A bunch of friendly people who share a love of nature
Open Letter Regarding Fall Harvest of Double-crested Cormorants
“Fifty-one experts are calling on the Ontario minister of natural resources and forestry to provide a scientific explanation for a province-wide hunt on double-crested cormorants that is slated to begin within two weeks.
In an open letter to John Yakabuski, dated on Tuesday, the experts raise concerns about the hunt, saying it is not based on science, the province has failed to indicate what population of cormorants it considers desirable and it will not require hunters to report the numbers of birds they have killed.” CBC News
Dr. Cooke, renowned fishing expert who knows his stuff, has his say about the cormorants on the Big Rideau:
A Fishy Perspective on Cormorants
By Dr. Steven J. Cooke, Professor of Fish Ecology, Carleton University
“I started my day today fishing on Big Rideau. I was with my three kiddos and they wanted to fish near the island without any leaves on the trees that was covered in birds. They were referring to “The Owls” – a series of small islands surrounded by deeper water with one island that has been commandeered by the cormorants. We have fished in many places on Big Rideau but never around The Owls. We pulled up and started catching bass after bass from juveniles to almost trophy-sized fish. We landed 30 smallmouth in less than two hours.
During the fish catching, my kids loved watching the cormorants fly en masse and this led to some rich conversations about the role of birds in structuring aquatic systems. Cormorants are not the only fish-eating birds that like to forage on Big Rideau. Loons, osprey, merganser and kingfisher all rely on fish as their primary food source. There are no proposals to cull those species so what is different about cormorants?
As a biologist it is really tough to answer that question. Cormorants live in colonies so they may be more conspicuous that the other species. They also tend to eliminate vegetation from where they reside owing to the chemistry of their feces. It is worth noting that they tend to reside on islands that are tiny and tend to be devoid of human infrastructure aside from perhaps a navigation marker. As a fish biologist I remain perplexed by the vitriol towards these animals. The more we learn about bird-fish interactions the more we realize that birds play important roles in structuring fish communities.
Did you know that fish-eating birds tend to forage on fish that are sick and immunocompromised? Did you know that fish-eating birds help to balance fish populations? Did you know that most efforts to control predators fail and are done to try and appease vocal advocates for culling? If the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (or more likely their political handlers) think that cormorants are villains then we might as well go all in and start shooting osprey and loons.
Or… maybe we should look at our own actions. The reason we like to blame cormorants is because it is easy. The BIRDS are responsible for the state of our fisheries. The BIRDS are responsible for degraded aquatic ecosystems. The reality is that WE are the drivers of aquatic ecosystem health. From invasive species like zebra mussels and round goby to water pollution arising from agriculture and urbanization to overharvest, humans are both the CAUSE of our current environmental woes and also the SOLUTION.
Killing birds that eat fish is a lame attempt to temporarily divert attention from the tough work we all need to do… reducing OUR impact on the environment and allowing nature to rebuild and rebalance. I am a strong advocate for evidence to guide environmental decisions. In the case of a cormorant cull in Ontario, the evidence is lacking OR if it exists, it has not been shared publicly. Rather than shooting cormorants I plan to continue to marvel at how they make a living. My kiddos are in awe of these birds and are smart enough to know that IF there are too many cormorants, Mother Nature (i.e., ecological and evolutionary processes) will reduce cormorant populations without us having to pick up firearms.
I am an angler, hunter, scientist, and advocate for evidence-based decision making and I am utterly opposed to the cormorant cull.”
If you like this content, please like and follow this page (at the top of the main page) for future updates on the Big Rideau cormorants.
Regarding The Amendment to the Growth Plan to allow aggregate extraction in threatened and endangered species habitat in the Natural Heritage System of the Greater Golden Horseshoe
The MPFN recently signed on to a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing organized by Ontario Nature regarding the proposed amendment to the Growth Plan to allow aggregate extraction in threatened and endangered species habitat in the Natural Heritage System of the Greater Golden Horseshoe. That letter is attached to this message. As a club and as a member of the Ontario Nature Nature Network we have some grave concerns about some of the actions being taken by the Provincial Government. We encourage individual members to let their local MPPs know their feelings on these issues.
Wye Marsh is excited to announce that they will be re-opening the trail system in a limited capacity at 9:00 am on June 1, 2020 … But Needs Our Help During Difficult Times!
Wye Marsh staff have been working with Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) on a plan to safely reopen, which will be done in phases. During the first phase, from June 1 – 14, admission will be by donation in the parking lot as we build an outdoor admissions booth. Once the booth is constructed, reduced admission rates will apply until we are back up and running 100%. Access to washrooms will be available via the back doors, but otherwise the Center remains closed to the public. There is no access to the Birds of Prey Field during this time. Canoe tours and other programming will remain suspended at this time.
While on the trails, please keep the following in mind:
Be mindful of wildlife who have become accustomed to the trails and boardwalks being unused by humans. Please give them space and do not attempt to approach or feed them, especially on the boardwalk.
Please respect social distancing guidelines while on the trails, especially at intersections and narrow sections.
The gates will open daily at 9:00am and close at 4:00pm
Ontario Nature, on behalf of itself & its affiliates has sent this letter to the Ontario Government defending the role of local conservation authorities in opposition to proposals made by the Ford administration. Read the letter.
The Cleanest Water on Earth Remains Threatened by the Ontario Government’s Economic Expansion Policies
Please take a moment to watch the short video. If you find it as moving as I did please consider emailing our local MPP, Jill Dunlop and voice your strenuous opposition to this ill-considered assault on the cleanest water on the planet. Email Jill at: firstname.lastname@example.org
MPFN Website coordinator
MPFN member and President of the Matchedash Tiny Marl Conservation Association Kate Harries wants to share this excellent video from the Elmvale Foundation. It tells you all about the unique water in our area that so many of us have fought hard to protect. Here’s the link:
During this time of pandemic a lot of other issues seem to have been pushed into the background but the fight against new quarries and quarry expansion continues. For more information, copy and paste the link below into your browser:
The COVID-19-related restrictions on gatherings and movement have been challenging for my family, but they have also had a beneficial effect on our soundscape. With fewer airline flights and vehicles on the road, and most workers conducting business from home, the sounds of industry have made way for the sounds of nature.
I noticed the change in outdoor noise during a pre-dawn, physically distanced jog through my Toronto neighbourhood. Though always quieter at this time than later in the day, my neighbourhood is rarely still, and I can often hear the sounds of daily life while I jog. The subterranean rumble of subway trains gearing up for the morning rush; the drone of drivers embarking on their daily commutes; and the clamour emanating from nearby construction sites.
Much of that commotion has been replaced by the melodic warbling of robins, cardinals and finches. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and my family and I had planned to celebrate by camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park to witness the spring bird migration.
The pandemic and ensuing lockdown have scuttled our camping plans, but thankfully not our birding plans. I recently found the Peterson Field Guides: Birding by Ear CDs I received several birthdays ago, and am looking forward to learning bird songs in the company of my young daughter in the coming weeks. As the spring migration progresses and our identification skills expand, my daughter and I will be able to bird from the safety of our backyard, unimpeded by the usual aural litter of our city environment.
There is increasing evidence that human-made noise harms wildlife. The din created by highway and recreational vehicles disrupts communication between individual animals and can hinder the ability of many species to find prey or establish a territory. The deleterious effects of noise on humans – sleep disturbance, hearing loss, stress, and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes – is well documented. It is reasonable to assume that birds, amphibians, mammals and fish suffer these physiological effects as well.
People across the world have noticed the near-immediate reduction in human noise that the widespread lockdowns have caused and the subsequent increase in the audible prominence of other species. From Boston to Rome to Wuhan, city dwellers are marvelling at the array of songbirds they never knew shared their environment. As an inhabitant of Wuhan wrote on Facebook during that city’s quarantine, “I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan… I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people”.
Wildlife is having a well deserved moment right now. My daughter and I invite you to share that moment by joining our birding efforts. Do a backyard big year if you have the outdoor space or simply listen for migratory birds from the open window of your apartment. Even during this difficult time, there is much to celebrate on Earth Day.
“When we talk about nature-based solutions in the modern context, we’re really talking about new ways of doing old things. Indigenous knowledge systems tell us that we must put nature first. If we look after nature, the economy will take care of itself. … We must repair our relationship with the land first and focus on our shared responsibilities to ensure our collective well-being.” – Curtis Scurr, Assembly of First Nations
In October 2019, over 100 leaders and knowledge holders from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and organizations gathered in Kingston Ontario to share insights and strategies about addressing the interrelated crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Hosted by Ontario Nature, Plenty Canada, the Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University, Walpole Island Land Trust and Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network, the three-day event provided a forum for cross-cultural dialogue and learning.
“It is important for the dialogue to be not only cross-cultural but also cross-generational. … Build relationships with Indigenous peoples. Take that time and cultivate and maintain those relationships.” – Shaelyn Wabegijig, Timiskaming First Nation
The purpose of the gathering was to support collaboration and enhance collective understanding about the critical role protected areas play in conserving biodiversity and increasing community and ecosystem resilience in an era of climate change.
“It’s all about partnerships. We all have things to offer. It’s our responsibility—we can’t be afraid to go out and tell people what is wrong and stand up.”– Chris Craig, South Nation Conservation
On behalf of the partner organizations, we are pleased to announce that the summary report and video of the Kingston gathering are now available.