Create bird-friendly habitats

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On May 30, social media delivered a particularly relevant meme (an image with text superimposed, that users share with one another, and which sometimes “go viral”).

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On May 30, social media delivered a particularly relevant meme (an image with text superimposed, that users share with one another, and which sometimes “go viral”).
The image depicted four insectivore, migratory birds with insects in their beaks: clearly, either they would be eating them, or they’d be feeding them to their young.
The superimposed text message read, “Every bug in your yard is dinner for someone.”
The accompanying post from the person sharing it stated: “97% of terrestrial birds feed their young insects. We need more insects! Want to help birds and pollinators? Plant native plants that support theirlifecycles. We need more insects if we want to help birds. Mosquito spray kills all the insect food and starves birds. Join your native plant society.”
You and I can dramatically help our beloved migratory songbirds and avoid
poisoning insects in our gardens. If we deliberately choose not to use insecticides, we help create havens for wildlife where they find safe food and shelter as free of toxins as possible.
Québec is only one stop on the flight path
Migratory birds such as hummingbirds, bluebirds, great blue herons and others don’t only get poisoned in Québec – they navigate extensive flyways (flight paths) of polluted resting grounds. Some birds fly thousands of kilometres – such as from South America to Québec. So to survive, they must find clean food and resting spots where they can regain their strength and continue flying.
And don’t forget, as soon as they arrive here in Québec, they immediately start claiming territories, finding mates and breeding, raising young – and then? Then they return, flying those thousands of kilometres to their warmer winter destinations. Repeat.
So you can bet that these stopping points all along their flyways are absolutely crucial to exhausted, hungry migrants. Québec is no island: instead, our province is intimately interconnected along a network of habitats that these birds are “programmed” to revisit twice annually (in spring and autumn).
Habitat destruction = migrant deaths
Imagine how loggers are destroying forest habitats, how agricultural workers are draining fields for crops, spraying, and grazing cattle which churn up pastures into bird-unfriendly nesting zones. Understand how, by transforming “waste ground” into subdivisions, we’re destroying habitats.
And realize too, how destructive you and I can be, as well-intentioned property owners and gardeners. We remove trees to create views we like; pave land for driveways; plant non-native perennial, annual and vegetable plants which
are incompatible to birds’ requirements; and we spray and drench against insect “pests.”
We’re all part of the problem. So what can we do to help wildlife survive?
Plan our activities around wildlife’s needs
Carl Savignac is a terrestrial wildlife biologist who approached my husband Eric and I in 2017 because at Spiritwood, our farm north of Quyon, endangered Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills are doing well. Along with Daniel Toussaint of the Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais, Savignac explored our property with us, promising to send us a report on his findings. On May 27 this year, we received the report that includes these suggestions for the birds:
*Avoid any logging activities in your woodlots during nesting periods (May to August) … and favour winter work when soil is frozen.
*Reduce the use of pesticides in crop[s] adjacent to potential nesting habitat when possible as this can greatly reduce the abundance and composition of the insect communities.
These are among several things we are actively doing. We work with our
neighbouring farmer who hays our land, and have done so for years. Because he’s concerned about wildlife, together we’ve chosen to harvest late so endangered grassland birds such as Bobolinks and Meadowlarks can raise their broods and not be killed during harvesting.
I’ll be writing more about Savignac’s report, which is full of interesting suggestions.
However, for now? Please consider contributing to a healthy, international network of oases-nodes – for the love of the birds.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com and view her art at facebook.com/Katharine
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