Ducks Unlimited

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Tuesday, 27 August 2019 08:48

Canada needs wetlands (so does NZ)

Ducks Unlimited Canada are celebrating 75 years of existence this month, October 20013. In a special souvenir issue put out by the Calgary Herald there is a piece that explains why Canada needs wetlands. In New Zealand we need wetlands to be looked after as well, so here are the reasons given by the Canadians. These are reasons New Zealand can also take to heart.

Ducks Unlimited Canada are celebrating 75 years of existence this month, October 20013. In a special souvenir issue put out by the  Calgary Herald there is a piece that explains why Canada needs  wetlands. In New Zealand we need wetlands to be looked after as well, so here are the reasons given by the Canadians. These are reasons New Zealand can also take to heart.

Wetland - like marshes and ponds are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They work behind the scenes, providing many important benefits to all Canadians.

Clean water: wetlands filter harmful pollutants from the water we drink and improve the health of our lakes and rivers.

Homes for wildlife: hundreds of species depend on wetlands for food and raising their young.

Flood and drought prevention: wetlands act like giant sponges, holding water during wet periods and releasing it during dry periods. Fun and recreation: wetlands are beautiful places for people of all ages to be active and enjoy nature.

Given all they do, it is shocking that wetlands continue to be lost. Every day up to 80 acres of wetlands are lost in Canada. Your help is needed. Join Ducks Unlimited, Canada’s conservation community at www.ducks.ca

 

The following are excerpts from another article in that Calgary Herald publication linking science with nature and wetlands. This is already happening with the work DUNZ has 
instigated at Wairio Wetland in the Wairarapa. In Southland Waituna Lagoon is also 
attracting scientific interest.

Science is helping to increase the knowledge about wetlands and what they do. Ducks Unlimited Canada biologist Owen Steele said: “As one of the Earth’s most  productive ecosystems, wetlands are also among the most threatened.

“A lot of people don’t care if wetlands are a good place for ducks or frogs or anything else, society is so urbanised we’ve lost touch with nature. “But if their home is going to get washed away of they’re no longer able to drink their tap water because of disappearing wetlands, they are suddenly interested. “

Steele says if the river that runs through their town is going to be green, scummy and unattractive to walk by, they are going to sit up and pay attention.

Research in North America clearly shows the critical environmental benefits wetlands provide, which include clean water and habitat for wildlife, reducing flooding and erosion and lessening the impact of climate change.

As wetlands are lost so too are the benefits they provide. These include phosphorus removal - without wetlands more phosphorus will go into our lakes and rivers.

There is also the carbon stored in wetlands. The biological diversity and the social benefits of wetlands start adding up. Landscape changes that include roading, rail lines and pipelines can all affect wetlands.

Owen Steel said: “Things like our jobs, the economy and our health are all important  issues; we need to figure out a way to link  wetland protection and conservation to those issues.

“We still have a long way to go in prevention of wetland loss.”

 

 

Published in Issue 157
Sunday, 20 January 2019 03:26

A break from winter in BC

Ducks Unlimited Canada members Len and Pat Everett spent several months in New Zealand this year, partly to avoid winter at home in British Columbia. They visited the Whakamanu Wildlife Trust sanctuary at Manunui near Ruapehu and enjoyed helping out with a North Island brown kiwi’s health check-up. The Canadian couple visited several of our members and wetlands, and spent time fishing and playing golf, and helping their son and partner move into a home they had just bought in Wellington. 

On their return home to Canada, Len was honoured with a special award at a DUC 80-50 Anniversary Celebration (80 years in Canada and 50 years in BC) for 30 years of service to DUC  and the wetlands of BC. 

Published in Issue 175
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 03:19

David Blom elected 43rd President of DUC

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) elected David Blom as its 43rd president at the organisation’s national board of directors’ meeting in Calgary, Alta. The Calgary businessman credits the conservation influences of family and friends for fostering his passion for water, wildlife and the environment. Blom has been volunteering with DUC for more than 30 years.

“I was raised with the attitude that we all have a responsibility to leave the land in a better state than how we found it,” says Blom. “It’s an honour to serve as Ducks Unlimited Canada’s president, and to help lead efforts that are conserving critical natural areas across the country.”

Established in 1938, DUC has been conserving wetlands for 79 years. Wetlands are among the world’s most productive ecosystems. In addition to providing essential habitat for a host of wildlife, they also naturally filter pollutants from water, guard against flooding and drought and store carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. To date, DUC has secured more than 6.4 million acres through 10,366 habitat projects.

DUC is backed by a conservation community of more than 137,000 people who are taking action in support of wetlands and wildlife. This includes more than 5,900 volunteers who help promote the importance of wetland conservation in the lives of all Canadians. The role of president is DUC’s top volunteer position.

“David brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to the presidential role,” says Karla Guyn, DUC’s chief executive officer. “His business acumen is second-to-none, but most importantly his belief in the mission will inspire others to join us on our conservation journey.”4/12

David BlomDavid Blom

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organisations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.

For more information, contact:

Ashley Lewis, Communications Specialist, Ducks Unlimited Canada

204-467-3252 (office)

PO Box 1160

204-941-3097 (cell)

Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

www.ducks.ca.

Published in Issue 172
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 02:44

A duck in spring - in Canada

Each spring, Canadians herald the sights and sounds of waterfowl as they flock to their nesting grounds. But after their long trips, life for our feathered friends isn’t easy. Ducks – especially females – undergo arduous physical and biological processes before, during and after their journeys. And once here, most hens have one shot to raise a brood.

It’s early June on the Saskatchewan prairies. A slight breeze gives her wings a lift as she circles over a patch of native grassland next to a shallow pond. She decides to land in a small clearing, then walks into the grassy cover. It’s the third spot she’s scouted. She feels safe here.

In the coming days, this blue-winged teal hen will construct a nest with nearby vegetation and line it with down plucked from her breast. She’ll feed on invertebrates to build her energy for an important role: producing a brood.

It’s no easy gig. She’ll need all the energy she has to give.

When male and female waterfowl prepare for their journey from their southern wintering grounds northwards to Canada, they do so in similar ways. The process differs between the sexes once they arrive. David Howerter, PhD, director of national conservation operations at Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) explains how, and why ducks do what they do – before and when they get here.

A shared experience: preparing for migration

Feeling restless – Ever wonder what pushes migratory waterfowl to bid adieu to their warm winter homes?

It’s a physiological process called zugunruhe (pronounced: zoo-gun-roo). This German term refers to the restlessness birds experience as migration nears. Zugunruhe is triggered by the endocrine system (a collection of glands that release hormones into their blood stream) in response to longer daylight hours. “As it gets closer to the time for these birds to migrate they become increasingly active,” says Howerter. “They’ll spend more time flying and their movements will begin to orient in the direction they intend to migrate.”

No exceptions – Zugunruhe impacts migratory waterfowl wintering close to the equator, where daylight hours remain consistent, year-round. This may be a result of evolutionary hangover from when the species had a different distribution, or because of the changing angle of the sun.

Packing on the pounds – “Before ducks begin their journey north, they’ll go through a phase biologists refer to as hyperphagia, where they’ll spend a lot of their days consuming calories,” explains Howerter. “This is done to prepare for their long trip.” Like zugunruhe, hyperphagia’s also triggered by hormonal changes, influenced by changing daylight hours.

Growing closer – Migratory waterfowl can only procreate from spring until late summer. This is because in the “off-season” their reproductive organs shrink, making it easier to fly over long distances. As birds close in on their breeding grounds, their endocrine system releases hormones that stimulate their reproductive organs to grow larger again in anticipation of breeding.

It’s all about her: producing a clutch

Once waterfowl arrive at nesting sites, the male-female experience begins to diverge. “Once they have fertilised the eggs and the hen is incubating, the drakes will take off. Often they’ll go further north, to the boreal forest,” says Howerter.

Meanwhile, the hens prepare for one of the most difficult processes they’ll go through in their lifetime: producing a clutch of eggs.

Size matters – How waterfowl behave once they arrive at the nesting site depends on whether they’re capital or income breeders. “Capital” breeders are large-bodied ducks that can store enough energy (calories) to migrate thousands of kilometres and arrive ready to lay a clutch of eggs, and incubate them for about 30 days. One example of a capital breeder is the common eider, which averages between two and six pounds.

“Income” breeders like the far smaller blue-winged teal (weighing in at 400 grams) are unable to sustain the same kind of fuel reserves. When they arrive at the nesting grounds, they’re looking for protein- and calcium-rich foods, like invertebrates, that provide the nutrients they need to produce a clutch of eggs

Medium-size waterfowl like mallards fall somewhere between capital and income breeders. “Birds of average size usually have enough nutrients to initiate the first clutch of eggs, but they don’t have enough reserves to re-nest,” says Howerter. However, some duck species (like mallards, which are persistent re-nesters) will produce a second or third clutch if their first one is unsuccessful.

Nesting is natural – Birds, like people, experience the urge to nest before they welcome offspring into the world. Expectant bird and human parents alike can trace this feeling to the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is released into the blood stream by the pituitary gland, found at the base of the brain.

Laying a clutch of eggs – A hen’s pituitary gland will also release two hormones that stimulate egg production: follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. They trigger ovulation. Once a duck begins to ovulate, a drake can fertilize her egg – then things begin to take shape. “Once the ovum is fertilised the egg starts to develop. 

The yolk provides nutrients to the developing embryo and albumen (egg white) is deposited around it, followed by the shell. About seven days later, the hen will lay an egg,” says Howerter.

A blue-winged teal hen will lay between six to 14 eggs, provided she has the energy required to develop them. “Producing a clutch is very energetically expensive,” says Howerter. “In humans, it can be compared to giving birth to an eight-pound baby once a day for nine to 10 days.”

Sitting still – Once a duck has laid her eggs, she will spend nearly one month incubating them. While some ducks, like common eiders, will stay on their nest nearly continuously, other birds take more frequent breaks to eat. “But even they will lose roughly 30 per cent of their body weight,” says Howerter. In some cases, hens may abandon their clutch if conditions become unfavourable (bad weather, predators, disease).

Crack! – The eggs have hatched. Finally, mom can focus on relaxing and refueling, right?  “Not exactly,” says Howerter. Instead, she’ll help her ducklings find food high in protein and calcium, required for muscle and skeletal development. While ducklings are precocial (mobile after hatching), they still need help to find suitable habitat and food.

Bidding farewell – After 30 to 40 days, many hens will leave their broods to prepare for moulting (the process in which ducks lose their flight feathers). “The ducklings are on their own after that,” says Howerter, noting at this point young waterfowl are able to source their own food. At a month old, ducklings are also faster and stronger, making them far more difficult for predators like foxes, raccoons, red-tailed hawks and mink to catch and eat.

Back amidst the grasses, the blue-winged teal hen has hatched a healthy brood of ducklings and led them to the nearby wetland. In future years, these ducklings will return to the prairie landscape to produce their own offspring and repeat this fascinating but strenuous process of duck-rearing.

Continuing that cycle depends on a key ingredient, says Howerter. “Good habitat across Canada’s waterfowl breeding grounds is essential to overcoming the many challenges of successful reproduction for returning birds.”

Healthy and plentiful habitat. It’s the best welcome mat we can roll out for waterfowl every spring.

Julielee Stitt

Communications coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Published in Issue 172