Audubon’s Warbler. Photo by Rebekah Verbeek.
Birds of a Feather in Conservation
Why do we conduct bird surveys or contribute data on our feathered friends?
We conduct bird surveys or contribute data at A Rocha for 2 main reasons. First, we know that “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Second, we have been given the mandate in Genesis to protect and serve God’s world. When this protection and service is lived out practically and taken seriously we realize that we need to know this world and the ecosystems as a whole. This is where surveys and data collection come in. Surveys and monitoring help to provide information on different aspects of God’s wonderfully intricate creation so that we can make informed decisions that align with these values of service and protection that God calls us into. It is because A Rocha so strongly holds to these values that we are compelled into this work.
With that in mind, we want to share some of the good work that has been going on across Canada!
Back in January, seven volunteers came out to the Boreal Ecology Centre to participate in our first Christmas Bird Count. It was a trial count because we did not officially register with the ongoing Christmas Bird Count project (fun fact: it’s over a 100 years old!). We did, however, treat it like a real bird count. We went out in groups and explored a 24 km radius straining to see and hear the birds present in this area. We had a great day as we were able to identify 19 different species and a total count of 421 birds. The highlight for Scott Gerbrandt, Manitoba Director, was the moment when he was held by the gaze of a Great Gray Owl. This majestic bird was perched atop a medium sized white spruce tree bending the tip by his weight, gracefully offering him a mutual moment of observation.
As we continue to create online programming content, we have been putting together YouTube tutorials to introduce folks to birding at the Cedar Haven Eco-Centre. Two of our summer student workers, Jeremy and Claire, have been wonderful hosts so far on our birding for everyone videos. More recently, they showed us around Cedar Haven and taught us about the 33 nest boxes set up by A Rocha to support species at risk. Nest boxes support populations in decline and also allows people to monitor the birds and share this valuable data. If you watch for long enough, you will get to see some recently-hatched eggs!
Brooksdale Environmental Centre
We participated recently in a published study on hummingbirds and bees by helping collect samples of cloacal fluid from hummingbirds. According to Bishop et al. (2020, p. 2), certain insecticides are known to have neurotoxic effects on birds and are associated with population declines of insectivorous birds, such as swallows. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to determine concentrations of certain insecticides in various places over time in Western Canada (Bishop et al., 2020, p. 1-2). Being rooted in our place, we have hosted hummingbird banding and sampling on-site at Brooksdale for the past few years and the research is continuing annually; we are even hosting honey bee hives as a part of the research this year!
Bishop, C.A., Woundneh, M.B., Maisonneuve, F., Common, J., Elliot, J.E., Moran, J.A. (2020). “Determination of neonicotinoids and butenolide residues in avian and insect pollinators and their ambient environment in Western Canada (2017, 2018).” Science of the Total Environment, 737. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139386
Upper Bulkley River Project
This year was our 5th Annual Houston Birdblitz, and it was a little different than usual! It turned out to be the best ever, both in terms of species seen and participants. Due to COVID-19 we decided to have less public involvement and instead, depend on experienced birders to divide up the area and go in groups of 2 or 3. Nine experienced birder watchers walked 6 km and drove almost 100 km over a period of 48 hours on May 23rd and 25th, 2020. All the usual places were visited including a beautiful lake on private property (with the owners permission of course), an old Duck’s Unlimited pond behind one of the local businesses, the Osprey nest in the log yard of the sawmill, the nature trails near A Rocha’s fish hatchery project and the local Duck Pond. The public was still invited to submit sightings from their back yard either by uploading them to the iNaturalist project, posting pictures on our Facebook page, or emailing us directly.
It was a great way to engage people while they stayed at home during the pandemic. We had 8 backyard birdwatchers send in over 80 sightings which helped us pick up some of the more common species that we missed on the walk-abouts. When all was said and done 325 sightings were recorded on iNaturalist comprising of 96 different species. One of the backyard birders wrote:
“The Mountain bluebird was the highlight! Or maybe the Wester Tanager… We put some sunflower seeds out that attracted the Pine Siskin, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch…It was a fun challenge. Thanks!”
Photos from the BirdBlitz by Rebekah Verbeek