UFO’s over Downtown Picton?
On Wednesday nights this summer, people with binoculars roamed the streets of downtown Picton. They were seen with their necks crooked, pointing skyward and muttering “there’s another one”. What were they pointing at?
No, not spacecraft, but Chimney Swifts. A Chimney Swift is a small dark brown swallow-like bird with a distinctive chipping call and crescent shaped wings and almost no tail visible in flight. Deprived of their historical nesting sites in large hollow trees, today they primarily roost and nest in chimneys. Currently Bird Studies Canada is conducting a province wide “Swift Watch” to find out where the swifts are and how many there are.
The Canadian Chimney Swift population has declined by almost 30% over the last 13.5 years. This dramatic and rapid population decline has led to the recent listing of Chimney Swifts by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as a federally threatened species. Decreases in suitable roosting /nesting habitat, a decline of insect availability, and an increase in unpredictable weather are among the several suspected causes of the population decline.
In Ontario, Chimney Swifts arrive in late-April to early-May, building nests of loosely woven sticks secured with the bird’s glue-like saliva. On average, four to five eggs are laid per nest and incubated for a period of 10 to 20 days. After 30 days the young are fledged, and by early- to mid-summer adults and young will flock together in large roosts. Towards the end of the summer, roosting individuals will congregate for their migration to the upper Amazon basin in South America, where they will remain until the following spring.
Chimney Swifts are not the only aerial insectivores (birds that forage for insects in the air) that are experiencing population decline. The recently published “State of Canada’s Birds 2012” notes that “aerial insectivores are declining more steeply than any other group of birds” and “ in the [ Lower Great Lakes St Lawrence] region Chimney Swift, Purple Martin and Bank Swallow populations have all declined by 95% since 1970.”
Data from the Wolfe Island Industrial Wind Turbine project indicates that more aerial insectivore type birds were killed by the turbines than birds from any other group. The data presented by the State of Canada’s Birds and the experience at Wolfe Island prove that we must not allow the killing to continue in Prince Edward County. Wind turbines installations in the South Shore IBA will cause further decline in a group of birds that we cannot afford to lose. We must stop McGuinty’s plan to destroy our natural habitat at Ostrander Point and throughout the IBA.
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The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, founded in 1997, is an affiliate of Ontario Nature. It provides an educational forum dedicated to the study, promotion, appreciation and conservation of the flora and fauna within Prince Edward County. The public is welcome at the meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month from September to May, except December, at Bloomfield Town Hall. Guest speakers introduce a variety of nature related topics. All members are encouraged to participate at meetings by sharing their experiences and observations. Regularly scheduled field trips in the vicinity offer members the opportunity to experience various habitats. Membership in PECFN is open to all. Contact: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, P.O. Box 477, Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0 Or Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096
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