Tag Archives: migratory bird

Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Monday April 4 2011

Goose feeding on vegitation


The importance of Birds is not just contained in their visible and valuable components of biodiversity ! Their importance lies in the fact that they are representatives of Ecological Health. And, Birds inspire an Ecological Approach to Conservation. The operative word here it “TO.” Bird Conservation is a field in the Science of Conservation in Biology related to threatened birds. From a socio-economic perspective, birds and their migrations have motivated incredible international co-operation, which for waterfowl has translated into millions of $ in wetland habitat conservation efforts across the continent. Birds link us to the natural world every day – even in the most urban settings. Birds keep our ecosystems running smoothly by controlling rodents and insect pests, scavenging wastes and pollinating plants. The truth is that healthy bird populations suggest healthy habitats for all species. Of the 431 species of Canadian Breeding Birds, 9% are Waterfowl, 18% are Waterbirds, and 10% are Shorebirds. Currently one in eight of the world’s birds are threatened with global extinction, and of the 431 bird species that regularly breed in Canada, 60 are classified as at risk. In waterfowl, there are 35 species of ducks, geese and swans that spend at least part of each year in Canada.

Mallard duck


The recruitment and morality rates of waterfowl vary in response to weather, climate, habitat loss, competition for resources, environmental contamination and other factors, and these factors also pertain to other species. However, waterfowl differ from most other bird populations in being subject to mortality from hunting. The Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research (WWR) is the scientific research arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada. Some species of sea-ducks, continue to experience long-term declines. But, in contrast, Snow Geese have become so abundant that they may endanger other wild life through their effects on habitat. April is a great time to look for migrating shorebirds, which can be seen on shallow wetlands, like Cootes Paradise Wetland (formerly Dundas Marsh). Given that Waterfowl cover only 9% of Canada’s 431 Breeding Birds, efforts for waterfowl conservation are expanding to include all birds. The North American Bird conservation Initiative is about this expansion.

Ducks heading north
Ducks in Cootes Paradise

In the early 1900s, North American birds were at risk from unregulated hunting pressures and marketing. The response to this was the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaties between Canada and U.S., and in 1936 between U.S. and Mexico. In the 1980s (30 years ago) Waterfowl populations declined so drastically due to habitat loss (drought) in Western Canada, that an international response was initiated to protect wetland and upland habitats – critical for Waterfowl populations and survival. This resulted in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The present status of many Waterfowl species is very good, with populations at or near the international goals agreed to under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Part of the success of (NAWMP) continues to be facilitated by legislation in the U.S. that enables millions of U.S. $ into Canada (to be matched) for wetland associated upland conservation.

Soon to fly north


Based on the history of co-operation, conservationists from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, along with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation worked together to develop the response – the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). the (NABCI) vision is populations and habitats of North America’s birds protected, restored and enhanced through co-ordinated efforts at international, national, regional and local levels, guided by sound science and effective management. The (NABCI) goal is to deliver the full spectrum of Bird Conservation through regionally based, biologically driven, landscape-oriented partnerships. The Canadian (NABCI) Model includes: NAWMP (Wetlands, Waterfowl), Partners In Flight (Uplands, Landbirds), Shorebird Plan (WHSRN sites, Shorebirds), Wings over Water (Waterbirds) for an integrated action plan and joint venture delivery system in a co-ordinated approach to Bird Conservation. This developed formed 67 Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) across the continent. Canada’s BCRs tend to be larger than the others, and orient themselves on an east-west basis, crossing many jurisdictions. For example, Ontario’s Boreal Forest BCR 8 has the highest breeding landbirds at one billion; and the Non-Boreal Forest BCR 12 has 40 million breeding birds using this landscape.

Canadian geese in flight
Canadian geese


So how does NABCI work at BCR level ? Basically, it determines biological and strategic priorities and population goals for species – waterfowl, landbirds, shorebirds, waterbirds. Bill Lamond said abut the Hamilton Fall Bird Count taken on the last day in the count window (Nov. 7th, 2,010) that “it produced at total of 126 species the lowest total since 2,00 when 125 species were recorded…I was expecting a fairly high species total in the range of 140+ species as there had not been any intense cold weather to push lingering birds out.” Although the results were disappointing, but there were great highlights, like the Purple Sandpiper spotted on the rocks at Fifty Point, Grimsby on Lake Ontario. And, the Semipalmated Sandpiper was documented in 2,010 at Dundas Marsh (Cootes Paradise), Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbourfront, the Red Hill Expressway and QEW Stormwater Pond, and Campbellville Road. and Millboroug Line. The Common Loon, one was spotted off LaSalle Marina, seven off Sioux Lookout Park, six at Shoracres, 5 at Burloak Park, and one at Bronte Harbour. There were two nests of Red-necked Grebes at Bronte Harbour with eggs, and 13 Red-necked Grebes at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington. The Green Heron was spotted at the Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbour and a pair were at a nest at the Millgrove Loam Pits.

Mute swan hamilton

“You have to believe in happiness, Or happiness never comes…, Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing – On his darkest day he believes in Spring.” by Douglas Mallock

Waterfowl conservation

Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative by Brigitte Collins, Eastern Habitat Joint venture Canadian Wildlife Service Ontario Region; April Birding; Nature Canada; Environment Canada; the Wood Duck

Woodland duck



By Jacqueline


Doug Worrall Photography

Endangered Spring Migration It’s All About Timing

Endangered Spring Migration It’s All About Timing

Monday March 14 2011

Red-Breasted Merganser


Just as scientists are beginning to answer basic questions about migration, many migratory birds and other animals are in trouble

Are you starting to see some of your favorite birds come back from their wintering grounds? As the seasons change, many bird species come and go in the natural phenomenon of migration. Today, scientists are just beginning to answer some of the most basic questions about migration. But a shadow hangs over their research: Many migratory birds—and other migratory animals–are in trouble.


Waterfowl in danger

Spring Migration begins

Migration all year

What is migration? Many creatures wander, but only some are true migrants. Most biologists define migration as repeated seasonal movement between breeding and non-breeding grounds by the same individuals.

How far do birds migrate? Thanks to tracking devices, we now know the astounding distances that some migrating species travel. For sheer distance, nothing beats migrating birds. Sooty shearwaters astonished scientists by flying more than 40,000 miles in a loop from New Zealand to Chile, Japan, Alaska and California before a trans-Pacific trip back to New Zealand. The birds averaged more than 200 miles per day for 200 days.

Longest Known Non-stop Bird Flight: The real migration champ was a bar-tailed godwit that flew 6,340 miles nonstop between New Zealand and North Korea, where it rested briefly before continuing nearly a thousand additional miles to its breeding grounds in Alaska.


Migratory Birds

There are a range of techniques migrating birds use to navigate:

* Earth’s magnetic field: This was discovered by a series of experiments in the mid-1970s which reversed magnetic fields around songbirds, triggering them to fly the wrong direction. It is now known that some 50 species including birds follow magnetic pathways.
*Circadian clocks: innate temporal rhythms in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of all living things, from plants to birds
*Internal compasses: Using the sun or stars as a compass to determine direction
*Smells: Some birds, including pigeons, use olfactory clues to find their way.
*Geographical features such as mountain ranges and coastlines. Most migrants seem to rely on a combination of these techniques depending on conditions.

Migratory bird
Some stay all year
First signs in north america

“The nonbreeding season drives a lot of what happens during rest of the annual cycle,” says Peter Marra, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. That cycle’s middle stages—the actual travel—remain terra incognita to scientists. The sheer number of habitats used at different points during migration presents a formidable challenge to conserving migratory birds.

The recently announced ICARUS Initiative will launch a satellite devoted to migratory animals and develop tiny, powerful transmitters that will allow researchers to follow creatures as small as insects across broad stretches of time and space.


The sights and sounds

*Habitat loss and degradation. The habitats of migratory species nearly everywhere are under pressure from deforestation, farming and expanding human populations. Human-made obstacles also hinder travel. In many cities, skyscrapers, for example, kill migratory songbirds.
* Global warming. Researchers are reporting new behaviors among migratory animals worldwide that may stem from changing climate—shifts in breeding ranges, mistiming of cues and departures, for example. “Since the wintering habitats are changing at different rates than more northerly habitats, things can get really of out sync,” says the Smithsonian’s Marra.

Out of whack: In the Netherlands, some populations of pied flycatcher have crashed because the birds are arriving from African wintering grounds too late to feast on a once predictable bounty of caterpillars. Higher springtime temperatures in Europe are causing the insects to hatch earlier than they once did.


Trumpeter and Tundra swan native species
Mute Swans adapt well

No one knows. Recently, some birds have shown flexibility by changing routes or timing or breeding sites in response to new environmental conditions. In the Midwest, for instance, ducks are arriving later in the fall and resting longer before continuing south, perhaps in response to higher temperatures.

Along the east coast of Massachusetts, where temperatures are rising and the insects on which birds feed on hatching sooner, 8 of 32 migratory songbirds looked at have begun arriving earlier from their wintering grounds—primarily species that winter in the southern United States as opposed to farther away in the Tropics.

“But I think it would be dangerous to assume that all species can adapt,” says Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove. As Wilcove writes in his book No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations, “The irony is that just as the phenomenon of migration is slipping away, we are entering a golden age for studying it.”

Spring Migration: It’s All About Timing

Timing and luck

From January to June, each migratory species has its own special time to return to summer breeding grounds
Somewhere in North America, there is probably some kind of migratory movement of birds every day. But spring migration—the mass movement of birds toward their breeding grounds—happens with predictable timing each year. The precise local timing varies, of course, with latitude and elevation. “Early spring” might mean early February in the southernmost states, late March or early April in the north, or even May in the far north and high mountains.

Mass Migrations

Among the first groups of birds to move north are waterfowl: ducks, geese, and swans may begin migrating as soon as frozen lakes and marshes start to thaw. Even in the northern Provinces, flocks of waterfowl may arrive in late February. Also on the move this early are some species that migrate mostly within North America, spending the winter as far north as they can. They include killdeer and red-winged blackbirds.

Some birds of prey also start to migrate in early spring. Bald eagles, rough-legged hawks and red-shouldered hawks are actively moving north even while wintry conditions still prevail.

Other surprisingly early migrants include purple martins, returning from South America and reaching Florida and Texas by late January and making it to northern states by the end of March.

Blue heron nesting zone

Many native sparrows tend to be early migrants, with large numbers moving in southern states in March and in northern states by early April. Kinglets and sapsuckers are in this moderately early wave as well. And most blackbirds move north during the first half of the spring.


Shorebirds (sandpipers, plovers and their relatives) have a protracted migration, with some species represented among the earliest and latest migrants. Pectoral sandpipers and American golden-plovers, wintering in South America, come back to southern provinces by the end of February and reach northern provinces by March. Many other species migrate later, with peak passage in most areas during April and May. Long-distance migrants that winter in southern South America, white-rumped sandpipers peak in  central Canada and  United States in late May or early June.

Southern Ontario


The great northward flood of songbirds that have wintered in the tropics—including warblers, tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks, orioles, vireos and thrushes—occurs primarily during April and May, filling North American woodlands with color, song and activity. For many birders, warblers are particular favorites; there are several places in the country where you can see more than 30 species of these tiny, colorful gems during the course of the season.

Deer Migration Huge

By early June, aside from a few shorebirds and straggling songbirds, spring migration is over across most of North America. This is when birders turn their attention to local nesting species—and get ready to watch for the first of the fall migrants, which in some areas start showing up by early July.

New Born signet
Mute swan
Refections of spring

Sources: National Wildlife Foundation, Wikipedia


Doug Worrall Photography


THE YEAR in  RETROSPECT NATURAL BEAUTY  HAMILTON December 29 2010 Natural Beauty is Year-Long in Hamilton

Pen resting

Each day now gets longer since the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21st. Here is wishing you “Happy New Year in review with 100 Images from Elements Photo-blog. Hamilton has it all ! There is big city appeal and small town quaintness in the region of Hamilton. Very few places on Earth have the variety of natural beauty available year-round in Hamilton. It is a natural splendour unparalleled with picturesque trails, paths, waterfalls and a unique wetland and Carolina Forest. Spring and Summer are the best times to explore the various local conservation areas in and around Hamilton. That is to say, put a little blue and green in your life. Heading to Hamilton Harbourfront, which is a naturally protected landlocked body of water that was created during the glaciations period, the first photograph with my camera lens consisted of water, rocks and plenty of green trees. From this experience, it became like a daily escape to Paradise for me, mainly at Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Waterfront. Hamilton Harbour is a unique and busy working shipping port, and, one of the most decentralized ones in Canada subject to little government intervention. There are many varieties of thistles, bull rushes, and gypsy moths, butterflies, bees and other nature items to photograph along Hamilton’s Waterfront trail in all seasons. Just past Pier 8 is the Haiada Battleship for all to observe, and it is maintained by Veterans.

You cant see me

Cootes Paradise, a natural treasure, the marsh ecosystems of the 250 hectare has many hiking trails through it. Here, 250 species of breeding and migratory birds can be found along with several fish species and turtles. This wetland preserve we are blessed to have since it is one of the last remnants of the Carolina Forest in Canada. Deer can be frequently spotted towards the Dundas Valley and in Hamilton Harbourfront. Scientists are constantly battling invasive fish and plants in Cootes Paradise. McMaster University and the RBG Fishway are two examples of scientists working on things like reduction of carp, and identification of two male goby fish helping the community by reducing these invasive creatures and invasive plants. Cootes Paradise viewed from the #403 highway from Burlington to Princess Point give you the feeling of being in Northern Ontario, with the water and greenery. This picturesque centerpiece is what you see entering the west-end of Hamilton, and it is picturesque view. . Hamilton Harbourfront, and especially the trail, goes all the way to the east-end Burlington beach strip.The revitalization of Hamilton Harbour has made great strides since 1990 – 2,010 and is concentrating in becoming a leader in water quality innovation. When that is accomplished we can say with pride, Hamilton Harbour is an inspiration. Seasonal patterns of water quality are driven by biological activity. That is, by reducing phosphorous loadings, limited algal growth will become more prevalent. In the Summertime and Autumn, there are many festivals in Hamilton Harbourfront Park, but I especially enjoyed photographing the Pride Week with their Concert and Festival.

Cootes Paradise Wetlands

In the 1920’s H.B. Dunnington-Grubb Landscape Architects designed the 30 hectares in Hamilton’s popular urban park, Gage Park. This park contains perennial and rose gardens, tropical and production greenhouse, fountain, bandshell, lawn bowling, tennis clubs, baseball fields, children’s playground and the Hamilton Children’s Museum. Annually, Gage Park greenhouse puts on the Mum Show in November. Even during the winter months, the Tropical Greenhouse of Gage Park contains diverse world of verdant plants in its 6,000 sq. ft. and boasts its Banana Plant. There are trailing vines, colourful bulbs, water lilies, lotus, waterfall and two red-eared Slider Turtles. They use the IPM (Integrated Management Program) and Crptolaemus, a biological beneficial insect has been released to control mealybug in the tropical greenhouse. The bandshell at Gage Park is utilized frequently, and one I enjoyed photographing was the Festival of Friends music in the bandshell.

awake asleep

Of the many sites and sounds in Hamilton’s natural outdoor beauty, following the Mute Swans at Hamilton Harbour for the last six months has been a unique photographic nature-photographer experience for me. At first I photographed the fist Swan Family that had 9 eggs and 5 hatched, but something got one of them, and there were four cygnets. But, another Mute Swan family I first photographed on June 15th was very late making their nesting and laying their eggs. I called the Pen Mute Swan “Swanny” and the Cob “Swanny’s Mate.’ The six eggs Swanny laid, culminated in four cygnets being born on June 28th . From that time, I photographed almost daily Swan’s family from incubation, hatching, first swim, learning to forage, and learning to fly. They are still at the Harbourfront in a protected area during the harsh winds of December. This Mute Swan family I am still following over the winter months.

Signet sentinels

And, as a fisherman, I met many interesting people along Hamilton’s Harbourfront and Cootes Paradise Wetland. Some, like Terry, a native Canadian share fishing spots and tips. Many people have that I have met along the Harbourfront Trail have enhanced my photographic experience, on my journey. And, in June I met Jacqueline from “Beacon On Nature” who became a writer for Elements Photoblog. Invasive fish fascinated Jacqeline, and she unravelled how fish assist scientific understanding as a tiny striped fish helped them to unravel one of the biggest mysteries in biology – the genes responsible for skin colour – such as, the whiteline insertion in old zebra fish. This occurs by spatial patterning of the cells. Spencer Creek Watershed being the largest in Cootes Paradise, Jacqueline spent a lot of time researching the current fish in Spencer Creek and the effects of the 2,007 fire in Dundas. One issue was how do the Salmon and Trout from Hamilton Harbour get up the Spencer Creek Watershed. When a student at McMaster, Jacqueline used to study at the Mac Landing The site of the plant community program and saw the enclosures where eight plant species had been planted for the Harbour/Cootes polluted water, but unfortunately only three of the eight species survived – arrowheads, cattails and bulrushes. As a McMaster Alumni Jacqueline poured over Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology and Engineering books and journals on many subjects for Elements Photoblog. Art and Art History and Photography books were also incorporated in the writings.A highlight for Jacqueline was photographing the Rural Routes Bus Trips, a new venture in Hamilton. This was run by HSR and Eat Local, they informed Jacqueline her photos of the Apple Orchards in Carluke would be put on their website and she would be credited as the photographer.One of the fun times that reminded Jacqueline of Hawaii, was photographing the Pig Roast at Lake Erie. Therefore, as we look back on 2,010 I encourage you to explore our natural environment in Hamilton as we celebrate “Happy New Year” 2.011.

Canada Day 2010

[cincopa AoDAZYKswJoO]

By Jaqueline

Doug Worrall Photographer