Hot spot for birds pur­chased

Six­teen-hectare Na­pa­nee Plain Al­var Na­ture Re­serve in one of rarest ecosys­tems in Great Lakes re­gion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES/NEWS - BY JEN­NIFER CHENG

A con­ser­va­tion group said Mon­day it had bought 16 hectares of prop­erty in eastern On­tario that is a hot spot for many grass­land birds such as the en­dan­gered eastern log­ger­head shrike.

The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada said its Na­pa­nee Plain Al­var Na­ture Re­serve, be­tween Belleville and Kingston, is in one of the rarest ecosys­tems in the Great Lakes re­gion.

The plain is made up of wet­lands, forests, lakes, grasslands and al­vars, which are found in only a few places glob­ally. Al­vars, nat­u­rally open habi­tats with lim­ited soil cov­er­ing a lime­stone base, are per­fect for grass­land birds such as the com­mon nighthawk, the eastern whip­poor­wills and the eastern mead­owlark.

The prop­erty serves as an im­por­tant breed­ing and feed­ing ground for the en­dan­gered eastern log­ger­head shrike — one of North Amer­ica’s few preda­tory song­birds known as the butcher bird. It is the site of a log­ger­head shrike re­lease pro­gram, which is in­creas­ing the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion with cap­tive-reared birds, the con­ser­vancy said.

In 2015, there were 12 breed­ing pairs of shrike in On­tario, down from 50 in 1992. In 2016, the num­ber had reached 18.

The group said it had been work­ing on the deal for a year, and the pur­chase brings the to­tal con­served area in the Na­pa­nee Plain to 747 hectares.

“This new prop­erty is an ex­pan­sion of the ex­ist­ing habi­tat (the shrike) are us­ing. It is the most con­sis­tently oc­cu­pied (nest­ing) ter­ri­tory in the Na­pa­nee Plain. They have told us that they like it — by breed­ing and feed­ing here,” said Mark Stabb, a pro­gram di­rec­tor for the na­ture con­ser­vancy. “Year af­ter year, they are com­ing back (so) what­ever we are do­ing is the right thing.”

The next step is to do an in­ven­tory of the area, iden­tify any threats that might ex­ist along with any en­dan­gered species, and in­cor­po­rate them into a prop­erty man­age­ment plan, Stabb said.

The Na­pa­nee Plain is home to sev­eral at-risk species such as Bland­ing’s tur­tle, eastern milk­snake, least bit­tern and but­ter­nut. It also sup­ports three glob­ally-im­per­illed plant com­mu­nity types found in al­var habi­tats, such as the ju­niper sedge.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion said the mi­gra­tory shrike is an ex­am­ple of an “area-sen­si­tive species,” adding the bird re­quires large ar­eas of open ter­rain be­fore it is com­fort­able enough to nest.

Con­ser­vancy vice-pres­i­dent James Dun­can said the plain and its glob­ally rare al­vars are “in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant” to On­tario.

“It’s crit­i­cal that we strive to con­serve its bio­di­ver­sity, not just for the species that it sup­ports, but for the ben­e­fit of cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Dun­can said in a state­ment.

Fund­ing for the prop­erty came from sources in­clud­ing the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, Kingston Field Nat­u­ral­ists and in­di­vid­ual donors.

“They have told us that they like it — by breed­ing and feed­ing here. Year af­ter year, they are com­ing back (so) what­ever we are do­ing is the right thing.” Mark Stabb

CP/HO - NA­TURE CON­SER­VANCY OF CANADA, DAVE MENKE

An Eastern Log­ger­head is shown in this un­dated handout photo. A con­ser­va­tion group said Mon­day it had bought 16 hectares of prop­erty in eastern On­tario that is a hot spot for many grass­land birds such as the en­dan­gered eastern log­ger­head shrike.The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada said its Na­pa­nee Plain Al­var Na­ture Re­serve, be­tween Belleville and Kingston, is in one of the rarest ecosys­tems in the Great Lakes re­gion.

CP/HO - NA­TURE CON­SER­VANCY OF CANADA

Moira River in the Na­pa­nee Plain Nat­u­ral Area in On­tario is shown in this un­dated handout photo.

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