Lifestyles

Tough time of year for wildlife

Mother and baby finches carry on an animated conversation. - Photo by Jim Dubois
Mother and baby finches carry on an animated conversation.
— image credit: Photo by Jim Dubois

Just when it seemed that spring was within reach we were walloped with another snowy winter storm.

It must be very confusing for the wildlife population, as once again they must hunker down in sheltered areas to glean or forage what little food they can find.

March 9 sees the return of Daylight Saving Time and will in turn jumpstart the wildlife populations into full breeding mode. Many species already have their brilliant plumage and melodious mating songs.

Finally managing to dig out of the snow I walked around a local golf course and was rewarded by many resplendent species.

The house finches were busily staking their territory chasing off robins and juncos or any other birds that were encroaching on their potential nest sites. I also noted crows and ravens with beaks full of twigs as they flew off into the forest, a sure sign that egg production can't be far behind.

Some avian species are having a very tough time finding adequate food supplies, this is leading to starvation, emaciation and inter-species fighting.

The majestic bald eagles have been turned into aggressive predators that are actually preying on other eagles by stealing their food or eating those eagles that are too weak to fight back. The eagles are also having a tough time surviving in areas that necessitates them crossing roads or power lines.

We have had numerous calls of eagles being hit by vehicles and sustaining life threatening injuries; adding to this are the eagles that are feeding on deer or other animal carcasses by the side of the road or in ditches.

Another important factor in the plight of the eagles is a result of a delayed herring spawn. Normally by this time the spawn has started and there is bountiful food for all fish eating wildlife.

Typically we are one of the main areas for the eagles to congregate after they have consumed their fill of salmon in Squamish and the Harrison Mill areas; the lack of food has resulted in the fierce competition for what other food is available.

As soon as the days become longer the birds will be in a frenzy to gather materials and make nests; it is also a perfect time to clean out old plants or vegetation that has been damaged by the snow. This is also the time to clean out garden sheds, crawl spaces or any other areas that may be attractive to unwanted pests. Some wildlife species have already reproduced some young; there have been reports of hummingbirds that have already had babies, putting up feeders would certainly be helpful until the first flowers bloom my flowering red current bush is ready to pop into bud.

Please remember to return the nectar portions to a ratio of one part sugar to four parts water and no food colouration. Remember, feeding birds is a long-term commitment and in fact we encourage people who have gardens to try and plant natural food sources to attract the birds, bees and butterflies.

We would also like to remind everyone that wildlife is protected by law and permits are needed to be able to rehabilitate any wild bird or animal and this should be through a certified wildlife rehabilitator.

Attempting to raise a fawn or raccoon will often result in poor nutrition and imprinting upon humans that makes them vulnerable as they lose their fear of people. Old nests can be removed once the babies have fledged but remember some species especially house finches and robins can produce more than one family in the same year and will reuse the nests.

The one exception to nest removal is eagle nest trees, these are protected year round and you must have a permit before touching those nest trees. Eagles rebuild the same nest each year and some have been recorded to weigh a ton or more!

A few tips on what to do if you find baby wildlife, please call MARS at 250-337-2021 we will offer advice on how to proceed and if we need to come out on an urgent rescue.

Do not try and rescue eagles, fawns or raccoons or any other species that could be a danger to your safety. Please leave babies where they are until you are sure there is no mother close by, do not "kidnap "the babies we often have to return them to their nest which is very stressful for the creature.

Take your binoculars for a walk and you will be amazed at all the birds you can locate. Very soon the migration will be in full swing as the Arctic species head north to their breeding grounds.

Please make sure you do not disturb feeding water birds; they need all the calories they can consume to make a successful migration.

Some folks just don't get it, I witnessed one person out on the mud flats south of the mall in Courtenay encouraging a dog to chase the swans, by the time the dog tired all the swans had flown away.

For latest news, check our website www.wingtips.org. For all other calls, dial 250-337-2021.

Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Thursday.

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