Pollinator Citizen Science Projects: How You Can Help

All over the world, flowers mesmerize millions of people with their velvety, colorful petals, floral aromas, and gentle existence; and where there are flowers and sprouting leaves, there are often pollinators like bees and butterflies buzzing around. Growing up we often learn the importance of pollinators in our world. However, as our environmental state changes with factors like climate change, greenhouse gases, and other ecosystemic fluctuations, the role of pollinators becomes strained and even more crucial.

Ways you can help…

According to a 2016 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, and more than 40 percent of invertebrate species are threatened in their specific regions. Across Western Europe and North America, a notable decline in wild pollinators is raising concerns among environmentalists, as 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend at least in part on pollination. Without a flourishing bee population, we run the risk of not being able to grow enough food to sustain ourselves.

Environmental efforts are attempting to combat the decline in pollinators by imposing laws that conserve the safety of bee colonies, such as preventing loss of habitat, pesticide exposure, diseases, and parasites. For the last several years, the decline of bees has been steadily climbing the list of pressing environmental issues. For this reason, environmental organizations are growing and there is a projected eight percent increase in job growth for environmental engineers. Wildlife conservation organizations are now also looking for the public’s help in collecting data on bees and butterflies, which is why they have commenced pollinator citizen science projects.

BirdsEye continues to help facilitate the ongoing efforts of two large citizen science projects…

Bumble Bee Watch is a project that focuses on the conservation of bumble bees– a highly visible pollinator that isconsidered essential to the health of ecosystems. This interactive website allows users to report sightings and engage with the collected data. The mobile application is built on BirdsEye’s field guide framework and allows users to easily identify the bumble bee species around them and quickly report sightings from the field. Click here to participate today!

Another similar project is the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper. It is a collaborative effort to map and better understand monarch butterflies and their host plants across the Western U.S. The Monarch Milkweed Mapper website is packed full of interesting and useful data about this widely-recognized and high-flying pollinator. Click here to join this project!

Factors Affecting Pollinators

As the human population grows, our environmental impact rises and spreads to affect more nature and wildlife. This is a reason for the increase in environmental conservation and sustainability in the last 20 years. We are using both renewable and non-renewable resources at demanding rates that require sustainability adjustments if we are to maintain basic necessities, like food and water, for the growing population. This means living with intention in our day-to-day use of resources, like one-time use plastics, energy, and even light — as light pollution is part of our environmental impact. We have a remarkable and extraordinary planet, and we must prioritize coexistence with nature and our fellow animals if we hope to support life here.

The U.S. has some of the best national parks in the world, containing millions of years worth of history and made up of ecologically sensitive areas. These, like the pollinators, are beginning to suffer at the hands of human carelessness. Ecosystems are sensitive; life is there now, the way that it is, because that is how it was created; slowly, like a wheel of many parts that makes it turn. Any small disturbance, even to something as seemingly insignificant as an insect or a plant can threaten the entire ecosystem, which is why it’s so crucial to learn to coexist and cause the least amount of harm to our surroundings.

National parks are beautiful to photograph, with their dreamy colors, incredible landscapes and luxurious views of nature. However, conservations efforts are crucial to maintaining their integrity. Yellowstone’s Morning Glory pool has been losing its fluorescent blue hugh throughout the last 20 years, as visitors of the park have thrown coins and other objects into its depths, clogging the complicated natural pipelines in the earth that release the minerals to give it its color. As with the pesticides that are harming bee colonies, adding unnatural substances to any ecosystem has the potential to compromise its existence.

It’s funny to imagine that life on earth hangs in the balance of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. While the future of pollinators and pollination is unclear, it’s certain that environmental organizations are putting forth a lot of effort to reverse the damage done to bee colonies and to prevent the extinction of any of their species. Pollinator citizen projects can help give wildlife and environmental conservation groups the information they need to plan their courses of action and to be more successful in their endeavors to save the declining bee populations. They are asking the public to help track them, and while participating can be a fun way to get involved, it’s also important to reflect on your own environmental impact and what you, as an individual, are doing to reduce your carbon footprint and help save the planet.

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Bird’s Eye: Best Canadian Birding Destinations

By Avery T Phillips

As the second largest country in the world and home to more than 680 species of birds, Canada is a bird lover’s paradise.

Canada’s varied landscape has vast swaths of wilderness, rich with natural beauty. It also consists of forests, the Rocky Mountains, glaciers, swamps, rolling plains, and more lakes than any other country. It’s no wonder birds have made the Great White North their home.

Let’s take a look at five bird-watching sites that are perfect for avian enthusiasts and photographers alike. It’s time to go birding!

Point Pelee National Park

This national park is located in southwestern Ontario in Essex County where it extends 15 kilometers into Lake Eerie. Around 370 species have been spotted here. Pelee is French for “bald.”

“[Point Pelee National Park] is one of the most important bird watching locations in North America, playing host to songbirds during its annual northward migration during the spring and hawks during the fall,” says To Do Canada.

Because it’s the most well-known and frequented birding locations in Canada, expect Point Pelee National Park to be a busy place, especially during the Festival of Birds in May when people from all over come to watch the spring bird migrations.

The national park was named one of the top 15 birding spots in North America by Birder’s World magazine and is often known as the “Warbler capital of Canada.” It is a protected ecological region.

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is the most easily accessible seabird colony in North America and is located about 2 hours southwest of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“This captivating area is one of seven protected seabird ecological reserves,” according to Newfoundland Labrador. “Its natural beauty makes it perfect for nature walks and family adventures.

Some of the seabird colonies include:

• Black-legged kittiwakes

• Northern gannets

• Thick-billed murres

• Lesser golden plovers

Long-tailed ducks

• Harlequins

• Razorbills

• Double-crested and great cormorants

Top tip from David M. Bird, emeritus professor of wildlife biology at McGill University: Visit the nearby bogs and fens that are home to willow ptarmigan and watch whales below the seaside cliffs. Bird is also the consulting editor for the best-selling books “Birds of Canada” and “Pocket Birds of Canada.”

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

In the Calgary area, there are many different bird-watching areas. The 36-hectare wildlife reserve has more than 2 kilometers of walking trails and over 1 kilometer of nature trails throughout the forest, plus a nature center to learn more about the sanctuary.

Within the city there are two major rivers: the Bow and the Elbow. There are three large creeks, Fish Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek, and a large man-made lake called the Glenmore Reservoir.

While there are natural settings for birds within the city, each year the migration of birds is hindered by metropolitan areas, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog post about the effects of light pollution on urban birds. Urban areas can cause migrating birds to circle and investigate lit areas, which forces them to expend unnecessary energy en route to their destination.

Machias Seal Island

Machias Seal Island is a tiny, 18-acre island between New Brunswick and Maine. It’s a flat, treeless rock about 19 kilometers south of Grand Manan Island and 16 kilometers east of the Maine coast.

It’s a popular and unique sanctuary for many kinds of seabirds, including the Atlantic puffin and draws visitors from around the world to observe them in the summer. Access to the island is very limited, so plan in advance.

Machias Seal Island is home to a lighthouse, which during non-nesting season, the only occupants on the island are two lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse has been maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard for over 100 years.

Sheffield Mills, Nova Scotia

Eagles abound in the rural farming community of Sheffield Mills, located about 100 kilometers northwest of Halifax. For about three months during the winter, area farmers leave chickens and other agricultural carrion for the birds of prey in some of the surrounding fields while birders flock to the area for the event.

“The feedings — of which there are two or three per day — are one reason the eagles are drawn to the region, as well as the Annapolis Valley’s slightly milder climate, which motivates birds from places like windswept Cape Breton to migrate there during the winter months,” according to an article on Toronto Metro.

Chucking chicken scraps to the eagles in Sheffield Mills is a tradition that goes back decades and is celebrated each year with a festival.

Hopefully some of these destinations have inspired you to add some Canadian bird-watching sites to your list. Canada’s beautiful landscapes and large expanses of wilderness are wonderful enough. If you’re a birder, it’s even better. And one thing is for sure: One of Canada’s greatest treasures is its birds.

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Tips and Tricks: Christmas Bird Counts

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts

Get ready for the Christmas Bird Count! Did you know that BirdsEye iOS shows you Christmas Bird Count circles all around the globe?  (BirdsEye for Android displays CBC center points, but not circles yet.)

This is a great way to check the exact location of the CBC boundary while you are in the field.

Using latitude and longitude data from each CBC circle, BirdsEye iOS also shows the exact boundaries for each count. This is great for when you are actually out in the field and want to know how far you can go and still count the birds.

Publicly-available data about CBC circles is not always accurate, so if your favorite CBC circle isn’t showing up in the right location, please send us the correct lat/lng and we will fix it. Just email us at support@getbirdseye.com.