I can trace my lifelong fascination with birds as I grew up in an area of Peterborough with easy access to natural areas like Jackson Creek. A bird-rich green space was only steps away. The city offered opportunities for nature to be an integral part of my life.
We are lucky in Peterborough because many such opportunities still exist. Birdwatching in Peterborough can be excellent, in part because the city sits on the Otonabee River, a migration route that birds have traveled for millennia. What has changed, however, are the numbers. There are three billion fewer birds in North America today than 50 years ago. Almost all of these losses are caused by human activities – from habitat destruction and predation by domestic cats to window collisions and climate change.
In other words, the birds need our help. This includes birds living in or passing through rapidly expanding urban areas of Canada. But there is good news. Nature Canada recently announced that Peterborough has been certified as one of 11 Bird Friendly Cities in Canada. As a jerk. Kim Zippel said, “Becoming a bird-friendly city will build on the stewardship efforts of our citizens and spark an even greater understanding and respect for our relationships and interconnections with the natural world. City Council will give final approval for certification on June 27.
The purpose of certification is to provide a clear standard that reflects what a city must do to make it safe for birds. It is also a badge of honor. It tells the world that a city like Peterborough is doing things to reverse bird decline by reducing risk factors, improving habitat and raising awareness.
The designation is the result of hard work by the Bird Friendly Peterborough (BFP) team led by Reem Ali of the Peterborough Field Naturalists in conjunction with Kawartha Wildlife Center (Thom Luloff), Riverview Park and Zoo (Cathy Mitchell) , GreenUp (Vern Bastable), Trent University (Josh Russell) and Camp Kawartha (Jacob Rodenburg). City of Peterborough Liaison Officer James Byrne and Councilor Kim Zippel also provided ongoing support.
In less than two years, the BFP team managed to obtain grants to support the development of a website and to purchase materials to educate the public on the various bird protection measures. Go to www.birdfriendlypeterborough.ca/ for a wealth of information and resources, including how to make your home and yard more bird-friendly. You’ll also find upcoming events like the opening of Peterborough’s first official Bird Friendly Trail with fun activities and marked birding spots along the Otonabee River.
An annual competition to select our City Bird of the Year will be launched on August 1. in local efforts to protect our bird population,” says Reem Ali. Information on how to vote will be available on the city and BFP websites. The winning bird will be announced on September 23.
While certification is indeed great news, the real work has only just begun. Nature Canada’s scoring grid for cities focuses on three main categories: threat reduction; Habitat protection, restoration and climate resilience; and Community Outreach and Education. Peterborough achieved entry level certification which means there is plenty of room for growth in all categories to improve our level of certification.
The City has already implemented a number of bird-friendly policies and actions. These include establishing a ‘no roaming’ rule for cats to reduce the impact of cat predation on wild bird populations. Peterborough’s Official Plan Update (2021) also contains important measures, such as protecting natural heritage features and requiring “bird-friendly design measures for predominantly glass buildings”.
Why is this important?
Birds are a gateway to appreciate, understand and work for the conservation of nature in all its dimensions. It was through an initial fascination with birds that my own interest in all aspects of the natural world and conservation developed. Birds are connected to everything else in the environment. They are also everywhere and easy to connect. Birds have been a saving grace for so many during the pandemic. People were paying much more attention to birds and seeing and hearing them like never before. Sales of seeds and feeders soared, as did the number of new birdwatchers. Clearly, there is a huge appetite for a bird-rich Peterborough. We now know that to be happier and lead healthier, more meaningful lives, we need nature around us.
A bird-friendly city is also the attitude of the people who live there. It means caring about urban nature and seeing birds as co-inhabitants of urban spaces. Imagine a city where everyone in every neighborhood can see and hear a diversity of native birds, where green spaces and natural areas are always within easy walking distance, wherever you live. None of this will happen on the scale needed unless we engage and educate citizens about the benefits of birds and nature in our urban environments.
Sainte-Catherine school steps up to the plate
Schools, businesses and other organizations also have an important role to play. Among the many possible actions is the organization of events to protect the birds. Genevieve O’Grady’s Grade 5 class at St. Catherine’s Catholic Elementary School recently raised $1,700 through a snack sale. The money will be used to purchase window safety stickers to prevent bird strikes at the school’s many windows. More than 25 million birds die each year from collisions with windows in Canada alone.
Installation of the sticker will take place this summer, making St. Catherine’s the first bird-safe school in Peterborough. There will be a grand opening in the fall organized by BFP, Feather Friendly window markers and Fleming Bird Conservation Committee.
On June 15, Zachary Steele of Kawartha Bird Control visited the school and showed the students how the decals are installed. Steele is a falconer specializing in bird safety. He also brought along one of his beautiful American Kestrels to highlight the huge impact window collisions have on raptor populations.
Follow Bird Friendly Peterborough on Facebook and visit the website for updates on public involvement in protecting Peterborough birds and their habitats.
Climate Chaos Update
Alarm: According to a new study, almost half of the world’s existing fossil fuel production sites must be closed sooner if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C, the internationally agreed target for avert climate catastrophe. The new research comes to this conclusion without assuming that the new technologies will be able to remove the necessary amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to offset the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts say relying on such technologies is a risky bet. See https://bit.ly/3zUTVxj
Events to come: To mark the anniversary of last summer’s Heat Dome in British Columbia, which killed 619 people, communities across the country will demonstrate on June 19 to hold our government to account. Meet at the MNR building on Water Street at 11 a.m. to demand just transition legislation and accelerated action to phase out fossil fuels. Sign up on the 350.org website at https://tinyurl.com/eaz77f9s.
Carbon dioxide: The atmospheric CO2 reading for the week ending June 18 was 421.03 parts per million (ppm), down from 419.00 ppm a year ago. The highest level deemed safe for the planet is 350 ppm. Rising CO2 means more climate chaos and increasingly violent storms to come.
Take action: To see a list of ways YOU can take action for the climate, go to https://forourgrandchildren.ca/