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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Seeing the Geese in Chevron Flight

See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on earlier than the snow  
They have the urge for going and so they’ve acquired the wings to allow them to go
They get the urge for going when the meadow grass is popping brown 
And summertime is falling down – Joni Mitchell

The beginning of the brand new yr has me reflecting on the final twelve months, in addition to years additional previous, with nostalgia. In upstate New York the place I grew up, the onset of autumn is a candy time of yr. The air turns crisp, and the altering tree foliage transforms the panorama into an beautiful portray of crimson, orange, and yellow hues. Because the season progresses and solely a handful of leaves stay on the bushes, the sound and sight of Canada Geese shifting throughout the sky is the surest signal that winter is on its method. I bear in mind how they might cease within the harvested cornfields of my rural farming neighborhood to relaxation and refuel. The flocks would come and go all through the day, and at any time when a brand new flock arrived to affix a gaggle already on the bottom, it was invariably adopted by loud, excited chatter amongst all of the birds. I haven’t the foggiest concept what data they had been speaking to their newfound flock mates, however it fascinated me, nonetheless. These weren’t the sofa potato geese residing year-round on the golf course within the suburbs, these had been bona fide Canada Geese hailing from the wilderness of distant northern latitudes that I may solely dream about. This previous summer time, nonetheless, I lastly acquired to see a few of that magnificent panorama once I joined a group of Canadian biologists to band geese alongside the Ontario shoreline of James Bay.

Carrie Gray holding a young Canada Goose in a capture pen.

The primary leg of the journey concerned touring to Timmins, Ontario to fulfill up with Rod Brook, a wildlife analysis specialist for Ontario’s Ministry of Pure Sources and Forestry (MNRF) who has studied waterfowl populations in northern Canada for greater than 25 years. In Timmins, we met our MNRF pilot to fly by helicopter to the distant village of Moosonee, Ontario, which might be our base for the subsequent week and the place we might meet the remainder of the crew. As we flew north out of Timmins, the Boreal Forest stretched out in all instructions as a mosaic of spruce forest, muskegs, lakes, and waterways. Extending greater than 5,000 km and encompassing greater than 1.5 billion acres from Newfoundland and Labrador within the east to Alaska within the west, North America’s Boreal Forest is without doubt one of the largest intact forest ecosystems left on earth. It supplies breeding habitat for 1 to three billion birds representing 399 species every year, together with 80% of North America’s waterfowl species. The extent of the wetland habitat that waterfowl depend on within the boreal turned obvious as we neared Moosonee and the forest gave approach to the Hudson Bay Lowlands—an unlimited plain alongside the shores of southern Hudson and James Bay that constitutes the biggest wetland community in North America and the third largest on the earth. The lowlands rise out of the tidal mud flats of Hudson and James Bay and prolong inland throughout northern Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec for an astounding 324,000 sq. kilometers of pristine wilderness. A minimum of 35 species of waterfowl use the realm as a migration stopover or breeding habitat, together with the southern Hudson Bay inhabitants of Canada Geese that we had traveled all this approach to band. The southern Hudson Bay inhabitants summers alongside the western shore and inland by means of Ontario and Manitoba, and winters from southern central Canada south all through the size of the Mississippi Valley. Banding information supplies wildlife managers with details about migration, habits, survival, reproductive success, and inhabitants development. For waterfowl, banding can also be an necessary software for calculating harvest charges and informing annual waterfowl searching laws.

Canada Geese in a capture pen.

The banding efforts of Rod and his crew of 4 area biologists cowl greater than 1,000 km of Ontario’s shoreline alongside southern Hudson Bay and western James Bay and coincide with the monthlong interval every summer time when the geese molt their flight feathers and can’t fly. Fieldwork entails flying low alongside the coast seeking geese; as soon as a flock is noticed, the 4 area biologists are dropped off to encompass the birds on both sides and maintain them in place, whereas Rod and the pilot discover dry floor to land the helicopter and arrange a seize pen. The pen is actually a corral made from nets, which as soon as arrange, the crew walks the flock towards, not in contrast to a cattle drive, whereas additionally thwarting the getaways of any escape artists within the flock. It’s not simple work and never with out threat; it entails working in a rugged and distant panorama, a lot of helicopter flight time, and the potential for polar bear encounters because the crew strikes additional north alongside the James Bay coast. However, Rod’s crew and a second crew on the Hudson Bay coast band a median of 6,000-7,000 Canada Geese over the course of three weeks every year! We had a few wet days in the course of the week I spent with them, which is a no go for helicopter flights, however we nonetheless managed to band nicely over 1,000 geese within the 4.5 days we had been capable of get out into the sector. The aerial views of the panorama had been spectacular. The sight of unbroken wilderness all the best way to the horizon in each course provides you an appreciation of how the world as soon as appeared. Most of us dwell in carved-up landscapes that bear no resemblance to their origins, be they reworked by growth in city and suburban areas or for agriculture in rural areas. However this place was wild. Grey wolves ran alongside the shoreline and lone black bears ambled alongside among the many bushes close to the coast. 1000’s of shorebirds and geese may very well be seen flying under us over the mudflats, Sandhill Cranes stuffed the marshes, and small flocks of American White Pelicans moved about simply offshore.

Southwestern Hudson Bay and western James Bay, together with the adjoining lowlands are additionally the Conventional Territories of eight coastal Omushkego communities: Attawapiskat First Nation, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan Cree First Nation, Missanabie Cree First Nation, Moose Cree First Nation, and Tayka Tagamou Nation, and Weenusk First Nation. Collectively, they comprise the Mushkegowuk Council, who, together with the Fort Severn First Nation, has put forth a proposal for a 91,000 km2 Nationwide Marine Conservation Space (NMCA). The institution of an NMCA in western James Bay would assist shield these lands and waters for all of the life it helps, together with the Canada Geese that migrate there every summer time. It might additionally go an extended approach to making certain the Authorities of Canada meets its dedication to protect 30 p.c of marine and coastal areas by 2030, which greater than 100 nations additionally pledged to do as a part of their commitments within the Publish-2020 International Variety Framework. The framework lays out a collection of actions for governments to perform to guard biodiversity and restore ecosystems of their nations. In December, Montreal hosted the 15th Convention of the Events (COP 15) to the United Nations Conference on Organic Variety,  which introduced collectively nations from all over the world to finalize and undertake that framework for assembly the 30 x 30 conservation targets. Assist for and the institution of the James Bay NMCA, in addition to the various different Indigenous-led conservation initiatives at the moment underway throughout Canada, shall be key to Canada’s success in assembly the targets for biodiversity safety and securing the nation’s function as a pacesetter within the international conservation motion.

Canada Goose swimming.


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