Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: anglers

Bird Watcher’s Digest coverage

Quick Takes coverage of Space to Roost in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of Bird Water's Digest.

Quick Takes coverage of Space to Roost in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of Bird Water’s Digest.

Congratulations to MES candidate Jaya Fahey, and collaborators from her MES sponsors and Mitacs host, Bird Studies Canada, for the coverage of Space to Roost in the recent issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest. Our innovative approach to negotiating and motivating high-tide beach sharing for migrating shorebirds has received interest from places like Newfoundland and Georgia and we hope to see more examples of this kind of collaborative conservation in future as a result.

Space to Roost partner meeting in Kentville

Space to Roost partner meeting in Kentville, March 27, 2018

Space to Roost partner meeting in Kentville, March 27, 2018

It was a lovely day to get in the car and head to Kentville to meet with partners from our Space to Roost project, including the Blomidon Naturalist Society, Nature Conservancy Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. MES candidate Jaya Fahey shared results from our implementation of shorebird resting beaches at two beaches in the Minas Basin, an Important Bird Area. We negotiated those resting beaches with user groups and human-caused bird disturbance also dropped: great news! Enjoyed refining our approach for 2018 with this keen and experienced group.

Angling for answers

Bilingual material about making space for shorebirds to rest this migration season.

Bilingual material about making space for shorebirds to rest this migration season.

As shorebirds start to arrive in the Bay of Fundy on their annual migration back south, it is a good time to report on our recent survey with striped bass anglers and outline our plans for the summer. We implemented an online survey with anglers who use key roosting sites in the Minas Basin, particularly ‘the Guzzle‘, to help us explore options for sharing beach space with migrating shorebirds at their high-tide resting period. This was in lieu of trying to assemble a workshop or focus group. The response was excellent, and we are now sharing the results here (PDF). On the basis of this feedback, and engagement with beach users in Avonport, our other key site, we have developed bilingual materials (above) that explain why, where and how to help shorebirds rest to ensure a successful migration back south: it’s a three-day trip over the Gulf of Mexico and they can’t swim! With anglers and other beach users we have identified lesser-used areas of each site to pilot setting aside at high tide for shorebird roosting, The back of the above card features a tide table that shows the times in August 2017 that we hope people will leave the sites for bird use, and signs at each place will explain further. We enjoyed this process of developing conservation ideas WITH beach users, many of whom are already great stewards of these birds. Space to Roost researcher Jaya Fahey will then be monitoring bird disturbance this year, as she did last year, and we’ll hope to see a difference.

Overheard… stakeholders

Sitting in Steve-o-Reno’s before last week’s holiday, over a coffee, I overheard an elderly woman describing her quest to eliminate coyotes on her farm. She worried for her grand-daughter after seeing six after the family dog. Her son told her she could only shoot one. First she soaked sponges in something delicious, hoping eating the sponges would make them sick. Coyotes stuck around. Then she smashed wine bottles to powder and made meatballs with the shards. That worked. Horrifying to hear, but an important reminder of challenges to biodiversity on farms. Threatening species often inspire responses that are disproportionate to the financial risks they represent; damaging species are the opposite.

I can sometimes be naive in how I engage with conservation stakeholder groups like farmers and anglers. I say to my collaborators, “I think most people want to know how to be ‘good'”. I encourage biologists to bring stakeholders into conservation discussions as experts and stewards. To assume the best rather than the worst. But it doesn’t always work. A survey we had in the field with anglers about shorebird conservation recently was trolled on Facebook by the head of an NB fishing group. He was discouraging anglers from participating in this research, because despite our collaborative intentions, the resulting paper may be used by others to refuse them access to beaches. It is disappointing to see that science is perceived as a threat.

It is perhaps characteristic of such groups to default to the most conservative mindset among their membership, leading from behind rather than out front. I found this interesting in the context of producer organizations. In research last year we found that Alberta groups with farmers as members (as opposed to their umbrella national organizations, often with organizations as members) tended to talk about weather instead of acknowledging climate change. It is not always this way, though. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, a frequent collaborator has been a strong advocate of “mainstreaming” biodiversity-friendly farming, as evident through their partnership on  Wood Turtle Strides.

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