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Campaign results in promise to build new structure for Barn Swallows

UPDATE FEB. 28: The work of local naturalists and support of the public has resulted in a commitment by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) to erect a Barn Swallow alternate nesting structure at the site of the former nesting shed at Point Traverse by March 31.

Cheryl Anderson reports the culmination of the campaign during the past week by members and supporters of Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) and South Shore Joint Initiative (SSJI).

“Although we were unable to save the nesting shed, our work had a positive result with the commitment from CWS to build the alternate nesting structure immediately,” said Anderson, SSJI vice-president. “The work of our three organizations over the weekend raised awareness about these iconic aerial insectivores. Now more people will appreciate their importance to biodiversity and the web of life. Thank you to everyone who wrote and called Minister Guilbeault.”

The Canadian Wildlife Service removed the Barn Swallow nesting shed on Feb. 27 as part of plans to remove all the remaining buildings of the fishing village that existed at Point Traverse since the 19th century.

“The new alternate nesting structure will follow the design of those proven to be effective in other locations in
Ontario,” said Anderson. “Barn Swallows are a species at risk listed as Threatened federally and Special Concern in Ontario.

“Adults show fidelity to breeding sites by commonly reusing the same nest. The number of old nests at a site at the start of the breeding season is also thought to serve as an important cue for young birds selecting their initial breeding location” At least seven pairs of Barn Swallows traditionally have used the Point Traverse shed.”

The South Shore Joint Initiative is a volunteer run, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a mission to educate and advocate for the protection, preservation and restoration of South Shore lands and waters in Prince Edward County.

Click here to learn more about the species

Barn Swallow on Sumac – photograph by Ian Barker

 

Canadian Wildlife Service demolished swallows’ nesting area

UPDATE FEB. 27: Shed demolished

 

CWS plans to demolish Barn Swallows’ nesting shed

County supporters of nature have learned the Canadian Wildlife Service plans to demolish a shed that is the nesting habitat of at least seven pairs of Barn Swallows at Prince Edward Point.

Environmental organizations from Prince Edward County and area are appealing to Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change to stop the demolition of the last Barn Swallow nesting habitat in Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) has announced intention to remove all the buildings in the NWA in the week starting Feb. 26. The buildings are the remnants of the fishing village that has existed at Point Traverse since the nineteenth century. One Prince Edward County family is still actively involved in the commercial fishery from Point Traverse. The edict from the CWS means that the shed used as nesting habitat will be destroyed along with the remaining fishing village buildings.

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), South Shore Joint Initiative (SSJI) and Prince
Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) along with Field Naturalist organizations from Belleville
and Kingston are rallying their supporters this weekend.

The organizations reminded representatives from CWS about the opportunity to create a safe and effective habitat for Barn Swallows at a meeting on Friday, Feb. 23. However, they were unsuccessful in their appeal. The current campaign is launched as a result.

“We need everyone to appeal to the Minister to stop this inhumane destruction of habitat of a species at risk” asserts SSJI vice president Cheryl Anderson.

The shed. – Cheryl Anderson photo

“Barn Swallows are a species-at-risk categorized as ‘Threatened’ federally and ‘Special Concern’ in Ontario,” says Anderson, citizen scientist and a member of all the County’s nature organizations including the SSJI South Shore Joint Initiative. “Demolishing the shed means the loss of habitat for up to 70 Barn Swallows. Barn Swallows may hatch as many as 10 young in a season with two broods.”

The shed is part of a former fishing village in the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area. At present, Anderson notes unsuccessful appeals have been made for rehabilitation and fencing of the shed to protect the swallows’ nesting habitat.

In contrast, says Anderson, about 30 kms away a local business – Quinte Isle Campark – successfully rehabilitated a similar shed resulting in continued use by Barn Swallows.

“We watched when Parks Canada destroyed Cliff Swallow nests while rehabilitating Point Traverse Lighthouse. Now the Canadian Wildlife Service plans to destroy the nesting habitat of Barn Swallows.”

Barn Swallow photograph by Ian Barker

These actions by government agencies, she notes, put paid to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s recent claims about the importance of birds as “the most accessible and effective indicators of the health of air, water, and land.”

In a press release Feb. 14 speaking to investment in open data for birds and biodiversity, minister Steven Guilbeault claims birds “are at the heart of Canada’s biodiversity and play an essential role in maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems in communities.”

The release went on to state “Birds are the chorus to nature’s biodiversity. Embracing collaboration and making biodiversity-related data publicly available will lead to a deeper understanding of our environment as we continue making progress toward conserving 30 per cent of land, fresh water, and oceans in Canada by 2030. I am inspired by the leadership of communities, citizen scientists, and organizations such as Birds Canada, who are stepping up and working together to build a nature-positive future.”

Anderson, as a citizen scientist who has supported and been involved with avian research for decades, deplores the decision to destroy Barn Swallow nesting habitat when other easy options are available.

She is not alone.

Barker was among those who volunteered images when they were requested by Environment Canada to illustrate signage in the NWA a few years ago.

The County’s Ian Barker has also been writing the Canadian Wildlife Service in appeal on behalf of the Barn Swallows. Barker regularly photographs birds at the Long Point Harbour and all along the south shore and has been birding and boating there for more than 40 years.

“It is my understanding the intent is to ‘naturalize’ areas beyond the prominent ‘Keep Out’ signs by demolishing structures… removal of the shed beside the harbour near the boat launch and dock. I imagine that there is a way of circumventing regulations related to destroying nesting habitat if it is not in use, but removal of that shed will destroy the main nesting habitat for Barn Swallows in the Prince Edward Point Natural Wildlife Area (NWA).

Barker was among those who volunteered images when they were requested by Environment Canada to illustrate signage in the NWA a few years ago.

“With clearance of old growth trees and the attendant lost of cavities in which to nest, Barn Swallows adapted to human-built structures as nesting places, to the point that one such structure became a component of the common name,” Barker adds.

“Rather than destroy that shed, which is a vestige of the historic use of the harbour by fishers, it should be restored, with openings and inner structures such that it can continue to serve as swallow nesting habitat. It could also be signed, describing it as a physical relic of the commercial fishing community which long used the harbour, and is part of the cultural history of Prince Edward County South Shore.”

While well-intentioned, Barker notes the artificial Swallow House constructed near the banding station does not in any way match the shed by the dock in aesthetics, historical relevance, or function.

Barker, and others, remain angry Environment Canada and Parks Canada and have a sorry record of dealing the lighthouse.

“Restoration and preservation of the lighthouse should be a cultural priority for the south shore as well, and fortunately some effort finally was put into that by parks a few years ago. Unfortunately, in the course of the exercise, scores of Cliff Swallow nests were destroyed.

A few of the nests previous to restoration – Ian Barker photo

The swallows seem to be returning to the lighthouse, but slowly. The direct relevance to the NWA is that the Cliff Swallows depend on two or three large mud puddles that form in the parking lot adjacent to the boat launch for mud to build their nests.

“I was very concerned last fall to see that the parking lot by the boat launch/dock had been gravelled, and relieved that the depressions where the mud puddles form had not be filled in.

“If this area, which is about the boundary comprised of the Keep Out signs is to be ‘naturalized’, please realize that those depressions form a necessary seasonal nest-building resource for Cliff Swallows, and although no doubt the product of vehicle traffic over decades, are a necessary part of Cliff Swallow habitat in the NWA. They must be preserved.

Cliff Swallows mud frenzy – photograph by Ian Barker

“Populations of avian insectivores are in decline, in part because the man-made structures to which they adapted after tree cavities were largely eliminated by land-clearing and forestry, are now, in turn disappearing. It is ironic that with your attempts at ‘naturalization’ in the NWA, swallow habitat is being placed at risk or destroyed.”

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  1. ADJ says:

    I do agree! However we already have a great museum and display of Lake history including the fishing communities of Pt. Traverse and Main Ducks. It’s on Ct. Rd. 13 on the way to Pt. Traverse so I doubt another build would happen down there.
    It seems to have been forgotten that the harbour at Pt. Traverse is the only safe haven on this side of Lake Ont.for boaters travelling west to east and north and south. It should be a priority to keep it accessible at all times. Right now it is not.

  2. Teena says:

    Sorry about that – I really wasn’t being clear. I was thinking more in the line of a low-key museum with plaques outside the buildings showing history (like the one at Lake on the Mountain, not a full-fledged beach resort. We have enough of that crap already.

  3. ADJ says:

    A tourism attraction!!! Yes, I can see that. Miles of beach waterfront that with a change of government could become another SandBanks Park. Lets wait and see what Ten years will bring.

  4. Teena says:

    That fishing industry could have been made into a tourism attraction with a little bit of thinking. Sadly, all governments tend to shoot first and deal with the fallout after.

  5. Irvin Collier says:

    it’s interesting to see how the Federal Government wants to destroy and obliterate any historical facts about what they call “Colonial history” in favour of indigenous stories. My family lived at Point Traverse over 200 years and enjoyed a living from the fishing industry. I even have photographs of their activity in the harbour. A total shame!

  6. doug murphy says:

    I am pleased to see the wildlife staff have swallowed their fly by night decision and built a new nesting place for the birds .

  7. Michelle says:

    I do not wish to retract my comments in regards to actions taken by CWS to eliminate a historic fishing Village in our County,

  8. Gilles Miramontes says:

    I fully retract my damning and snide remark about the Canadian Wildlife Service. I am pleased by their resolve to build a new structure for nesting Barn Swallows, before their return, by the end of March. Kudos to PEPtBO, PECFN, and SSJI, for their unrelenting and persuasive lobbying. It is a brighter day.

  9. Cheryl Anderson says:

    The Canadian Wildlife Service has committed to erecting an alternate nesting structure for Barn Swallows by March 31. The structure will be the same design as others that have been successful in attracting Barn Swallow to nest in other parts of Ontario.

  10. Gilles Miramontes says:

    An admirable act by the Canadian Wildlife Disservice. Bravo. Review your mandate.

  11. Michelle says:

    And to think they call themselves a Wildlife Service!This area needs to be in possession and control of The County.

  12. Cheryl Anderson says:

    The shed at Point Traverse used by Barn Swallows for nesting for approximately 40 years was destroyed this morning by Canadian Wildlife Service.

  13. Linda McCormack says:

    As soon as I learned of the demolition taking place yesterday at PEPNWA and the demise of The Commercial Fishing Village Heritage Area which also inhabits our friendly precious birds I contacted MP Ryan Williams office and explained the affiliation with the fishers as my understanding many concerned citizens contacted their office also.
    MP Ryan Williams immediately tried to press Environment Minister Guilbeault for an immediate halt of this destruction and lease termination which would protect the birds and save the livelihood, heritage and tradition of the commercial fishery.
    We have been trying for months to negotiate with Guilbeault and CWS, Toronto to no avail.
    This atrocity was initiated by CWS in Toronto and our contact person we were advised was Andrea Kettle at Andrea.Kettle@ec.gc.ca who advised us by email this decision to destroy the facilities and lease termination was made by CWS Senior officials who could now contact Guilbeault and advise him to reverse this decision.
    CWS, Toronto was trying to get rid of the commercial fishers and in the meantime has little concern and is obliterating the species they should be protecting not to mention the vegetation destruction in this unnecessary demolition and the costs which affects the other animals that inhabit PEPNWA.
    Someone at CWS, Toronto needs to be accountable and Guilbeault!
    Regards,
    Linda McCormack

  14. Gary Miller says:

    I would like to know if there’s proof of illegal hunting taken place at Prince Edward Point

  15. Cheryl Anderson says:

    Tuesday morning update:
    The demolition company is at Point Traverse and has started on the opposite side of the Harbour from the Barn Swallow shed. We need to keep up the pressure on the Minister, because at this point only his intervention will stop the demolition of the shed. Thanks everyone.
    ministre-minister@ec.gc.ca>

  16. Mark says:

    The Swallows wiil return in the Spring to nest. They always return to their nesting spot. There will be nothing there. Thanks Canada Wildlife Service, you represent what?

  17. John Brett says:

    Another example of act first and think later.
    I am sure that there are people out there who will assist in the construction of alternative housing.
    Eviction by demolition is not the answer.

  18. Patricia Morphy says:

    I read about the reported plight of the barn swallows. I was saddened to hear about this so I decided to call the number provided, email the address provided and create a petition on Change.org to see if more traction can be had and demolition stopped (at least until another structure suitable for barn swallows can be built).
    I used a couple of Ian Barker photos and words from the County Live report. I will acknowledge both.
    I am hoping this is okay with the wonderful people in PEC and it might help.
    Wish I’d known about it sooner.

  19. We need an open discussion about how we define “wilderness” and wildlife habitat. I love to imagine the land wild and free before humans were manipulating nature, but I have had to recognize that most of the world has been impacted by humans for tens of thousands of years and we are literally part of the ecological community and global cycle of life. Wildlife actually thrives in “edge” environments such as between field and forest and along fence lines and hedge rows, and in old abandoned buildings as the swallows do at Prince Edward Point. Just across the border the Adirondack Land Trust conservation group is working in partnership with the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center and re-interpreting what is “Forever Wild” the motto of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Why are the remnants of ancient indigenous societies worth preserving but the artefacts from a traditional way of life such as Great Lakes commercial fishing are not? Let me guess, insurance liability for all the dangerous structures and things lying around out there… photographers love them!

  20. Catherine O'Brien says:

    This link popped up as I was reading the Countylive article.

    https://windsor.ctvnews.ca/mobile/inside-ontario-s-fight-to-save-declining-barn-swallows-one-bird-house-at-a-time-1.3488668?cache=axwyxwbrej

    If CWS insists on demolishing the existing structure, it goes without saying that appropriate alternative “housing” must be in place prior to that demolition.

    Why does CWS demand such urgency for this action? From my very amateur point of view, the barn swallows’ “repurposing” of this abandoned structure is an absolutely perfect example of nature! The educational value of this living display piece ALONE should place it on a priority list for protection, not demolition!

    I will be leaving messages and emailing, for sure. Thanks for getting the word out!🤞

  21. Teena says:

    At the very least, nesting boxes should be installed long before that building is demolished. This is criminal. CWS should be decommissioned and replaced with an entity that damned well cares.

  22. Linda McCormack says:

    You need immediate action and while Guilbeault ordinarily should be the right approach, this man is oblivious to facts and doesn’t respond for months, but send anyway, the more input to this man the better.
    If you haven’t already done so, for immediate action notify our MP Ryan Williams, he has been working diligently on behalf of the fishers.
    Then try the Mayor, Steve Ferguson. He should immediately do something as this is in Prince Edward County!
    Even though this is federal I recently sent information on behalf of the fishers to our Premier, Doug Ford as this is occurring in the Province of Ontario and the Premier is not a fan of Guilbeault.
    We ae still fighting CWS and the Minister on their unjust decision to destroy The Commercial Fishing Village Heritage Area at PEPNWA as the survey clearly shows the leases were allocated to the fishers not CWS and we have a signed document guaranteeing security of the leases for the fishers by The Honourable Len Marchand former Minister of Environment Canada.(This should protect the buildings)
    We feel CWS and the Minister is trying to wipe out any existence of the commercial fishery and now the birds are in jeopardy!
    If you have the resources a temporary injunction may work.
    (I’m sending a request to the Minister)
    Regards,
    Linda McCormack

  23. Valerie Hussey says:

    If one purpose of CWS is to protect species at risk, which these birds are, then at the very least put up the proposed new structure before demolishing the old one. Why is CWS at odds with our citizen activists organizations in PEC that do so much to advance protection of our wildlife. Our wildlife champions have boots on the ground in PEC; they know what is going on and should be CWS’s strongest partners — eyes and ears — in this community.

  24. Fran Harding says:

    Every spring my husband and I go to Prince Edward Point National Wildlife area to see the migrating birds. The barn swallows are a highlight as the last few we were aware of in the Ottawa area are no longer around.

    Please take what measures you can to prevent the destruction of one of the most successful nesting structures for this “threatened” species.

  25. Jane Macdonald says:

    The number does not accept messages and is closed for the weekend. I note that his Ottawa office number is 613-992-6779 and his constituency office number is 514-522-1339. An alternate email is Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca You can leave a message on both those numbers. When the office opens Monday you can use that 844-836-7799 number which reaches Environment Canada’s media relations office.

  26. Harvey Tren=meer says:

    It boggles the mind that the CWS would make such a decision, Having grown up on a farm the barn swallow always nested on beams in the stable, as there were always open doors or windows in the warmer weather. Countless numbers of insects were consumed as the swallows swept through the air, collecting insects as they flew. With fewer barns their habitat is in decline and now CWS has decided it should be even more so.

  27. Cheryl Anderson says:

    Thank you Terry for reminding us of the great work you did in the National Wildlife Area for many years.
    Now we need phone calls and emails to Minister Guilbeault to stop the destruction of the shed, ministre-minister@ec.gc.ca, 1-844-836-7799
    Call them and let them know that you support the Barn Swallows and their nesting shed.
    The Swallows will be returning very soon – they must have a place to return to. Thanks everyone for your help.

  28. CWS (Canadian “Wildlife Service”) continues in its bumbling efforts to make so-called “improvements” to portions of the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area. First, came the destruction of the historic commercial fishing village, and now, critical breeding habitat for threatened Barn Swallows – decisions made in climate-controlled offices by staff who possess little to no knowledge of the natural world and how it functions. My late wife and I, and other volunteers, worked at maintaining the walking trails through the Point Traverse Woods to make them safe for visiting birders. We installed two portable benches in critical habitat, and removed them every fall. We performed this task for over 15 years, annually and without fanfare. Several years ago, CWS ordered us to cease and desist and to remove the benches as they had “plans” for improvements. No direct contact with me who organized the annual effort, no thank you for our past efforts – just get out! A few years later, in they came during the peak nesting season, and blackened the area with toxic sprays to combat the invasive dog strangling vine, in the process, destroying critical feeding areas for migrating passerines. Construction equipment then entered and transformed this once remote corner of the peninsula to something akin to Coney Island – obviously to appeal to tourists rather than naturalists, saturating the area with signage, and monstrosities for benches lacking back rests, most of them pointing in directions favored by tourists – the open water. A small open viewing area elsewhere along the road designed to accommodate no more than two cars now contains no fewer than 13 information signs! We have to wonder what the next “improvements” will be. Meanwhile, illegal hunting continues down there with wild abandon, and unchallenged by the CWS.

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