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Proposed National Wildlife Area: Lac St. Pierre
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Proposed National Wildlife Area: Lac St. Pierre

Written by intern Gabriel Planas. What is it? Lac St.-Pierre is a widening of the St. Lawrence River 75 Km downstream from Montreal and about 120 km from Quebec City.  Lac St. Pierre is considered the furthest inland where there is still a distinct tidal effect. The lake is shallow, rarely reaching depths greater than 3m.  Aquatic plants are abundant with many species such as Water Celery. These factors make Lac St. Pierre excellent habitat for fish species at risk such as Lake Sturgeon, Copper Red Horse and Striped Bass. Lac St. Pierre has four IBAs that provide habitat for tremendous numbers of waterfowl and other species.  Between 500,000 and one million Greater Snow Geese annually migrate over lac St. Pierre, most of them stopping for many days. [caption id="attachment_37178" align="alignright" width="470"] Great Blue Heron[/caption] On an island on the west side of the Lac is one of the largest heronries in North America, with over one thousand pairs of Great Blue Herons, as well as populations of Black-crowned Night Heron and Great Egret. The wetland contain significant numbers of the at-risk Least Bittern, and the lake also supports continentally significant numbers of waterfowl such as Black Scoter. Some of the lake’s wetlands are also believed to be a significant roost site for swallow species prior to their fall migrations to the south. Issues: There are a number of issues facing Lac St. Pierre that have affected water quality and wildlife habitat. Oil or chemical spills from ships using the St. Lawrence Seaway which passes directly through Lac St. Pierre, is a constant threat due to the high volume of shipping. Dredging of sediments in Lac St. Pierre to keep the lanes open has damaged and destroyed fish and mollusk habitat and released chemicals and heavy metals into the water, exceeding safety limits. Surface water tests often find high amounts of metals such as aluminum, chromium, copper and Iron. Intensive agricultural operations around Lac St. Pierre release fertilizers and other chemicals into the numerous tributaries emptying into Lac St. Pierre resulting in serious pollution issues. Extensive wetlands around the lake have been drained for conversion to agricultural resulting in loss of wetland habitat, impacting migratory bird and fish; populations of Pickerel and yellow perch. What is being done? On the bright side, the importance of Lac St. Pierre to nature conservation is recognized. The area has four IBAs (Important Bird Area). The area is also part of the Lac St.-Pierre Biosphere Reserve, as designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The Biosphere Reserve is aimed at engaging people in environmental and educational activities to help in its conservation. Additionally, the RAMSAR Convention, which aims to help the conservation and management of wetlands, has recognized this area as a wetland of international importance.  The Quebec and Federal governments recognize Lac St. Pierre as a high priority conservation area.   Despite the best of intentions, protection of this area primarily only extends to bird populations or limited wetland conservation projects. Nature Canada supports efforts to protect Lac St. Pierre as a National Wildlife Area.

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The king of waters meeting the landmark of the city!
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The king of waters meeting the landmark of the city!

[caption id="attachment_32848" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Pete Poovanna Pete Poovanna, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog is written by guest blogger Pete Poovanna. It was Friday evening mid-summer in Vancouver. As most of my friends headed to weekend downtown parties, I decided to take my camera to the sea wall of English bay under the majestic Lions Gate Bridge. To many locals, the Lions Gate Bridge feels part of the fabric of the city and over the years the Lions Gate Bridge has become a landmark of Vancouver. The summer air cooled under the bridge and it was getting gloomy, a very different feeling to the bridge deck, with its tremendous views of downtown. A Great Blue Heron lands along the English Bay as the sun sets over the majestic Lions Gate Bridge. I’m a big fan of herons, I think they’re among the most alluring and charismatic of birds and also among the most fascinating in terms of their majestic outlook. And I must mention here that I consider the Great Blue Heron as the king of waters! Vancouver is also home to one of the largest urban Great Blue Heron colonies in North America. The Great Blue Heron was patiently waiting for its prey as I set my tripod and camera to capture this great bird in the backdrop of the majestic bridge. This blue Heron continued to wait and was catching the last rays of a setting sun and allowing me to capture this wonderful moment as long as I wanted. I loved the lights illuminated over the bridge and the summer pink flowers adding colour behind the Great Blue Heron and the tiny stones were illuminated by the sunset. After a few frames, it flew over the bridge. [caption id="attachment_32847" align="aligncenter" width="599"]great-blue-heron A Great Blue Heron by Pete Poovanna[/caption] For me, this moment became a very key moment. It was the culmination of two great things: the landmark of the city and the king of waters. A bit more information on the landmark and the king of the waters: Landmark: The Lions Gate Bridge is designated as National Historic Sites of Canada! The bridge is often used in television broadcasts as a symbol of Vancouver; most telecasts of NHL hockey games played in Vancouver show the bridge at least once. The bridge is the namesake of locally founded film company Lionsgate. King of waters: Herons are supreme fishermen, living near rivers, lakes and estuaries. They have been nesting in various locations in Vancouver as far back as 1921 according to the Stanley Park Ecology Society. There are five subspecies of Great Blue Heron, and on of them, the Pacific Great Blue Heron, is listed as special concern. You can learn all you need to know about this amazing bird here.

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The Heron Spirals: Book celebrates Mud Lake’s resident wading birds
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The Heron Spirals: Book celebrates Mud Lake’s resident wading birds

[caption id="attachment_1632" align="alignleft" width="300"]The author reading from her book at the Britannia Yacht Club launch event. The author reading from her book at the Britannia Yacht Club launch event.[/caption] Last week Nature Canada had the great pleasure of cosponsoring a launch for Canadian author Caroline Balderston Parry's latest book, The Heron Spirals: A Commonplace Book. The launch event was held at the beautiful Britannia Yacht Club, right inside the Lac Deschênes - Ottawa River IBA, and was enjoyed by more than 50 people from the area. Both the Yacht Club and the Britannia Village Community Association helped to sponsor and publicize the launch. Balderston Parry's book is a journey through a bittersweet 15-year period in her adult life surrounding the sudden loss of her husband, through which the Great Blue Herons of Mud Lake, Ottawa – a natural gem of the Lac Deschênes - Ottawa River IBA – provided her spiritual support and an opportunity to commune with nature near her home.  Her journey is depicted through an artful mélange of evocative diary entries, poetry, song and beautiful bird illustrations by artist Roderick MacIver, founder of Heron Dance Art Studio. In some ways both the structure and prose of The Heron Spirals reminded me of Canadian author Graeme Gibson's bestselling work The Bedside Book of Birds - An Avian Miscellany, though Balderston Parry's work is more reflective and emotive, documenting a first person journey through the healing and inspirational powers of birds and nature. The following are passages from The Heron Spirals:

I stand up and watch the ducks flap out of the water, awkward and noisy in contrast to the great blues' [herons] silent rising; the ducks' wing movements actually whistle – in a rusty, inefficient-sounding way –as they go. Herons, in comparison, seem so deliberate and slow, so sure. It's as if they decide to move on merely because their human observers are being inconsiderate. They may fly off, but prudently, never in a panic like the ducks literally "in a flap". Despite their size, those great grey wings are hushed, and when the herons quonk at me, they may seem annoyed in a superior way, but not to scold out of fear, like their smaller feathered fellows. from 'Mid-September 1996', p. 118.
A huge feathered bird, rising from a murky swamp, doesn't seem to be the same as a caring pair of arms. Yet when I see the motionless profile of a patient heron, my thoughts move on from the knowledge that the Sacred is somehow my still point, spiral on through a consciousness of Spirit as bedrock, to an awareness of being held while growing, being safe while taking risks. Above all, I rejoice in a sense of being encouraged and cherished by the Divine arms — or Divine wings!  from 'First Spiral - Before', p. 49.
For information on how to purchase The Heron Spirals please visit Caroline's website. An e-book is currently in development. In Caroline's own words inscribed in Nature Canada's copy of her book, "heron blessings".

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