July 30, 2018 4:52 pm

Conservation groups celebrate 30 years of Minas Basin as ‘globally significant shorebird habitat’

Mon, Jul 30: Several groups celebrated the anniversary of a special designation for Nova Scotia's Minas Basin on Monday. It's meant to bring attention to the migratory birds using the area during their long-distance journeys. But with the numbers of birds dwindling, the hope is to create more of these “special places” in the Maritimes. Steve Silva has more.

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The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), among other groups, held a celebration on Monday, marking 30 years since Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin was first designated “a globally significant shorebird habitat,” according to the group.

The designation is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), an international group working to protect shore birds.

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Craig Smith, program director for the NCC in Nova Scotia, said the basin area hosts tens of thousands of migratory shorebirds — mainly semipalmated sandpipers — this time of year.

“They stop here, and in a very short period of time, they feed extensively, trying to effectively double their body weight,” he said at the event at Evangeline Beach in Grand-Pré.

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The birds rest in the area as they migrate between South America and the Arctic, Smith said.

“They face [a] myriad [of] challenges on that journey, so it really requires international collaboration and cooperation to ensure that these populations remain intact,” he said.

Jaya Fahey, a shorebird stewardship biologist for Bird Studies Canada, said the number of shorebirds in the area has dropped from about one million to half that number since the 1970s.

“There’s hunting in South America. There’s climate change in the Arctic, their breeding grounds,” she said, listing some of the reasons for the decline.

Another problem is human interference in the basin area; Fahey said people and their dogs should leave the birds alone so that they have time to rest.

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She also recommended using binoculars or telephoto camera lenses to view the birds.

“If we don’t protect these habitats, the species is gone, and I think we have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Peter Hicklin, a retired wildlife biologist who helped work on the site’s designation.

The groups hope the Cumberland Basin and Cobequid Bay both get the same designation in the future.

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