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“An interesting retirement”: Member Gordon Kelly’s adventures in forestry and duck banding
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“An interesting retirement”: Member Gordon Kelly’s adventures in forestry and duck banding

My family home was in Montreal, and my grandparents had a place in the Laurentians. It was 400 acres of woodland, but as a boy, I remember feeling like I could explore forever. So, I was brought up in two places. And I liked the wild better. I became interested in birds very early. At 13, in 1947, a friend and I found a local bird club, and we were the youngest members in history! Back then, there were rules about kids going to movies or lectures without an adult, so until we were 16 one of our moms had to come. I remember the thrill of going on field trips with experienced bird watchers, who helped me identify birds even just by song! At 16, I had a family member whose sister was married to a forester and I thought that sounded just amazing. I went for an interview when I was 16, but I couldn't be hired for a summer job until I was 17. I was hired that summer and sent to the farthest operation in the St. Maurice Division called Cooper Lake, situated at the headwaters of the Nottaway River which flows into James Bay. [caption id="attachment_33342" align="alignright" width="300" class="right "]Fall folliage in field next to the La Croche river Fall foliage in field next to the La Croche river. Photo by Gordon Kelly[/caption] It was my first time in the Boreal Forest. 1951, Virgin forest, and logging was just beginning. The black spruce...unbelievable. It was then I decided to become a Forester. In 1987, with my son, we purchased our woodlot of 225-acres. There were some red pine plantations on the property dating back to the early 1960s. We have since added another 225-acres for a total of 450 which we manage with my son and grandson who are also Foresters. I can't tell you what it means to me, to my family. It's the most beautiful place, full of memories and stories. And about 20 years ago back in 1996, not far from my house, I was walking on a trail near a swampy area, very overgrown. I noticed a pair of Wood Ducks. As I went exploring, I realized it was an old beaver pond, and that I could pull out some of the alders and other growth. One of my sons, who today manages migratory bird banding stations in the Yukon, at the time was learning to band at Long Point. Word spread and I was contacted by a biologist who asked me to start banding. [caption id="attachment_33345" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of Gordon Kelly releasing a Wood Duck Gordon Kelly releasing a Wood Duck[/caption] On average, we band 155 ducks per year, some that return. I had one last year that I banded five years ago! And one year we had 255 ducks! It's been an interesting and rewarding retirement indeed! Why do I support Nature Canada? Because education is so important. You see it mostly in the kids, but really so many Canadians don't get out in nature. We've become disconnected. We can't just continue to exploit nature without consequences. I'm a Guardian of Nature monthly donor, and I know that my regular support makes a difference. It means Nature Canada can get people more involved in nature, in making citizens and our governments more aware of the importance of nature conservation.

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4 Protected Wildlife Areas to visit in winter
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4 Protected Wildlife Areas to visit in winter

Canada boasts 54 of them in total and, when combined with its 92 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs), they protect over 12 million hectares of significant habitat. If winter blahs have got you down, visiting your nearest protected area is a great way to fight back. Below are four more examples within two hours of urban centres across the country where you can bird, hike or showshoe to your heart’s content.

Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Sidney, British Columbia

Shoal Harbour is located in Sidney, BC, just 30 km north of Victoria. The unique climate along this coastline results in mild, dry winters with little snow or frost and supports biodiverse Garry Oak and Douglas Fir ecosystems. In winter, Shoal Harbour provides important habitat for thousands of birds representing over 51 species including the Green-Winged Teal, American Wigeon and Horned Grebe. However, its most famous winter resident is the Bufflehead. This duck returns to the area punctually each October 15th to the delight of Sidney residents, who celebrate ‘All Buffleheads Day’ in its honour. Shoal Harbour joined Nature Canada’s NatureHood program last year. [caption id="attachment_24799" align="alignnone" width="465"]Image of a Horned Grebe swimming Photo of a Horned Grebe[/caption]

Lac Saint-François National Wildlife Area, Dundee, Québec

Lac St-François is a natural widening of the St Lawrence River in southwestern Quebec, just two hours from Ottawa and 1.5 hours from Montréal. It features ecologically significant wetland and woodland habitats for over 287 species of animals and 547 species of plants. These include 14 species at risk, such as the Butternut, Yellow Rail and Northern Map Turtle. Lac St-François features a visitor centre and over 10 km of trails suitable for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The non-profit organization Les Amis de la Réserve Nationale de Faune du Lac Saint-François organizes outdoor activities for the public year-round.

Inglewood Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Calgary, Alberta

Inglewood is nestled in the heart of central Calgary within the Bow River Valley. Its riparian habitats are home to about 270 species of birds, 21 species of mammals and 347 species of plants. In winter, its open water hosts thousands of ducks - the striking Harlequin Duck sometimes among them - as well as Wilson’s Snipe and Bald Eagles. Inglewood’s trails and nature centre are popular with visitors year-round. Sadly, Inglewood was devastated by flooding in 2013. The sanctuary re-opened to the public in July 2015, but remediation efforts are ongoing.
[caption id="attachment_24797" align="alignnone" width="399"]Image of a Harlequin Duck Photo of a Harlequin Duck by Larry Kirtley[/caption]

Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Port Joli, Nova Scotia

Port Joli is situated on a 10-km inlet off the south shore of Nova Scotia, two hours southwest of Halifax and 1.5 hours east of Yarmouth. Irregularities along its rocky coast have yielded a variety of habitat types including mixed forest, mud flats and salt marsh, which support a diversity of wildlife species. Overwintering Canada Geese benefit from the open water at Port Joli, with up to 6000 individuals visiting annually. Hundreds of American Black Ducks as well as smaller numbers of Common Goldeneye, scaups, scoters and mergansers also take refuge there. There is no restriction on public access so be sure to make your way to this MBS and view its diverse wildlife! [caption id="attachment_24806" align="aligncenter" width="880"]Photo of Wintering American Black Ducks at Robertson Lake in Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary. By: Colin MacKinnon © Environment Canada Photo of Wintering American Black Ducks at Robertson Lake in Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary. By: Colin MacKinnon © Environment Canada[/caption]

As you can see, these four protected wildlife areas offer a range of diverse habitats and species that are only a short trip away! If you would like to learn more about the work that Nature Canada is doing to connect people with these special places and other protected areas, be sure to look here.

Bird Tweet of the Week: Hooded Merganser
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Hooded Merganser

[caption id="attachment_24879" align="alignleft" width="300"]Hooded Merganser Pair Photo from Flickr, Christopher L. Wood[/caption] The Hooded Merganser is the smallest of the mergansers found in North America and it is about the size of an average duck. Since this species is a cavity nesting duck, the female duck will have to coax its young of just one day old out of the tree cavity which may be up to 50 feet in the air! 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, January 23rd, 2016. Email Signup

Bird Tweet of the Week: Northern Pintail
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Northern Pintail

[caption id="attachment_23319" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo from Flickr, Bill Bouton Photo from Flickr, Bill Bouton[/caption] This week species is the Northern Pintail and it is one 'chic' looking duck. It is not only chic when swimming and feeding on the water, but it has quite the sleek flight profile and rapid efficient flight compared to other ducks! Find out more about this duck in this week's Tweet of the Week! 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, November 7th , 2015. Email Signup

Bird Tweet of the Week: Long-Tailed Duck
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Long-Tailed Duck

Known by its former, less politically-correct name “Oldsquaw”, the Long-tailed Duck dives to the greatest depths of any duck – as deep as 60 meters – to feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish and plants. [caption id="attachment_14601" align="alignleft" width="275"]Long-Tailed Duck Long-Tailed Duck[/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 November 30, 2013

How Much is a Duck Worth?
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How Much is a Duck Worth?

According to a provincial court in Alberta, about $1,868. Syncrude Canada has been sentenced to pay an award of approximately $3 million CAD for the death of over 1,600 ducks that dove into its 12 square kilometre tailings pond north of Fort McMurray in Alberta. Syncrude had been found guilty in June 2010 of violating both the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. How does it add up to $3 million? - $300,000; the maximum fine under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which will be paid to the federal Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) - $500,000; the maximum fine under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Half of this money will be used for the establishment of a program to monitor and protect birds, and to be integrated with aboriginal training at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alberta - $1.3 million; to be given to the University of Alberta's Avian Protection Research Study - $900,000; for the purchase of lands in the Golden Ranches Conservation Area near Edmonton $3 million does not come close to the true value of the wildlife that was lost. Help us make sure tragedies like this one don't happen again.

Celebrating All Buffleheads Day
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Celebrating All Buffleheads Day

A pair of Buffleheads Photo by Nick (kukkurovaca)/Flickr
A major event in the history of Buffleheads is the Great Bufflehead Crash that occurred in November 1940 near Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. The crash may have been caused by a heavy fog on the night of November 4th, with the addition of Foam Lake’s street lights that confused Buffleheads into thinking it was a lake. These are diving ducks, so one can only imagine the outcome of such a mirage – they could dive straight into the ground! Some say the crash could have been due to freezing rain that forced the ducks to ‘fall from the sky’. At Nature Canada’s 2010 Annual General Meeting, a resolution – All Buffleheads Day, October 15th, 2010 – was adopted to recognize that 2010 is the 70th anniversary of the Great Bufflehead Crash of 1940; to encourage the government to implement and support the monitoring of key phenological indicators through citizen-based monitoring programs; and to commend the District of North Saanich and the Town of Sidney in their efforts to protect essential Bufflehead habitat in Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  

The Bufflehead: Canada’s Smallest Diving Duck
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The Bufflehead: Canada’s Smallest Diving Duck

Common name: Bufflehead
Latin name:
Bucephala albeola
Range: Coast to coast
Size: Has a wing length of 168 mm and weighs between 272–635 g
Population estimate: Continental estimate of 1.4 million birds in 2004
Lifespan: 15 years

Buffleheads, or ‘butterballs’ as some hunters like to call them because of the amount of fat their bodies store during migration (115 g - almost 20% of their mass!), are one of the scarcest birds in North America. These black and white ducks are known to be highly active, hardly ever giving themselves a break, and nest in small cavities such as the holes vacated by Flickers. Their diet in freshwaters consists of arthropods such as insect larvae, and in salt water, small shrimps, crabs and amphipods.

Buffleheads usually occur in groups of 10 or fewer, and have a coast-to-coast breeding range. However, in spring and summer, British Columbia and northern Alberta seem to be the preferred spots for breeding Buffleheads. In fall they migrate east, south and southeast, with the largest numbers migrating over the prairies making their way to the Atlantic. In winter, Buffleheads are found on Canada’s west coast, Lake Ontario and the southern coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In the United States their wintering areas are from New Jersey to North Carolina in the east and Washington to central California in the west.
Besides being the smallest ducks in Canada, Buffleheads are unique in their courtship displays and their punctuality in returning to their wintering grounds along the Pacific coast. During courtship, males fly over females while fluttering their wings and then land in a ‘water-skiing’ motion, displaying both their feet and plumage (see photo on left). Buffleheads are a monogamous species, remaining with the same mate for a few years.

According to a study carried out by James Finley, the Caretaker of Sidney Channel Important Bird Area (IBA), Buffleheads arrive at Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Vancouver Island on the 298th day of the year, every year – that is punctual! The 298th day of the solar cycle equates to October 15th, which has come to be known as the All Buffleheads Day.

Quick fun facts:

- The species' name is apparently due to their domed heads and was originally Buffalo Head.
- They are also known as Bumblebee Dippers, Robin Dippers, Hell-divers and Spirit Ducks.
- The Bufflehead's genus, Bucephala, is said to be closely associated to the name of Alexander the Great's horse, Bucephalus or Buchephalas.


Photos 1 & 2: Stewart Ho
Photo3: Vladimir Morozov

Contaminants in the Athabasca River
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Contaminants in the Athabasca River

A study, carried out by Dr. David Schindler and several of his colleagues from the University of Alberta, found high levels of mercury, lead and arsenic in the Athabasca River. Their findings challenge data found in government reports and are an indication that the tar sands industry has had a significant impact on the Athabasca River. Local fishermen have realized that migratory species such as ducks no longer land where they used to and have even found fish that were deformed or had lumps on them. The report will become available in the scientific journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Science'. The team has recommended that monitoring must be improved in order to properly assess and control the industry’s impact on the environment. In a press conference on Monday the Edmonton Journal reported Dr. Schindler saying:

"There's no way industry can be belching out hundreds of kilograms of toxins every year and this not be detectable in the environment unless the monitoring program is totally incompetent." ... All of this is in clear violation of the Fisheries Act. The Fisheries Act is not based on amounts released or concentrations in the river; it just says flatly that there will be no deposition of any deleterious substance to a river or near enough to a river to get into it. Period. ... You have to ask where is Environment Canada on all of this? ... You have to wonder why do we have money for propaganda and not for proper science? Government has been putting money into their propaganda campaign to tell people everything is OK. I just think that's not the way democracy should work. If people can see what's really going on and they still choose to develop in the oilsands that's democracy. But making people think that everything's OK when it really isn't and therefore getting them to agree to this is not the way the government of this country or this province was set up to work.
Both the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) and Alberta Environment are challenging Dr. Schindler's results. Alberta Environment would like to look at supplementary data before making comparisons and Fred Kuzmic from RAMP has said that such high levels are 'associated with naturally occurring compounds'. According to Dr. Schindler, RAMP, an industry led group overseeing the river's water quality, should be replaced with Environment Canada.  

Syncrude – Guilty for the Deaths of Over 1,600 Ducks!
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Syncrude – Guilty for the Deaths of Over 1,600 Ducks!

Photo: David Dodge
Last Friday, June 25, 2010, Syncrude Canada was found guilty for the death of over 1,600 ducks that dove into the tar sands giant 12 km2 tailings pond north of Fort McMurray in Alberta. The company was charged under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for failing to avoid dumping hazardous waste in wildlife’s way and under the Migratory Birds Convention Act for allowing hazardous waste to be deposited in areas visited by migratory birds. Syncrude has requested a hearing, saying that both charges are unfair. The hearing is scheduled for August 20, 2010. Upon completion of the hearing, a sentence will be given for one or both charges. Potential fines could be in the amount of $500,000 to the provincial and $300,000 to the federal government. Syncrude claims the weather conditions at the time would not have permitted them to place the right deterrents although several of its employees stated that the company was not adequately equipped and was understaffed when it came to bird deterrent activities. Judge Ken Tjosvold also stated that Syncrude could have prepared their bird deterrent in advance and that "it was reasonable to take those precautions and Syncrude did not." Help us make sure tragedies like this one don't happen again. Sign Nature Canada's petition to stop the tar sands! The case began as a private case that was initially filed by a Sierra Club member and later taken over by the provincial government.

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