Thursday, April 7, 2016

Its Wildlife Week! And Canada Celebrates an Important Anniversary!!

Canada is celebrating a very important centenary this week! The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States. This treaty embraces the important need to conserve our wildlife, as well as their habitats, and focuses on all of the wonderfully winged birds (that is, if it does not include insects and bats who also have wings) that inhabit our skies. And it just so happens that the week of April 10th is Wildlife Week!

This conservation work began with John Thomas Miner, also known as Jack Miner, or the ‘Father of North American Conservationism.’ Growing up in Ontario, Jack’s careful observation of the migratory bird path began when he noticed that Canada geese were stopping on ponds on his property in the spring on their way northward. From this, Miner had seven clipped, tame Canada geese and created ponds on his property in 1904 to attract more wild species of birds. By 1913, his entire property became a bird sanctuary for all creatures with wings. Three years later he pioneered the banding (the process of attaching a small metal or plastic band around a bird's leg in order to identify individual birds from the band's unique number) of migrating waterfowl. The data that was collected through this was instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States of America and Canada as no government banding programs had been in existence until that time.

Coming forward to today, gathering baseline data in aid of further understanding breeding birds is the mandate of the northern Alberta Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC). The BCBC is the only educational and research facility in the world strategically located to study boreal birds on their breeding grounds. Located in Lesser Slave Lake, the BCBC also contributes to the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory.  This project monitors landbird migrations using daily mistnetting (capturing birds in nets using a procedure developed at the Manomet Bird Observatory), visible migration counts (recording every bird species observed within a defined space at set intervals) and casual observance.

The Peace River is an important stopping area
for many migratory birds in the boreal.

PRMA. 2008.082.013
Yet another organization in our area that is not only concerned with birds, but all wildlife in our boreal forest is the internationally acclaimed project called EMEND (Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance). EMEND is a forest research centre located north of Dixonville dedicated to improving our understanding of how the western boreal forest ecosystem responds to disturbances, natural ones (such as fire or pest infestation) and human ones (such as harvesting).

Wildlife Week is celebrated each year around April 10th, Jack Miner’s birthday, to honour Jack Miner and to celebrate conservation successes as well as bringing awareness to issues still challenging the survival of our wildlife.

If you want to learn more about EMEND, the museum is hosting EMEND 101, exploring how the research gathered through EMEND impacts our environmental stewardship.  We will see you on April 14th 2016, 7pm at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre.

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