Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

The not so hidden world of ‘human-related threats to birds’

The not so hidden world of ‘human-related threats to birds’ – cats, houses and cars!

What are the leading causes of human-related bird mortality in Canada?

Findings are in an Environment Canada report (Avian Conservation and Ecology 8(2):11) which can be found at http://www.ace-eco.org/vol8/iss2/art11/ The report details the sources and studies used to generate the data and the range and caveats associated with the numbers which are included.

Michael Runtz (distinguished author of Wild Wings: The Hidden World of Birds) usually dwells on the positive. And although he does not like to look at the negatives, at our February lecture, Runtz outlined these leading causes of bird mortality related to humans. He also gave many insights into a range of other threats, including invasive species, climate change (for example studies with Gray Jays) environmental toxins etc.

Per year in Canada,  the leading causes of bird mortality related to human activity, are the following.  These factors (cats, buildings, cars) are associated most closely with highly populated areas, and this is where most bird kills due to these causes occur, states the report:

# 1 killed by feral and domestic cats (70- over 200 million birds killed per year)

# 2 collisions or electrocution due to power lines (25 million birds per year)

# 3 collisions with houses (20 million birds per year)

# 4 collisions with vehicles (14 million  per year)

A full report of Mike’s talk will be posted soon. Note: photo of Gray Jays by Howard Robinson

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Field naturalists launch campaign to save the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI

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Press Release

January 9, 2015

 

 

 

DONATE NOW to Save the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) have recently launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board in order to prevent development that would destroy a portion of the Burnt Lands Alvar, a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), one of several natural treasures in Lanark County.

A developer was given provisional approval on November 10, 2014 by the Lanark County Land Division Committee to build a cluster lot housing development between Ramsay Concession 12 and Golden Line Road, south of March Road. This development would violate provincial and municipal regulations for this ANSI by degrading the ANSI landscape and its ecological functions, and it could set a precedent for further development in the Burnt Lands.

Alvars, which date back to about 10,000 years ago, support distinctive flora and fauna, and are found in very few places – parts of Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes Region, and in a few regions in Sweden and Estonia. The Burnt Lands Alvar is considered the fourth best example in all of North America.

These natural features are characterized by limestone plains with thin or no soil. Often flooded in the spring and affected by drought in midsummer, they are home to a very hardy group of flora and fauna that have adapted to the harsh conditions of the alvar.

The Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI is located east of Almonte, straddling Ramsay Ward and the City of Ottawa, on either side of the March Road.  It is an outstanding example of alvar habitat – combining alvar pavement, alvar grasslands, alvar shrub lands, treed alvar and wetlands. Besides its unique flora, the alvar also supports 82 breeding bird species, 48 butterfly species, 98 species of owlet moths, globally rare species of land snail, globally rare invertebrates, and a kind of carabid beetle found nowhere else in the world. Although the alvar is not a prairie, it hosts many prairie species such as prairie sawflies and a thriving population of wingless prairie leafhoppers.

Conserving biodiversity is essential for Ontario’s long-term prosperity and environmental health. The treasures of our natural world need to be preserved for future generations. The cluster lot development in the ANSI would cause widespread disturbance and degrade flora and fauna, including the habitat of endangered species and threatened species. It would also compromise connectivity to adjacent alvar properties and introduce many non-native species.

The Provincial Policy Statement, the Lanark County Official Plan and the Mississippi Mills Official Plan all require protection of the habitat of endangered species and threatened species. Furthermore, they require that there shall be no negative impact on the ANSI or its ecological functions, or on adjacent lands.

Part of the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI is private land, and many private landowners cherish their land and provide good stewardship; part is a Nature Reserve Class Provincial Park; and part is owned by the City of Ottawa.

In addition to submitting an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board to halt this development, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists have started a campaign to publicize the issue and raise funds for the appeal process.  The campaign begins with a short presentation by Ken Allison, past president of both MVFN and the Ottawa Field-Naturalist’s Club,  on January 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the United Church Hall, 106 Elgin Street, Almonte, before the featured lecture.

The public can support the campaign through the DONATE NOW button on the MVFN website or by contacting Theresa Peluso at .

SEE ALSO:

DONATE NOW to Save the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI

Presentation by Ken Allison – What is an Alvar? Burnt Lands Alvar: A rare ecosytem of execptional quality

 

 

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Climate Change and Implications for Health and Well-Being

Climate Change and Implications for Health and Well-Being at next MVFN talk

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will present the third lecture of their current series based on the theme “When a Tree Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?” This event will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church at 106 Elgin St., Almonte, Ontario at 7:30 pm.

Guest speaker for the evening will be Anita Payne, full-time Climate Activist and a local leader in The Climate Reality Project Canada. Anita’s presentation is entitled “Climate Change and Implications for Health and Well-Being”.

“The debate involving the reality of climate change and global warming has been ongoing for many years. At the November meeting of MVFN, the following questions will inspire your thoughts: What is the scientific explanation and evidence for global warming and climate change? What effects are we seeing locally and globally? What are the implications to the health and well-being of the human race as well as our wildlife population?  Is it too late to stop climate change? Can anything still be done? …We are all in this together and we all, in our own way, need to address the crisis created by climate change”. –Anita Payne

For many years, Anita has been dedicated to the call for action to address the global crisis inherent in climate change, not just for future generations but for all life, now,on planet Earth, our only home. Her thought-provoking presentation will include not only the implications for human health and the health of our natural world, but also what can still be done to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. She will share with us her recent experiences during The Great March for Climate Action in the USA, including a number of in-person meetings with ‘climate refugees’. From the information presented in this lecture, perhaps we will each discover a contribution we can make to help reverse climate change.

Arrival in Washington D.C.

Local climate change action leader Anita Payne  arrives in LaFayette Park, Washington D.C. on November 1, 2014 along with other marchers in The Great March for Climate Action.  Charles Chandler (left)  helped carry the banner part of the way.

Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. Free for MVFN members, or $5 at the door. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

 

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Breaking a Bag Habit: the Sequel

Press Release

Breaking a Bag Habit:  the Sequel

Last summer the Environmental Issues Committee (EIC) of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) conducted a campaign to increase public awareness of the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic shopping bags. They were concerned about how in Canada alone, between 9 and 15 billion shopping bags are generated every year.  Most of these bags end up in landfills, waterways and fields, and cause great harm to wildlife over the many hundreds of years that it takes for these bags to break down.  So EIC and MVFN decided to do something about it at the local level.

Headed by EIC Chairperson Theresa Peluso, MVFN members hosted information booths at various festivals and stores in Mississippi Mills to spread the word about how harmful these plastic bags are.  They also asked the merchants in Almonte, Pakenham, and Clayton about their awareness of the issue, their store policy about providing plastic bags and alternatives, and their ideas on how to reduce plastic bag consumption.  Next, they got the youngsters involved by organizing a contest in local schools.  The contest consisted of designing a poster illustrating the damage caused by plastic bags. The winning posters were then copied and distributed to nearly every store, municipal building and church in Mississippi Mills.

According to the results obtained in a follow-up survey conducted in June and July of this year, there was a significant decline in plastic bag consumption from last year.

For various reasons (small number of stores selling items requiring a bag, change in store personnel in past year), the follow-up survey was limited to data from 10 stores.  For these 10 stores, there was a reduction of nearly 103,000 bags, which represents a decrease of about 19 percent over the previous year. (Last year these same 10 stores reported using 539,850 plastic bags; this year, 437,070 bags.)

One merchant, on realizing how much was being spent on plastic bags, decided to sell cloth bags printed with the store’s logo with the provision that customers using the bags for their purchases would receive a discount on their purchases every time they used the bag. A few more stores now wait for the customer to request a plastic bag and promote the re-use of single-use plastic bags.

 MVFN attribute the decrease in plastic bag consumption in large part to their Plastic Bag Reduction campaign held  last year, including the impact of the student posters which were visible everywhere.

Municipal initiatives such as increasing waste diversion options may have also contributed indirectly to the drop off in plastic bag use. 

 MVFN and EIC extend many, many thanks (on behalf of the animals and plants that share this planet) to all the students who participated in the poster contest, to the merchants who are trying hard to reduce the use of plastic bags, and to the public who are changing their bag habits to help the natural environment.

 What can be done to reduce this number further?  Using plant-based biodegradable plastic bags is a good option for situations where plastic bags are the best solution (e.g., for dog feces, litter, baked goods, and bulk food items).  Putting up eye-catching signs to remind people to bring their own bags would help.  Simply put, ways need to be found to encourage more people to develop the habit of always using alternatives to those throw-away bags.

 MVFN’s next objectives are to source low-cost plant-based biodegradable bags, as well as cloth bags that can be printed inexpensively with a store logo, for Mississippi Mills, to continue efforts to increase public awareness of the plastic bag issue and to get support from municipal councillors to reduce plastic bag consumption (perhaps by printing signs for stores to display).

 Reducing plastic bag consumption by nearly 19 percent is a huge achievement – but perhaps Mississippi Mills residents can top that!

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Appleton Wetland Report kicks off new MVFN series

Poster for our September talk

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) natural history lecture series resumes for a new season Thursday, September 18 in Almonte. The theme for this year’s series is a twist on the conundrum “When A Tree Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?”  If no one is there to hear the sound of a tree as it crashes through the undergrowth to the forest floor, was it ever there?” Nature teaches us that when we ignore the ‘crashing trees’, we do so at our own peril. Like a stone dropped into a pond, the impacts of changes to our natural environment grow in an ever-widening circle, reaching into every aspect of our lives. This year’s speakers will challenge us to inform ourselves and engage or perhaps reengage with important issues affecting our natural world.

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The Appleton Silver Maple Swamp. photo by Al Seaman

The series begins with an issue close to home with a talk based on the Appleton Wetlands and the findings outlined in an MVFN report The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action released last month. The Appleton silver maple swamp, which has been flooded each spring for generations, is designated as a provincially significant wetland and an ANSI, or area of natural and scientific interest – declared by the provincial government in recognition of its unique ecological features. By 2006 however, extensive damage to the flood-tolerant trees in the wetland became obvious.  Concerns about the decline were raised to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority  to no avail. In 2011, and again in 2013, MVFN formed a research group to examine the possible causes of damage to the trees, including the possibility of adverse effects due to continually high water levels as a result of ongoing power generation operations in Almonte.

Speaker for The Appleton Wetland Report presentation will be Al Seaman, a Professional Engineer, and member of MVFN’s Appleton Wetland Research Group and lead author of the report released in August. Mr. Seaman, an Almonte resident and native of the northwestern Quebec mining town of Noranda, graduated from McGill University as an Electrical Engineer.  Early on in his career Al realized that goals of industry do not always respect the requirements of pristine nature.

Seaman’s lecture topic is ‘The River’, specifically the Mississippi River with a focus on the stretch from Almonte to Appleton. Mr. Seaman will endeavour to demonstrate the impact of changing water levels on the extensive Appleton wetland.

All are welcome to this MVFN presentation. Find out why water levels matter and get answers to all your questions about the detailed findings of the research group! The talk takes place at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 18, 2014 at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. There is a non-member fee of $5. Refreshments will be available. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Gretta Bradley at .

 

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