The Plight of the Red Knot

January 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

Breeding in the Canadian Artic and wintering in Argentina and Chile, red knots undertake an epic migration journey of around 9,300 miles (15,000 km) twice every year. In order to complete the voyage successfully, red knots (Calidris canutus) require top quality food sources, and previously they have found this in abundance in the shape of horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay. However, it’s been noted that red knot numbers have declined drastically since the turn of the century, with one of the main reasons being the decline in horseshoe crabs that have been harvested for commercial gain. Without sufficient fuel, these medium-sized shorebirds may not make it back to their Arctic breeding grounds, or if they do, they may be too weak to breed successfully, and considering that nearly 90 percent of the red knot population use Delaware Bay on their migration route, the lack of food could result in the species becoming endangered, or extinct.

Recognizing this problem, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have proposed that red knots be classified as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Data reveals that there has been about a 75 percent decline in red knot numbers since the 1980s, with the rate of decline increasing sharply after the year 2000, coinciding with the decline in horseshoe crab populations. Red knots arrive at Delaware Bay just as horseshoe crabs arrive on the beaches to lay their eggs in shallow holes they dig in the sand. Each female lays up to 120,000 eggs in batches, which are then fertilized by the male that hitched a ride on her back to the beach. Shorebirds, including the red knot, eat many thousands of these protein rich eggs in the two week period before they hatch.

When red knots arrive at Delaware Bay, they are quite exhausted and emaciated. They need to rebuild their strength and stock up on fat reserves for the arduous journey ahead. As they feast on the eggs, they undergo a number of interesting physiological changes. As documented by the FWS, these include an increase in fat stores, and an increase in size of the chest (pectoral) muscles and heart, while the gizzard, stomach, intestines, liver and leg muscles of the birds decrease in size, all in preparation for the last leg of their migration.

While the decline of horseshoe crab eggs as a food source is a serious problem for red knots, it is not the only problem they face. The FWS notes that climate change is altering the terrain they breed in and impacting their diets on their home turf. Rising sea-levels and coastal development are other issues. But these are beyond the control of conservationists concerned with the plight of migratory birds. What can (and likely will) change is when harvesting of horseshoe crabs takes place, so that when the red knots arrive they have first choice of the horseshoe crabs’ eggs to fuel up for the last leg of their journey.

Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival 2012

September 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Taking place in one of the most biologically diverse and important birding areas in British Columbia, the very popular Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival offers a unique view of these majestic raptors which are drawn to the area by the countless numbers of spawning salmon making their way up the Fraser River. Birding enthusiasts will also had a good chance of veiwing trumpeter swans, ducks and other birds, as well as seals, bears, coyotes and deer. For more information visit fraservalleybaldeaglefestival.ca

Dates: 17-18 November 2012
Venue: Fraser Valley
City: Mission
State: British Columbia
Country: Canada

Wings Over the Rockies

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 2011 theme for Wings Over the Rockies is “Celebrating Our Valley, Celebrating the People. As the 15th anniversary the event, it will be honoring nature and the people who created and continue to support the festival. The festival schedule includes about 70 educational events, such as field trips, presentation, river paddles and an art exhibit. This is a thrilling an educational event for anyone interested in birds and the natural heritage of Columbia Valley Wetlands.

Date: 2 to 8 May 2011
Venue: Pynelogs Cultural Centre
City: Invermere
State: British Columbia
Country: Canada

The Americas IBA Directory

May 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

The conservation of rare birdlife has been the focus of Birdlife International for many years. In 1995 they began a project by the name of IBA, or Important Bird Area Program, to pinpoint areas across the globe that are home to endangered species, identifying the various species and protecting those areas to assist in conserving vital birdlife. At present, more than ten thousand of these areas have been identified, and conservation and environmental initiatives have been implemented. Now a new program has been established, namely the Americas IBA Directory.

Hundreds of bird species will benefit from the Americas IBA Directory, as it will be a guideline for both conservationists and for authorities. The directory covers 57 different countries and has 2 345 of the most significant areas listed that need to be protected at all costs. Authorities will be able to refer to the directory to find out which of their areas are vital to the survival of birdlife, which bird species are located in that area and the biodiversity of the area, to enable them to take the right steps in protecting the natural habitat and the birds. Some areas that have been listed are significant in the migratory patterns of certain species, while others are crucial nesting sites for numerous endangered birds. Due to a number of these areas being inhabited by local communities, also relying on the natural resources such as water, authorities can assist these communities with sustainable development that will not only benefit the communities but the birdlife as well.

Hundreds of organizations have provided support and assistance in the compiling of the Americas IBA Directory. President of Bird Studies Canada, George Finney, explained: “From breeding grounds in Canada, to wintering sites in the south, and all points in between, it is imperative that we understand what is happening to bird populations and the forces that drive change. Bird Studies Canada is proud to work closely with our international partners on this issue, so that better management decisions and conservation actions can be taken.” A large number of agencies will be working together as IBA Caretakers, tracking migratory patterns and data in regard to bird populations, to note changes being made by the birds, and keeping the IBA Directory as up to date and accurate as possible.

Birding at Algonquin Park in Ontario

February 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

The Algonquin Provincial Park was established in the year 1893 to protect the headwaters of the area’s five major rivers. The beauty and biodiversity of the park has inspired many books and paintings, and thousands of visitors are welcomed to the park each year. Located in one of the most picturesque areas of Ontario, Canada, the Algonquin Provincial Park offers tourists tranquility, beauty and a large variety of activities. One particularly popular activity in the park is bird watching.

The fact that Algonquin Provincial Park has approximately seven thousand insect species in the park might sound insignificant to some, but without the insects, the pollination of plant life would not happen and the habitats in which the birds and animals live would no longer exist. The varied vegetation provides both animal and bird life with vital resources. Also found in the park, are two forest types, namely the coniferous forests and southern hardwood forests, creating a home for a vast number of different birds. Visitors and avid bird watchers can therefore look forward to seeing birds such as the Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting, Spruce Grouse, Wood Thrush, Boreal Chikadee, Gray Jay, Common Loon and many others that form part of the 272 species in the park. In addition, the Algonquin Provincial Park offers bird related programs such as Birds in Winter, Owl Prowl and Bird Adaptations. Talks are also held in the evenings in the park’s outdoor theatre, covering a wide variety of topics related to the park. Guided tours are available as well as a bird species checklist.

After a day of bird watching visitors can explore other features at the park, such as the picnic areas, stores, bookstore, backpacking trails, museum, art centre, restaurants and beaches. There are also a few lodges in the park enabling visitors to extend their stay and maybe explore the breathtaking bird life found along the rivers on the canoe routes. Bird watching in Canada is a rewarding experience and the Algonquin Provincial Park offers visitors everything they could need for an unforgettable bird watching adventure and family vacation.

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