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Patrick Nadeau, Birds Canada President & CEO
The birds are back –which means that right across the country, Birds Canada staff and thousands of volunteers are hard at work on dozens of bird conservation, monitoring, and outreach initiatives. I was eager to join in on the fun (and frankly, greatly in need of swapping the computer screen for some sunscreen), so I packed my bags for a birdy trip to the Maritimes. Here’s a recap of the adventure. 

Baker-Brook, New Brunswick

Family first! I started by visiting my grand-maman Mariette in Baker-Brook, in the house where my father grew up. It was great to see her, and as always we chatted for a while about the birds that are around.
Lots of swallows – as we spoke, a Tree Swallow was busy shuttling in and out of the nest box Grandma has up in the yard. Down by the river, there are still Bank Swallows, but much fewer than when we used to go tubing on that river as kids. And sadly, Grandma hasn’t seen a Bobolink in the yard in years, whereas they used to be a fairly common sight. The decline of aerial insectivores that is playing out at Grandma’s is playing out across the continent – and that’s why we at Birds Canada are particularly focused on the recovery of this bird group. 
This good old New Brunswick covered bridge a few steps from Grandma’s place still attracts nesting swallows.
This good old New Brunswick covered bridge a few steps from Grandma’s place still attracts nesting swallows. Photo: Patrick Nadeau

Near Mount Carleton, New Brunswick

Next, I hit the back roads until I reached the remote Christmas Mountains in north-central New Brunswick. There I met with my Birds Canada colleagues Laura Achenbach (Field Manager, High Elevation Landbird Program), Sasha Chilibeck, Catherine Woo-Durand, and Mariane Meilleur (High Elevation Landbird Program Technicians), who are all working on our long-standing Bicknell’s Thrush initiative.
Patrick conducting a Bicknell’s Thrush point counts.
Braving the blackflies during Bicknell’s Thrush (BITH) point counts. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
Never seen or heard a Bicknell’s Thrush? Not surprising in the least – these threatened birds are among the most elusive songbirds in North America, and their breeding grounds are limited to a few patches of dense, high-elevation forests in the Maritimes, Québec, and New England. Birds Canada has monitored this species in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for over 20 years using in-person surveys and automated recording units. 
Knowing where these birds are located directly informs conservation efforts – and logging activity is directed away from known locations. This work has directly and significantly informed New Brunswick’s draft recovery strategy for Bicknell’s Thrush – which if implemented properly, will be an encouraging step towards longer term protection of important  breeding habitat for this species. 

Near Mount Carleton, New Brunswick

Next was a visit to Youghall Beach Park. A colony of threatened Bank Swallows has made its home on the shore – but erosion and human activities nearby are threats to this fragile habitat. Birds Canada, working closely with many partners such as the Canadian Wildlife Service, has implemented a Living Shoreline initiative here.

My colleagues Ally Manthorne (Associate Director, Atlantic Programs & Aerial Insectivore Conservation Strategist) and Allison MacKay (Conservation Planner) explained how this involves using natural plantings, as well as establishing a no-mow perimeter to stabilize the bank and make sure it remains optimal for the swallows. The Bathurst initiative is inspiring other municipalities to adopt similar projects, and we look forward to seeing this approach scaled up for the benefit of Bank Swallows, which have collapsed by a dire 98% since 1970. 

Staff at Youghall Beach
Birds Canada staff and partners at the site of the Living Shoreline project. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
Youghall Beach
Bank Swallow burrows. The fence in the foreground made of natural materials is not meant to be permanent – rather, it is there to give the shoreline plantings time to take root so they can perform their intended function. Photo: Patrick Nadeau

Mahone Bay and Lockeport, Nova Scotia

After a sumptuous BBQ in Sackville, New Brunswick hosted by my Atlantic colleagues, who it turns out are all master gardeners and chefs, it was on to Southwest Nova Scotia for the next visit.
On my way, I stopped to visit with one of my predecessors and Birds Canada President Emeritus, George Finney. George graciously showed me around his place (another master gardener!), and we chatted about his time at the helm of what was then Bird Studies Canada from 2004 to 2014. I was reminded of the rich history of our organization and was happy to have the opportunity to thank George in person for everything he built during his tenure.


Patrick and George
Patrick Nadeau with one of his predecessors and Honorary President George Finney. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
Birds Canada staff, volunteers, Nova Scotia government representatives, and Canadian Wildlife Society representatives visiting a Piping Plover beach in Lockeport, NS. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
Then it was on to Lockeport, Nova Scotia, where I could barely contain my excitement as I observed my first-ever pair of breeding Piping Plovers. My colleagues Sue Abbott (Associate Director of Atlantic Programs), Avery Nagy-MacArthur (Nova Scotia Shorebird Programs Biologist), and Chy (Shy) Nickerson (Southwest Nova Scotia Beach Bird Stewardship Assistant in Species of Highest Concern), along with experts from the Nova Scotia government as well as the Canadian Wildlife Service, helped me really understand just how important beach stewardship is for the preservation of this species.
I was honoured to meet several of the volunteers who have been doing this work in various parts of Nova Scotia for decades! 

Bridgetown, Nova Scotia

Fittingly, the last stop on my tour, the “sunset stop” if you will, happened as the sun was setting in Bridgetown. Overhead, threatened Chimney Swifts were chattering away as they began to circle the chimney they used to roost. The Bridgetown chimney isn’t any old chimney – it’s not even a functional chimney! It was built there by local authorities specifically for the swifts, with significant engagement and expertise from Birds Canada, after the previous roost chimney at the local High School was torn down. It was amazing to be joined by many of the community members and government officials who made this new roost happen.

As my colleagues Ally Manthorne, Rielle Hoeg (Atlantic Outreach Biologist), Heather Polowyk (Bank Swallow Conservation Coordinator), and Samantha Tucker (Swift, Swallow and Shorebird Stewardship Assistant) began to count the swifts diving into the chimney for the night (I lost count after about 2 seconds), I couldn’t help but think about what all my stops had in common: passionate and dedicated humans. I wouldn’t be doing this job if I didn’t firmly believe that we can turn this thing around. If enough of us get together and get involved, we will indeed halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. Never has our tagline rang more true for me: Together, we are Canada’s voice for Birds.

Birds Canada staff and volunteers attending the event to observe roosting Chimney Swifts in Bridgetown, NS. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
Chimney Swift Roost Tower signage is seen at the event to observe roosting Chimney Swifts in Bridgetown, NS. Photo: Patrick Nadeau
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