Love of birds brings hope for mankind

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Caring Islanders find compassion to help threatened barn swallows, bobolinks

Strife always abounds in our large and chaotic world. Whether it is news about fighting in Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine or somewhere in Asia, there is always a plethora of complex and heart-wrenching problems to be found. But amid the din of all the violence there are small nuggets of good news — sometimes very small.

Some such good news was contained in a story published in this newspaper on Tuesday. It didn’t appear on the front page, or anywhere near the front of the newspapers — rather it was the 12th page of the “B” section.

The heading on the story was “Islanders protect farmland birds.” It turns out that barn swallows and bobolinks have lots of friends on Prince Edward Island. Both varieties of birds are threatened species and the Island Nature Trust was so concerned it issued a call for help in protecting them.

Bobolinks nest on the ground in hay fields and abandoned grassy fields. Barn swallows prefer a higher view; they nest in rafters and on ledges under eaves in buildings, mainly in rural settings.

This summer the Island Nature Trust, and some engaged volunteer landowners, are working to make sure the birds have all they need for their breeding season. Information such as the number of nests in barns, how far from the ground they are, what the nest is built on and how many young leave the nest is being collected.

In addition to collecting data, the Island Nature Trust has provided 28 ledges for barn swallows and has encouraged owners to make 27 buildings open 24/7 to allow the birds to freely come and go. One of the modern-day challenges for barn swallows is the lack of old-fashioned wooden ledges in today’s modern barns and the fact new barns don’t need to be open for ventilation purposes.

The trust needed even more help for the bobolinks. It asked farmers to delay the harvest of dry hay by a few days. And that wasn’t an insignificant request since such a delay lowers the nutrient values of the hay. The bobolinks breeding season ends by July 7 in Atlantic Canada so fields mowed before then would have resulted in the destruction of nests.

The Nature Trust had a goal to reach; it wanted to have 15 to 30 acres under this delayed harvest. Much to its delight, and the generosity and compassion of land owners, it exceeded that goal by delaying harvest on over 350 acres.

Although Islanders are doing their bit to help the barn swallows and bobolinks when they are on P.E.I., the long-distance migrators will always face challenges on their migration routes and wintering grounds. But at least their stay on Prince Edward Island is improving. It’s good to live in a world where even swallows and bobolinks have friends who care. Now back to the front pages and less peaceful news.


Happy birthday Prince George

Staying on the subject that oftentimes it’s the small things in life that bring joy, we offer a belated happy first birthday to Prince George, the little boy who could be king.

The son of Prince William and his wife Kate turned one on Tuesday and to mark the occasion the Royal Mint in England struck a commemorative coin. Editorial writers call him a symbol of hope, newspaper headlines hail him as “Gorgeous George” and one published a 24-page glossy magazine chronicling his first 12 months.

His uncle, Prince Harry, thinks that Prince George looks “like a young Winston Churchill.” As a result of George’s arrival, Harry is no longer third in line for the throne — that honour goes to George now.

Organizations: Nature Trust, Royal Mint

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Syria, Iraq Ukraine Asia Prince George Atlantic Canada England

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Recent comments

  • Philip Bettle
    July 27, 2014 - 08:28

    So good to hear something being done to give these birds a chance.I miss the days when the wires along the country roads were lined with barn swallows chattering and sweeping down on the fields to chase insects.As for bobolinks there is nothing like watching their spring mating flights and hearing their calls.To the people involved in this project,THANK YOU for helping to make a difference.Looking forward to seeing these fine birds