Refuge needs to be preserved

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It’s amazing – and a little daunting – to find how entwined certain species of wildlife can be with human habitat. It adds a definite element of responsibility.

An event last night in New Glasgow focused on the future of the chimney swift, that spectacular bird that lives up to its name in swift patterns of grouped flight and roosting in chimneys. But just the right kind of chimney is becoming more rare – and that was the point of the session put on Tuesday by Bird Studies Canada and the Pictou County Naturalist Society.

New Glasgow has long had the distinction of boasting one such chimney swift haven at the Temperance Street school, which as of this summer became a surplus property – with the opening in September of New Glasgow Academy – and is destined to go up for sale. Ownership went to the Town of New Glasgow at the end of the school year.

That has people concerned about this bird population, a species that migrates to South America in the fall but spends spring and summer in more northerly areas.

Birds being somewhat dependent on human structures might sound strange. But as an article in Tuesday’s edition of The News explained, in earlier times our wooded areas had more large trees that would become hollow and provide nightly refuge for the birds.

That makes it a bit of a double whammy for this species. Humans have engineered the forests for their own purposes over the centuries, eliminating much of the older growth. Now these adaptive birds are facing a scarcer number of suitable chimneys – for example, when they fall out of use and are capped.

Maritimes Swift Watch, a citizen-scientist monitoring and conservation program, is hoping to work with the new owners of the building to maintain the chimney according to the needs of these birds.

It’s helpful to think of the looming dilemma for this species as a community issue. That’s one reason for last night’s educational session, to ensure people are aware and speak up for those who are voiceless.

Organizations: Pictou County Naturalist Society, Temperance Street school, New Glasgow Academy

Geographic location: New Glasgow, South America

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