Chicks starving in Newfoundland as warmer sea water imperils food supply for birds

Northern gannets are pictured in flight. Warming sea water is threatening the species. ~ DAVE FIFIELD

Northern gannets are pictured in flight. Warming sea water is threatening the species. ~ DAVE FIFIELD

Northern gannets are good parents. The seabirds mate for life, lay just one egg a year and dutifully feed and protect their chick until it leaves the nest in September.

But this year, thousands of gannets on Newfoundland’s south coast – on North America’s most southern gannet colony — abandoned their nests during the last few weeks of August. Many of the hungry chicks soon began tumbling off rocky cliffs and into the sea.

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Pesticide commonly used on Canadian farmland linked to bird declines

4_barnswallow1-nicksaundersControversial pesticides, which are used “prophylactically” on millions of hectares of Canadian farmland, have been linked to not only the declines in bees, but also birds. A Dutch study released Wednesday provides the strongest evidence yet that neonicotinoids are harming insect-eating birds like swallows, which are in sharp decline.

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Migrating shorebirds — and the goo they eat — is a sticky issue for Port Metro Vancouver Will giant new terminal threaten the sandpiper?

 Western Sandpipers flocking near Roberts Bank  ~ BEN NELMS for Postmedia

Western Sandpipers flocking near Roberts Bank ~ BEN NELMS for Postmedia

Published: April 30 2014

VANCOUVER — The sandpipers are right on schedule, hundreds of thousands of them touching down on the mudflats just south of the city.

The “peeps” are here to refuel, some almost doubling their weight in just a few days. Then the tiny aerial acrobats liftoff continuing their marathon journey to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

The world’s western sandpipers migrate up the Pacific coast touching down at the Fraser Delta each spring. They arrive like clockwork to slurp up the gooey biofilm on the mudflats — goo that has created a rather sticky issue for a massive port expansion planned just south of Vancouver.

Port Metro Vancouver believes its megaport, known as Roberts Banks Terminal 2, and the “peeps” can coexist.

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Hungry polar bears robbing Arctic bird colonies

A female polar bear and her two cubs made short work of the eggs in this East Bay Island eider colony in Nunavut. The eiders make their nests on the ground. PHOTO: SUPPLIED: STEVE MARSON

A female polar bear and her two cubs made short work of the eggs in nests on the ground in this East Bay Island eider colony in Nunavut. PHOTO: STEVE MARSON

Published: February 4, 2014

There were more than 300 nests in the bird colony when the polar bear arrived.

When it meandered off with a belly full of eggs only 24 nests remained, say scientists who witnessed the  “near total” destruction of nests on the bird colony off Baffin Island.

It was far from an isolated event, the team from Environment Canada and Carleton University reported Tuesday. Continue reading

Saving Banff’s grizzlies

The Wild Side, Part Five

Published September 2, 2012

By Margaret Munro

BANFF, ALTA. _ The craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains dominate the landscape, the turquoise waters of the Bow River sparkle in the afternoon sun. But Colleen Cassady St. Clair is not here for the view. She is getting a feel for the increasingly constrained life of grizzlies in Banff National Park.

The University of Alberta biologist and her graduate student Benjamin Dorsey take off their boots, roll up their pants and step barefoot onto an electrified mat straddling the Canadian Pacific Railway track. They jump right back off, yelping as a jolt runs up their legs.

“Just what we’re after – intense, fleeting pain,” says Cassady St. Clair.

A specialist in human-wildlife conflict, she is game to try almost anything to help animals co-exist with people — even if it entails a bit of short-term discomfort for the grizzlies in Canada’s premiere national park.

Wildlife conflicts don’t get much more dramatic, or intractable, than the one involving the iconic bears, an iconic company, and Canada’s most iconic park. Continue reading

Return of the ‘hoodies’: Tough little bird flies off endangered list

The Wild Side, Part Four

Published August  26, 2012

John Allair checks on a Hooded Warbler nest for Bird Studies Canada. Glenn Lowson photo

By Margaret Munro

PORT ROWAN, Ont. – Jody Allair isn’t out of his truck two minutes when he tilts his head ever so slightly and picks up the song of a hooded warbler.

“There’s the male,” he says, as a tiny yellow bird flits away in the maples overhead.

Then Allair ducks into the forest, skips across a swampy patch and gingerly approaches a small shrub looking for the female. He gives the thumbs up.

“She’s sitting on the nest looking at us right now,” he whispers, pointing at what looks like a clump of dead leaves.

But Allair knows his birds – and he really knows “hoodies,” having spent 10 years with Bird Studies Canada helping document the hooded warbler’s remarkable recovery.

Sure enough, there is a female on a nest less than a metre off the ground.

Hooded warblers used to be one of Canada’s rarest birds. Fifteen years ago, there were believed to be about 100 breeding pairs in the country.

But the hoodies’ fortunes have improved – dramatically. The population is now estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,000 adult hooded warblers in Canada, and wildlife experts are recommending the hooded warbler be dropped from the list of 650 species at risk in Canada. Continue reading

To bee or not to bee: Endangered species vanishing without explanation

The Wild Side, Part Three

Published August  19, 2012

By Margaret Munro

TORONTO – Sheila Colla wades into the pye weeds, her net swooping over the pink flowers. “This is bumble bee heaven,” she says, as she catches a bee and nudges it from the net into a small plastic vial for inspection.It’s a lemon cuckoo bumble bee, one of the strange cast of characters in the bee world. The cuckoo bee invades colonies, usurps the queen and enslaves her workers.

There is no sign, however, of the rusty-patched bumble bee that Colla has been searching for all summer. It used to be one of the most common bees in southern Ontario and Quebec but is now one of the rarest.

In fact, the rusty-patched bumble bee, known to scientists as Bombus affinis, is the first bee in North America to be officially declared an endangered species. Continue reading