Shepard Slough Survey

Alberta Environment is conducting an online survey to help determine the future development or preservation of the Shepard Slough and surrounding wetlands, including the new Ralph Klein Park, in SE Calgary. These wetlands are important stopover points for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Shepard Slough is the best shorebird habitat within the city of Calgary, and it is vitally important that we birders make our voices heard if we want to preserve it. Please fill out the survey form and have your say in conserving these valuable resources.

Below is the introductory article from the Alberta Environment site.

Why Study Ecosystem Services

As part of its Ecosystem Services (ES) Program, Alberta Environment has undertaken an ecosystem services approach pilot project on wetlands in the greater Shepard Slough area of east Calgary/Rocky View County. This region provides many recreation and education opportunities to people such as birding, nature walking, and field trips to the region. The Ecosystem Services Pilot project in will provide tool(s) to enhance decision making in order to:

  • Test and determine how the approach can be used to help inform tradeoffs between development and the benefits provided by wetlands;
  • Explore ways to provide a broader suite of social, economic and environmental perspectives to information land-use decision making; and
  • Examine the largely unrecognized but important benefits that society receives from nature.

The study is part of a larger transition to a cumulative effects management system and will help ensure informed and robust decision-making.

Once the pilot is complete, we will have a better understanding of how to use the ecosystem services approach and where the approach could be applied to support Alberta Environment priorities.

To better understand the recreation and education benefits enjoyed in the Shepard Slough area, a survey of recreation participation is being conducted. Through this survey, valuable information will be collected including travel distances, costs of travel, and types of activities preferred by users. Anyone that enjoys visiting wetlands in the Shepard Slough, including Ralph Klein Park, for recreation and education purposes is encouraged to complete the survey.

Information brochures about the study are available at Ralph Klein Park, or via the attached PDF below. The survey can be completed by selecting the survey link below.

Thank you to all participants. Your contribution is greatly appreciated

To go to the site, click here.

To go to the survey, click here.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Alberta Government Selling Off Native Prairie Grasslands

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Alberta Government has absolutely no respect for the people they are supposed to be representing.

Last year, this same government attempted a secretive deal to sell off native grasslands to a private firm to grow potatoes. The resulting ‘Potatogate’ furor from all segments of society negated that sale. The rumor was that the government decided to back off on that one, wait for the dust to settle and people to forget about it, and try again.

Did they not listen to the people the first time? Did they think we were just going to forget about it?

Now they’re at it again, proposing 16,000 acres of native grassland be turned into agricultural areas. Their “logic” is that the money from the sale of the land will allegedly be used to preserve other high-value parcels. They say the money will be put into a fund for conservation easements for non-profits, who must raise matching funds. There is absolutely no guarantee that any non-profit group will ever be able to receive this money.

As they’re not even listening to their own experts, who has judged the value of these ‘high-value’ parcels? Who has determined these parcels are worth more than the grasslands?

Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight is from a northern Alberta riding. Send him an email today at and tell him what you think of his complete disregard for the remaining native grasslands in our province. Tell him we haven’t forgotten.

Alberta Wilderness Association Press Release

On August 30, the Alberta government again placed 16,000 acres of Cypress County native grassland up for sale for conversion to intensive irrigation agricultural use. These are all the same lands that were pulled from an impending secretive sale last November after widespread public criticism. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes these lands should remain as public native grasslands where well-managed ranching and grassland-dependent wildlife species can co-exist.

“There is overwhelming public support and scientific evidence to keep Alberta’s remaining native grasslands free from intensive uses,” says Carolyn Campbell, AWA conservation specialist. “Many sensitive grassland species have been documented on these specific lands, which our government should be protecting, not actively seeking to destroy.”

Two endangered burrowing owl active nests were recently found on the lands posted for sale. There is also a breeding pair of North America’s largest soaring hawk – the endangered ferruginous hawk – and many pairs of North America’s largest shorebird, the long-billed curlew, a species of special concern. Numerous female pronghorn antelope use these specific lands as a fawning ground, where baby antelope are safely concealed in the native vegetation. All these species depend upon intact grasslands for survival, for the food sources and cover the vegetation provides. Cultivated irrigated land, the primary land use specified in the proposed sale documents, is not adequate habitat for them.

“These lands have been identified for conservation by the South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council in the report it submitted to Alberta earlier this year,” says AWA Vice President Cliff Wallis. “By putting these lands up for sale, the Minister is disrespecting their work and should hold off on any land sales in this area at least until government responds to those recommendations.”

Less than 2% of Alberta’s grasslands natural region is protected. Only 30% of Alberta’s grasslands remain, yet they support 70% of the mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species that are at risk or may be at risk in Alberta.

For more information:
Carolyn Campbell, AWA Conservation Specialist: (403) 283-2025
Cliff Wallis, AWA Vice President: (403) 607-1970

Map of Environmentally Significant Areas classification of the proposed lands for sale Download File

Bird Canada Blog Oct 2010 – Irreplaceable Public Land to be Sold to Make Potato Chips 

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Cowbird vs Chipping Sparrow

We received an email from Larry & Angie in Innisfail a while ago, asking for help identifying a bird in their yard. They were confused because this bird was acting like a baby sparrow, being fed by an adult sparrow but appeared to be bigger than the adult. Their photogenic picture does a wonderful job of showing a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird in action, and the difference in size between the two species.

As Matthew mentioned in his July Cowbird Catastrophe post on this blog, Cowbirds do not look after their own eggs, but lay them in the nests of other species. This poor Chipping Sparrow has already been outsized by this demanding youngster, and continues to burn up energy finding enough food for it. As Cowbird eggs hatch sooner than those of other birds and fledglings are known to eject the nest occupants, it’s likely this Chipping Sparrow did not raise any of his own young this year.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Status of Birds In Canada

Rough-legged Hawk by Pat Bumstead

A new Status of Birds in Canada section has been added to Environment Canada’s web site. It identifies the overall status of each species, describes population changes, discusses some of their conservation needs and provides a mechanism to track the success of ongoing and proposed conservation actions for these species.

The first phase of the site, which has just been launched, reports on a selection of more than 100 landbirds. These landbirds are either of conservation concern or those for which our stewardship responsibility is high, because Canada is home to a large portion of their population. Future iterations are planned to include all of Canada’s birds.

The Web site presents individual species accounts based on an assessment of the available population data from a variety of bird monitoring programs. It identifies the overall status of each species, describes population changes, discusses some of their conservation needs and provides a mechanism to track the success of ongoing and proposed conservation actions for these species. Although results from individual monitoring programs have been presented previously, the Status of Birds in Canada Web site is the first time that data from all these different sources has been pulled together and presented.

Bird monitoring programs provide the data that allow biologists to measure changes in their populations. There are a wide variety of monitoring programs in Canada: some are co-ordinated by government, others by conservation and environmental organizations. By synthesizing information from these various surveys, biologists are able to assess the status and changes in each species. It also allows us to identify those species for which our information is inadequate, so that we can work towards filling these gaps in knowledge.

The landbird monitoring programs that provide data for the Status of Birds in Canada Web site rely in large part on the participation of volunteers who are highly-skilled in the identification of birds. Thousands of these volunteers contribute their time and expertise to the Breeding Bird Survey, the Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Atlases, and many other bird monitoring programs. Their contribution to our knowledge of bird populations and to bird conservation has been enormous. We are extremely grateful to all these dedicated birders.

Source: Environment Canada

The Status of Birds In Canada is a searchable website using common names, scientific names or an alphabetical list. Some examples:

Baird’s Sparrow

Rough-legged Hawk

Posted by Pat Bumstead