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May ushers in migratory mania for local birders (4 photos)

'Anything that affects our health will affect bird health, too,' says Nature Barrie member ahead of World Migratory Bird Day on May 14

Barrie bird-watchers will be celebrating a special day with their feathered friends next month.

World Migratory Bird Day takes place on May 14.

“It’s important to remind the public of the things that adversely affect birds and also to remind people of the ways we can help them,” Nature Barrie’s Dorothy McKeown tells BarrieToday. “And anything that affects our health will affect bird health, too.”

Every spring and fall, thousands of migratory waterfowl and songbirds commute through Barrie, taking advantage of what Kempenfelt Bay and the surrounding countryside have to offer.

The theme for this year’s World Migratory Bird Day is ‘Dim the Lights for Birds at Night’.

Did you know most songbirds migrate at night?

Gwen Petreman, another Nature Barrie bird buddy, sure does.

“Bright lights at night can easily draw birds off their intended migration flyway,” she tells BarrieToday.

“They frequently fly into buildings and often die agonizing deaths from the impact," Petreman says. "Vibrant lighting can also become an arousing signal to begin migration way too early and urban lights can also lead migrating flocks far off the course of their intended destination.”

Every year in Canada, millions of birds die needlessly by collisions with houses and run-ins with low-rise and highrise buildings, Petreman says.

“FLAP – Fatal Light Awareness Program – has been working in Canada since 1993 to raise awareness about bird collisions and has worked tirelessly to convince governments to pass necessary legislation for new building codes that will reduce bird collisions,” she says.

“People can take some simple steps of their own to prevent birds from colliding with window panes, whether it’s at work or at home."

Those steps include turning off lights when they are not in use, particularly in empty office buildings; closing curtains and blinds; the use of LEDs and compact fluorescents (warm-coloured bulbs will help reduce collisions); as well as dimmers, motion sensors and timers which can help to reduce average illumination levels.

James Coey, also from Nature Barrie, has planned some activities at the Community Gardens Celebration at Lampman Park on World Migratory Bird Day on May 14.

Members from the club will host a display table with pertinent bird-friendly information and a variety of activities, including taking suggestions about what bird might be appropriate to represent the city of Barrie.

As well, knowledgeable field naturalists will be leading participants on free guided walks (registration required) at Hewitt Creek, North Kempenfelt Bay, Bear Creek Eco-Park, Sandy Hollow Buffer, Sunnidale Park and the southshore area. Visit the Brereton Field Naturalists/Nature Barrie website to learn more.

Another winged wonderland is also celebrating on May 14. To acknowledge World Migratory Bird Day, the Friends of Minesing Wetlands will be hosting the Introduction to Birding Basics event at the Waterfowl Viewing Platform from 1-3 p.m. 

“The 12-foot-high platform offers a bird's-eye view of the wetland and a myriad of waterfowl,” says Petreman.

Between dimming the lights for our flying friends and raising awareness about how we can help them  even if it’s just in our own backyard  residents can do their part, McKeown says.

“If you show people what’s out there, they’ll know what to protect,” she says. “And when we lose one part of an ecosystem, the rest of it suffers.”