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Wind project appeal turned down by Environmental Review Tribunal
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Wind project appeal turned down by Environmental Review Tribunal

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] Amherst Island is known in the world of birders as the place where owls gather in great numbers and densities most winters. People are thrilled to see owls in the wild and a trip to Amherst Island, located on the extreme east end of Lake Ontario, is as good as it gets. In mid-winter with a bit of luck, one can observe many of Canada’s owl species including Snowy, Short-eared, Long-eared, Saw Whet, Great Gray, Barred and others. The island is sparsely populated with people – the main land use being cattle farming, growing hay and keeping pasture. These habitats in the summer are home to large numbers of Bobolinks and other open-country birds, such as Eastern Meadowlark and Upland Sandpiper. The island swarms with swallows in the mid to late summer. [caption id="attachment_29008" align="aligncenter" width="560"]Image of map of Amherst Island Map of Amherst Island and surrounding area[/caption] When the Association for the Protection of Amherst Island (APAI) learned that Windlectric Inc. was approved for a permit to build 26 towering wind turbines on the island, there was profound despair. They quickly organized to officially appeal the decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario. Kingston Field Naturalists also participated in the Appeal, seeking to overturn the Ministry of Environment Approval at the Ontario Environmental Tribunal Board level. The feisty Prince Edward County Field Naturalists were successful in appealing a similar project proposed on the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block on the south shore of Prince Edward County, as well as achieving a partial victory in an Appeal of the White Pines Wind Energy project on the south shore of Prince Edward County earlier this year. [caption id="attachment_29012" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Bobolink Photo of a Bobolink by Ted Cheskey[/caption] On August 3rd, the Tribunal rendered its decision after hearing evidence and arguments made by both sides between December 2015 and June 2016.  The decision to reject the Appeal is a major blow to the naturalist community and particularly, the APAI. The Tribunal panel rejected all elements of the Appeal, including human health arguments (that have never been successful) and the wildlife arguments that were premised on the assertion that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to populations of Bobolink, raptors (owls in particular), bats, and Blanding’s Turtle. In these hearings, the onus is on the Appellant to convince the Tribunal Panel that serious and irreversible harm is unavoidable as the project is presented.  Each side has its own expert witnesses and some of the same people who had presented at the Ostrander hearings presented at the Amherst Hearings as well. The Tribunal rejected the Appellant’s arguments one after the other, either because the Approval holder (Windlectric) presented more convincing evidence in the Panel’s view, or because the evidence of the Appellant’s witnesses did not meet the test of serious and irreversible harm. Of interest in the decision were several comparisons with the White Pines Wind Project. On February 26, the Tribunal accepted many of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) arguments that the project, with its 27 industrial wind turbines along Lake Ontario, would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat populations.  In its decision on the Amherst Island project, the Tribunal Panel often contrasted the evidence and context for the White Pines project, where the test for serious and irreversible harm was met for bats and Blanding’s Turtle, with the evidence on Amherst, which was both weaker from the point of view of the Appellant, and more convincing and better prepared from the perspective of the Approval holder.  APAI have a very short timeframe to consider its options, and whether it can mount an appeal of the decision. The Amherst decision is a reminder that we are missing adequate government policy that both promotes renewables in the right places while recognizing and protecting our key biodiversity areas including Canada’s nearly 600 Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBAs) such as Amherst Island and the South Shore of Prince Edward County.

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Protecting Birds at Risk Right Where You Live

[separator headline="h3" title="Spring brings the return of migratory birds!"]Have you heard them chirping in your backyard? What birds have you seen already moving through as spring rolls in? Many species are now making their way back to Canada for the summer. Nature Canada and young artists worked together to produce a short video on the Bobolink, Chimney Swift and Barn Swallow. Check it out to learn bird-friendly tips and how you can help protect at-risk Canadian birds right where you live! [embed]http://youtu.be/0iw55ekH0Hw[/embed]

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Species Spotlight: Bobolink
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Species Spotlight: Bobolink

Get to know some of the species at risk in the Lac Deschênes IBA with the Species Spotlight, aka “Sp-Spot”. Today meet the: Bobolink [caption id="attachment_1761" align="alignleft" width="225"]Bobolink - male breeding plumage photo by Kenneth Cole Bobolink - male breeding plumage
photo by Kenneth Cole[/caption] Scientific Name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus SARA Status: No status; Ontario: Threatened Taxonomic group: Birds Size: 15.2-20.5 cm size, with a wingspan of 27 cm. Males weighs 34-56g and females 29-49g The Bobolink is medium-sized, grassland, song bird. It has a short, pointed tail, and a short, conical bill. During the breeding season, the male’s plumage is very unique and distinctive. Black underneath  and white on the shoulders and rump contrasts sharply with the bright yellow patch on the back of its head. In the non breeding season males and females look similar with a pale bill and yellowish brown with black stripes on head and back. Immature Bobolink look similar to the female, except with more yellow. Historically bobolink lived in North American tall grass prairies and other meadows. These habitats were altered by intensive agriculture, and today the bobolink rely on hayfields and open grasslands. Bobolinks migrate between their wintering grounds in the grasslands of central South America and their breeding areas across the northern US and southern portions of Canada. Bobolink nests on the ground between tall grasses where nests are usually well hidden. Individuals will return to the same site year after year to nest. Like many grassland birds Bobolinks have been declining over the last fifty years. The main threat to this species is loss of breeding habitat in part caused by loss of low-intensity agricultural to more intensive farming or urban expansion. In South America the Bobolink has been perceived as an agricultural pest and exposed to the pesticides used in agriculture. [caption id="attachment_1762" align="alignright" width="300"]Female Bobolink photo by Kelly Colgan Azar Female Bobolink
photo by Kelly Colgan Azar[/caption] Where Else Can You See This Species? In the breeding season, Bobolink can be found in Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland, and northern United States. The winter grounds are in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. You can see this species in our region when it’s migrating mainly in mid-May and June and again in early to mid-August. You can also spot the Bobolink during its breeding season in suitable grassland areas. Did you know? •    Bobolink has one of the longest annual migrations for songbirds; they fly around 20,000 km round trip. •    Males and Females migrate separate groups in the spring, but together in the fall. •    During breeding season, males like to sing a long bubbling song while flying low in their territories displaying a distinctive circular flight. This song sounds very similar to the beeping of the Star Wars robot R2-D2. Check back every week to read about a different species at risk that can be found in Lac Deschênes. You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or on the MNR Natural Heritage Information Centre website. A photo and a location are very helpful! We would like to thank our guest blogger Monica Reyes for this post. Monica is a conservation volunteer for Nature Canada. She is a biologist from Mexico interested in wildlife conservation and environmental education.

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Bird Tweet of the Week: Bobolink
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Bobolink

When was the last time you heard the Star Wars robot R2-D2 in a field? What you actually heard was probably a singing male Bobolink. [caption id="attachment_14516" align="alignleft" width="225"]male bobolink Male Bobolink. Photography by Kenneth Cole Scheider[/caption] Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio's In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada's Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to "Bird Tweet of the Week" on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website This episode aired on Saturday July 13, 2013.

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