Spring revitalizes everything, and life starts anew for billions of creatures every year. This annual cycle is critical for life to go on, as each year a large percentage of last year’s offspring have died and must be replaced. Even though the cycle includes all living things, I will focus on birds in this column.
Once the spring migration is over and the birds have returned and set up territories, the complex reproductive cycle unfolds. There are so many things which must happen to ensure the next generation has a chance – establishing and maintaining a territory, singing up a storm, attracting a mate, chasing off the competition, mating, building a nest, laying eggs and incubating them and finally caring for the helpless young until they can fend for themselves. This all takes weeks and tons of energy.
I am the co-Regional Coordinator for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (Durham Region) and, as such, coordinate many birdwatchers who strive to help document the nesting success of our birds. Across the province, this ambitious project is now underway. We are in year three of five. This is a cyclical survey which takes place every twenty years. The goal is to monitor how well (or how poorly) our birds are doing, as time passes. The future is a bit gloomy at the moment, but there is hope. These projects generate data useful to researchers and government planners to help them understand the health of the environment and design projects which help them while not hindering their well-being.
Durham Region is divided into 27 blocks of land, each 10 km by 10 km. The Atlas aims to identify every species in every square and assign a breeding status against it. This means we must find every species and decide what they are doing from a reproductive perspective. Are they just migrants? Are they non-breeding adults? Are they mated or unmated? Did they build a nest? Was it occupied? Did it fledge young? It all sounds complicated, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. Across the province, this same thing is happening in 46 other geographic areas, including the far north, where it is obviously much more complicated due to the paucity of birders and the distances and remoteness involved. But we will get it done as we are fortunate to have many birders in Durham who freely give of their time.
Can you, as an individual, help with this ambitious task? Absolutely! If you are a more serious and skilled birdwatcher, I would encourage you to take a more aggressive and involved role. This will benefit the birds and us immensely. If your skill level is lower or your confidence not as high, you can still participate. You can make incidental observations as time and opportunity permit. Is there a hawk nesting on your property? Did you see a Ruffed Grouse and observe it drumming? Did you see a family of ducks? Did your chickadees bring their recently-fledged babies to your feeders? Are there wrens in your nest box? Did you finally find that cardinal nest you knew was somewhere in your yard because you’d seen the birds enter that hedge 100 times but couldn’t find a nest until now? All this data should not be lost and is easily entered into the Atlas website. If you’re not quite sure how to enter the data, then please let me know, and I will help. Let’s do this together. The website to join is www.naturecounts.ca.
In closing, each year for over three decades, I have been volunteering to raise funds for bird research and education through Birds Canada, with part of the proceeds going to North Durham Nature. Last year I raised almost $3400, my most ever, you guys rock! I will be out again this week looking for birds and raising funds, so if you think you’d like to donate to my bird-a-thon but are not sure, please email me at:
Geoff.firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will give you the information to make your donation. The birds, thank you! If you’re ready to donate now, here’s the direct link to my fundraiser https://www.canadahelps.org/me/6MuMgK7.
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff online on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.