Another year and the annual Spring Migration is on its way in Hamilton.
I have been out on my ebike this year and have noticed an increase in Mergansers and Grebs.
Ways To Help Spring’s Migrating Birds
Despite persistent late-occurring snowstorms, average temperatures are starting to climb, soon to be followed by the most deadly period of the year for birds: springtime. Although spring means new life and hope to many people, billions of birds face the tribulations of a perilous migration followed shortly by breeding and the production of scores of newbornbirds that will spend several highly vulnerable weeks as they grow and fledge.
According to Dr. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, “Spring is a deadly time for birds for three big reasons. Scientists estimate that 300 million to one billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings, many during arduous migrations in unfamiliar environments. Up to 50 million die from encounters with communication towers and up to six million may die each day from attacks by cats left outdoors. These deaths occur year-round, but many occur during spring and fall migration.”
Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home,” he said, “succumbing to various threats on either end of the journey.”
One in five Americans engage in bird watching, so after months of waiting for migrants to return, many people turn to emails, phone lines, and social media to ask ABC a dozen variations on the same question: “How can I help the birds?” Here is our answer to that question, just in time for spring.
1. Keep your cat indoors
2. Prevent birds from hitting your windows
3. Eliminate pesticides from your yard
4. Buy organic food and drink Smithsonian-certified Bird Friendly Coffee
Prior to the 20th century, the nutrient-rich, shallow waters of Cootes Paradise thrived as a coastal freshwater marsh habitat. Almost 100 percent of Cootes Paradise was covered with emergent aquatic plants like wild rice and submergent plants like wild celery, providing food, shelter and migration stop-overs for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. The lush wetland also provided ideal spawning, nursery and adult habitat for many fish like bass, perch, pike, herring and trout. This lead to its protection, first as a fish sanctuary in the 1870’s, and then as a wildlife preserve in 1927, and finally through the formation of the Royal Botanical Gardens in the 1930’s.
The plentiful flora and fauna of Great Lakes coastal freshwater marshes did not go unnoticed by settlers in the 1800s. Cootes Paradise and its surrounding natural habitats offered abundant fishing and hunting opportunities, fertile farmland and convenient access to water. However, human settlement of Hamilton Harbour and its surrounding natural lands brought with it several Stressor’s that, over time, had a cumulative impact on the natural abundance of Cootes Paradise and neighboring lower Grindstone Creek marshes. Throughout Cootes Paradise’s watersheds, agricultural practices and residential, commercial and industrial development contaminated connecting creeks with sewage effluent, eroded soil and sediment and chemical runoff and destabilized flow patterns. In 1852 the Desjardins Canal, a shipping channel dissecting the marsh was recut through the centre of Burlington Heights directly connecting the marsh to the lake water levels, and disconnecting it from the Grindstone Creek marshes. In 1957 the lake water level became regulated with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway further disrupting natural water cycles in the marsh.
Introduced European and Asian species thrived in this altered environment. Among the first non native species (1870’s) the common carp was purposely introduced as a replacement for the disappearing salmon. The feeding and spawning behaviors of non-native carp uprooted and destroyed marsh plants and re-suspended sediment muddying the waters. By the end of the 19th century, in addition to the rapidly rising carp population, exotic plant species like purple loose-strife and reed manna grass, also purposely introduced to North America, began successfully out-competing and eradicating, native plants in the wet meadow areas.
As human pressures on the watersheds increased, the decline in the health and biodiversity of Cootes Paradise became markedly visible. By the 1930s Cootes Paradise experienced a 15% permanent reduction in marsh vegetation, and by 1985 the level of plant loss reached 85% of its original coverage. This permanent loss of aquatic flora had a direct negative impact on water quality and the fish and wildlife inhabitants and economies of Lake Ontario. Since its dramatic decline began the Garden’s has been focused on restoring Cootes Paradise, with carp removal first attempted in the 1950’s.
Concerns over environmental degradation led the International Joint Commission to designate Hamilton Harbour as one of 42 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. In 1986, the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was initiated to address this environmental degradation in the Harbour and key remaining areas like Cootes Paradise and lower Grindstone Creek. Under this plan, a variety of new conservation projects and monitoring programs have been implemented by a variety of stakeholders to control pollution, restore and improve fish and wildlife habitat and communicate the health status of the wetlands.
For the last four years, I have been Biking the Harbourfront trail, Hiking into Cootes Paradise and learning more each day.As you notice, the Wildlife seem’s to be getting better in our wetlands.
On Sunday August 18 2013 I saw a large bird in middle of a lake -What a shock to understand it was a PELICAN, I never had an idea that Pelicans would ever come this far off-course, they do go up to North Bay, Southern Ontario is quite out of there way.These images were taken in Hamilton Canada , the lake is actually a wetlands called Cootes Paradise. The Harbourfront Trail runs into Cootes paradise from Harbourfront Park. Hamilton has a Harbour that is part of the Lake Ontario Ecosystem-very close too Toronto Canada.
Below is some interesting information, and Images, Enjoy
The American White Pelican is a very large bird weighing about 6-7 kg, with white feathers and black wing tips. It has a large orange-yellow bill and pouch, a short, stout tail, webbed feet and a wingspan of up to three metres. Juvenile birds have greyish feathers during their first summer and autumn. This bird usually does not stray far from the water.
American White Pelicans are found across the north-central and western United States. In Canada, they are found from the interior of British Columbia, east to northwestern Ontario. These birds migrate south to the Gulf Coast states and Mexico. Ontario has about 10 per cent of the world’s population of American White Pelicans.
American White Pelicans nest in groups on remote islands that are barren or sparsely treed located in lakes, reservoirs, or on large rivers. Remote islands offer eggs and chicks some protection from predators. Pelicans nest in slight depressions in the ground with sticks and vegetation piled up around them. Their diet is mainly fish.
Changes in water levels can have a major impact on breeding American White Pelicans. High water levels can flood nests whereas low water levels can make nesting colonies susceptible to more predators, such as coyotes, through land-bridges. Disease (e.g., avian botulism and West Nile) and human disturbance are also threats. American White Pelicans are also susceptible to shooting, oil spills and water contamination on their southern wintering grounds.
The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the American White Pelican . You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere.
Sources: Wikipedia-The Ministry of Natural Resoursces