decreasing as it does not favour thermoregulation. And species whose sex determination is affected by temperatures are witnessing changes in the sex ratio of their population: some species of lizards are creating increasingly more males, some turtle species more females. [caption id="attachment_16894" align="alignleft" width="203"]photo of young snapping turtle. Snapping turtle hatchling. Photography by Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl[/caption] “We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems” says study lead author Brett Scheffers. Researchers discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change. Bird science is proving, once more, very important in understanding the consequences of global warming. According to Stuart Butchart, Chief Scientist at BirdLife International:

“Some of the best data on climate change impacts come from birds. For example, bird population trends in North America and Europe show a clear signal of climate change since the 1980s. While some species have benefited, many more have undergone declines.”  
Until now, the narratives around climate change had failed to convey how pervasive the impacts could be. Drought, wildfires, rising sea levels and extreme weather are all phenomena portrayed with accuracy in the climate action camp. This new publication adds a new, hugely unsettling, dimension to the concept of climate change”. This change does not simply exist 'outside' of us in the form of weather phenomena. Instead, it is inside all of us, changing the very alphabet of our identity: our genetic code. To read the full article from BirdLife International, click here.
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Protecting Canada’s birds  – wherever they are!
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Protecting Canada’s birds  – wherever they are!

[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Eleanor Fast Eleanor Fast
Executive Director[/caption] Nature Canada is proud to be a Canadian co-partner of BirdLife International – the global partnership of organizations working for birds and nature.  Last week I took part in a meeting of partners across the Americas - from Chile to Canada and everywhere in between. We had an intensive week of meetings and got down into details of how we can work most effectively together across the Americas to ensure that species are protected throughout their ranges.  Working with organizations in other countries is essential for Nature Canada’s work as many of the species we work so hard to conserve in Canada spend much of their time out of the country, for example:

  • Nature Canada has worked hard to learn more about why Purple Martin populations are declining. Thanks to the work of Nature Canada and our partners we now know more about their migration and can work with partner organizations throughout their range to protect them.
  • Nature Canada is a lead organization in the Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative which involves partners across the Americas.  The Canada Warbler’s breeding grounds are primarily in Canada, but it’s wintering range is in South America, from Peru to Venezuela – we all need to work together to protect the Canada Warbler.
  • And it’s not just species that BirdLife partners work together to protect. Nature Canada is working closely with North American Birdlife partners, ranchers, governments, and other environmental groups to develop a North American grasslands initiative to protect this crucial habitat in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
True to our name, Nature Canada focusses on being a voice for nature in Canada.  But our wildlife doesn’t stay in Canada year round.  That’s why it is essential that we work with other organizations throughout the Americas to protect birds throughout their lives. Apart from the serious discussions, the meeting had a lighthearted highlight – the closing ceremony where a school group from Panama performed a dance dressed as birds, it was wonderful to see the children’s smiles and excitement.  I thought of Nature Canada’s own work with schoolchildren, making masks and going on a migration parade.  Enthusiasm for learning about and protecting nature truly knows no boundaries – just like so many birds!
[caption id="attachment_27491" align="alignnone" width="450"]Image of Panama School Children A photo of the Panama school group performance.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_27492" align="alignnone" width="450"]Image of Panama school children A second photo of the Panama school group performance.[/caption]
 
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The world is lacking on the protection of migratory birds
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The world is lacking on the protection of migratory birds

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] It is said that more than 90% of the world's migratory birds are inadequately protected due to a lack of coordinated conservation efforts across the globe. A new study recently came out in Science calling for a higher level of collaboration around the world to help save migratory birds, as many of them are at risk of extinction. The research had indicated huge gaps in the conservation of these birds since some countries have ranges well covered by protected areas and while others do not. From the 1,451 migratory bird species, it was said that 1,324 of them have improper protection in at least one part of their migratory journey. Two species were even indicated as having no protection whatsoever! Photo of an Arctic Tern As a result, there has been a major impact on the populations. Half of migratory bird species are experiencing a significant drop in population, and they have been for the last 30 years. These bird species rely on the various habitats in each country for breeding, food, and rest so it is key to ensure that they have the appropriate protection. So just how far do migratory birds travel? The Arctic Tern may be the one that is most noted for the distance it travels. It is said that in their lifetime, the Arctic Tern flies the equivalent to the moon and back three times. Other birds such as the Blackpoll warbler flies three days nonstop from eastern Canada all the way down to South America! This goes to show how important these areas are and the great length they go through to get there. For 75 years, Nature Canada has worked to protect habitat for species at risk in Canada and internationally. Nature Canada is the Canadian co-partner in Birdlife International and implements the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area program with BSC and regional partners. With our work in this program, we want to preserve birds and their habitats so that we can continue to learn more from these feathered creatures. Read the full article from Birdlife International. Email Signup

There is no Planet B
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There is no Planet B

[caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel (At 100% Possible March on Parliament Hill)[/caption] Yesterday, on the eve of the Paris climate talks, 25,000 Canadians, including myself and other Nature Canada folks, marched on Parliament Hill.  A key message?  There is no Planet B—for people, birds, or other wildlife.Image of logo-COP Nature needs to have an important place in the international agreement that comes out of Paris. As Birdlife International’s report explains, the degradation and conversion of natural ecosystems is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (the biggest, next to burning of fossil fuels). Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is a proven and cost-effective approach to mitigate climate change. As well, healthy ecosystems protect communities against flooding, sea-level rise and drought. Conserving, restoring and managing ecosystems sustainably can thus be key elements in climate adaptation strategies. Plan A in Paris needs to focus on protecting nature on Planet A—the only one we’ve got. Email Signup

Nature Canada continues supporting Canada’s most important sites for birds!
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Nature Canada continues supporting Canada’s most important sites for birds!

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey  Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] The Important Bird and Biodiversity Program (IBA) has been active in Canada since 1996, and Nature Canada has been there to help guide its development every step of the way.  A program of BirdLife International, developed and implemented in Canada by Nature Canada and its BirdLife Canada partner, Bird Studies Canada, IBAs are about identifying, recognizing and protecting (either formally or through voluntary stewardship) the network of the most important places for birds. IBAs are discrete sites supporting specific groups of birds: threatened birds, large groups of birds, and birds restricted by range or by habitat. IBAs range in size from veryMoose River Estuary with Moose Cree workshop 2013 tiny patches of habitat to large tracts of land or water. They may encompass any combination of private and public land, and indigenous homelands.  A recent study of Canada’s IBAs revealed that only about 1/3 of IBA area is legally protected (e.g. in a national or provincial park or some other form of protected area).  That means that 2/3's of these ecological treasures lack protection. IBAs are identified using criteria that are internationally agreed upon, standardized, quantitative, and scientifically defensible. This gives them a conservation currency that transcends international borders and promotes international collaboration for the conservation of the world’s birds. It also makes IBAs an important tool for identifying conservation priorities and for fostering greater success in the conservation of bird populations. Since 2008, Nature Canada, BSC and their partners have established a network of local stewards or Caretakers in about 250 of Canada’s 600 IBA.  Caretakers are individuals or groups who are the  natural stewards of IBAs, involved in monitoring, outreach, education, stewardship and advocacy, depending upon the interest and skills of the Caretakers. This year, Nature Canada was successful in receiving two grants from the Habitat Stewardship Program of Environment Canada to inject funds and capacity into the regional IBA programs in Quebec and Alberta.  One Chaplin Nature Centre with friends from Mexicoof the key activities in both provinces will be holding workshops with our regional partners (Nature Quebec and Nature Alberta) to bring IBA Caretakers together to assess the state of their IBAs, reaffirm their interest and commitment, and orient conservation efforts towards declining bird species found within their IBAs.   The State of Canada’s Birds 2012 determined that aerial insectivores (swallows, martins, swifts, nightjars, and flycatchers), grassland species, and shorebirds have declined by 30 to 60% over the past 40 years.  Many species within these three groups are in trouble.  These groups of species will be the focus of conservation attention in these workshops. The first workshop (en français) is scheduled later this month in Sainte Adelle Quebec, and is part of Nature Quebec’s “conservation workshop” series.   Our goal is to emerge with practical actions to help birds in individual IBAs. Stay tuned for the results.   Email Signup

Protecting the Monarch Butterfly – in Canada and Internationally
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Protecting the Monarch Butterfly – in Canada and Internationally

[separator headline="h5" title="Raising our voice for Canadian wildlife and wild spaces"] Eleanor FastNature Canada staff work every day to protect wildlife and their habitats in Canada – it’s at the heart of our mission.  Many species also require an international effort to protect them throughout their range. For example, as a Canadian co-partner of BirdLife International, we frequently work to protect migratory birds in both their Canadian breeding grounds and their southern wintering grounds. But it’s not just birds that migrate - Nature Canada is also working to protect another iconic winged species – the Monarch butterfly. Working with partners such as the Monarch Teachers Network of Canada and the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club’s Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Nature Canada is working to conserve Monarch habitat and is raising awareness among Canadians about how to increase Monarch habitat in Canada. We organized a migration parade from Parliament Hill to raise the profile of Monarchs that unfortunately had to be cancelled as it was scheduled on the same day of the tragic Ottawa shootings in October of last year.image of monarch butterfly on a finger As well as being a national voice for nature in Canada, Nature Canada is also raising our voice at the international level to protect Monarch butterflies. Eleanor Fast and Mexican AmbassardorI have met with the Mexican Ambassador to discuss Monarchs.  I have also written a letter to Prime Minister Harper to urge him to keep Monarch conservation high on the agenda in trilateral discussions with US President Obama and Mexican President Peña Nieto, and for all three countries to move from talk to real action for the Monarch. Nature Canada will continue to raise our voice for nature, for the Monarch butterfly and for all Canadian wildlife and wild spaces. Sign up for our monthly newsletter for updates. Are you protecting Monarchs, too? Why not add your efforts to the map using our YardMap Canada portal?

Globally recognized habitat in Canada headed for ruin, says leading international conservation group
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Globally recognized habitat in Canada headed for ruin, says leading international conservation group

November 17, 2014 (OTTAWA) More than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature are threatened with being lost forever according to a new report by BirdLife International. Four of Canada’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are in danger. “Boundary Bay IBA is threatened by the growth of Vancouver suburbs, development of the Roberts Bank port, and increasing ship traffic such as oil tankers associated with the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline“ said Fast. ”A tanker oil spill near Boundary Bay would be catastrophic for birds and marine mammals. That’s why Nature Canada is intervening in the hearings for the TransMountain Project together with BC Nature” “Prince Edward County IBA is threatened by at least two wind energy projects” she said. “This IBA is a remarkable migratory stopover for thousands of birds of prey, and home to many species at risk such as the Whippoorwill and large numbers of waterfowl. Nature Canada continues to be a voice for birds and other wildlife in regulatory processes reviewing these projects. While Nature Canada is a strong supporter of renewable energy, we also support the recommendation of Gord Miller, Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, that no wind energy projects should be constructed in Ontario’s IBAs.” The BirdLife International report “IBAs in Danger” identifies more than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature that are threatened with being lost forever. Aside from Boundary Bay and Prince Edward County South Shore, the report identifies two other Canadian sites of special concern including: Lancaster Sound Polynya in Nunavut and the Mackenzie River Delta in Northwest Territories. All four are noted as remarkable sites that are internationally recognized for their importance to biodiversity, migratory birds, marine animals and many species at risk.

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[one_half][separator headline="h2" title="Media Contacts:"] Paul Jorgenson, Senior Communications Manager 613-562-3447 ext 248 | pjorgenson@naturecanada.ca Monica Tanaka, Communications Coordinator 613-562-3447 ext 241 | mtanaka@naturecanada.ca [/one_half] [one_half_last][separator headline="h2" title="About Nature Canada"] Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada.[/one_half_last]

Join us on Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland and Wild Labrador Cruise
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Join us on Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland and Wild Labrador Cruise

Image of mountains
Dear Nature Canada and Birdlife International supporter, We invite you to join us on a very special voyage in support of BirdLife and Nature Canada's work with Important Bird Areas on Canada's North East Coast. From June 29 to July 12, 2014, we are travelling aboard Adventure Canada's "Newfoundland and Wild Labrador" cruise. Departing the French island of St. Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland, we'll steam up the inside passage — and the sublime Wild Labrador coast — to Kuujjuaq, the largest northern Inuit community in Nunavik. This Adventure Canada tour will raise the profile of the region’s avifauna and globally important areas for birds. Nature Canada experts will be on hand to describe initiatives needed to protect the more than thirty IBAs along this storied Coast. They will also report on the most recent work focusing on the establishment of a National Park at Mealy Mountain in Labrador. We have now travelled eight times with Adventure Canada. Each journey has been fascinating, indeed unforgettable. The 120-passenger Sea Adventurer is charming and the trips are renowned for the very professional staff who will regale us with presentations exploring the botany, history, anthropology, geology and cultural interest of the locations we'll be visiting. These include spectacular Gros Morne National Park, and the Viking settlement, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site at L'Anse Aux Meadows. Our spring sailing is timed for optimal viewing of icebergs, whales, and of course, migrating and nesting seabirds. Please join BirdLife International and Nature Canada aboard the Sea Adventurer. It will be a wonderful and constructive experience. We very much hope you will join us. Sincerely, Graeme Gibson and Margaret Atwood

Youth Voice Shines at Global Congress!
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Youth Voice Shines at Global Congress!

[three_fourth] Stephanie Pineau shares her experience of attending and helping to organize a youth workshop at the 2013 BirdLife International World Congress held in Ottawa, Canada in June. Stephanie completed her practicum for a Master in Psychology at Carleton University with Nature Canada. During her time with us, she focused on coordinating the workshop on youth for the Congress. By Stephanie Pineau The excitement was palpable at this year’s BirdLife International World Congress. Thursday saw the start of a variety of workshops with topics ranging from renewable energy to conservation issues.  However, one workshop stands out in its originality in terms of topic and method used to convey the message contain therein.  ‘A programme for connecting youth to nature’: the evidence is in, connection to nature is beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally for all of us, including youth. That which added the greatest depth, inspiration, uniqueness, and long lasting motivation from this workshop however, was the heartfelt and insightful presentations from two youth. Carlos Barbery, a 13 year old from Gatineau, Canada who first became involved in birding at the age of 4 after learning the call of the raven, kicked off the presentations.  Carlos’ endearing nature was certainly present as he listed off the activities he’s involved in as a young conservationist including many citizen science projects and a birdathon fundraising event for conservation research. Carlos’ knowledge has reached such a level that in some instances he is now acting as the teacher rather than the student leading birding groups and presenting information on conservation at his school. The second powerfully conveyed message came from Tina Lin, a 12 year who has now been birding for only a couple of years. Her charming calm presence on stage was clearly a force of inspiration to the hearts and minds of all delegates in attendance.  Among other things, Tina has translated information from the RRSPB for engaging children in bird watching, for youth in China. While this in itself is immensely impressive, she also took to the stage at the fundraising Gala with guests such as Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan in attendance to discuss youth and nature with former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Secretary of the Treasurer under President George W. Bush, Henry Paulson.  The clarity with which she spoke is suggestive of the fact that we may be overlooking valuable sources of insight by excluding youth from our decision making processes.The inclusion of the youth presenters in the Congress was a refreshing blend of intelligence and innocence as they fearlessly expressed their opinions and achievements to groups of adults.  The message they conveyed highlights the importance of having supportive adults who treat youth with the respect deserving of any human-being regardless of age. Fortunately, the Congress was not all work for our youth presenters. Together with their mothers and some expert birders (of which Carlos is certainly one), they had the opportunity to engage in one of their favourite pastimes.  As the sun came up over lac du soleil in Gatineau Park they encountered a wide range of species including Yellow Warblers, Pine Warblers, Swamp Sparrow, Wood Ducks, a Green Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, and many more species. And as we see from these youth, they not only speak about the importance of engaging with nature in enclosed spaces, but actively seek out nature with all the enthusiasm and wonder (plus a massive amount of knowledge) that we would expect and hope to see in the youth of today. [/three_fourth][one_fourth_last] Gillian, Tina, her mom and Carlos looking for birds Carlos Barbery - youth presentation Tina Lin - youth[/one_fourth_last]

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