Mmas 102808

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Brunswick, Maine Chimney Swift Roost Project

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Mmas 102808

  1. 1. What lives downtown and eats 1,000 flying insects each day?
  2. 2. • children less connected with nature • need for in-town pocket parks that re-connect people with nature • declining awareness that local actions can make a difference • few inexpensive opportunities to provide lasting benefits for declining species populations • capitalizing on nature based tourism trends in local approach to economic development Some Current Conservation Challenges in Brunswick:
  3. 3. A rare, and challenging opportunity to protect a publicly accessible natural phenomenon
  4. 4. Roosting vs. Nesting? Roosts are used by flocks often numbering in the hundreds during migration and are critical predator-free stop over sites. Have been shown to be a key limiting factor in species conservation. Nesting typically takes place in smaller residential chimneys. Usually only 1 or sometimes 2 pairs will nest together.
  5. 5. How rare is this opportunity? • In all of Maritime Provinces less than 10 roosts remain • In ME probably less than 40 roosts remain, none of this size (use) known, none are protected For comparison • In ME there are 200+/- shorebird roosts, 81 that receive formal protection by MDEP
  6. 6. How challenging is this opportunity? • Most conservation $$$ for habitat protection buys acreage • Most conservation groups have little interest in built (urban) landscape • Plight of chimney swifts is not well known even by most conservation groups • Many people assume because birds spend time in developed areas, must be common, or at “unnaturally” high populations = a true conservation conundrum
  7. 7. A bird truly built for life on the wing. Only stop flying while on nest or at night roost.
  8. 8. Many adaptations to exploit a niche that is truly their own.
  9. 9. Swifts are monogamous returning to nest site year after year, typical clutch size = 4 eggs, on average 3 fledge per nest
  10. 10. Preferred nest and roost habitat: • Proximate to large water bodies • 95% w/in 1km of water; OBHS is 2,600 feet from river • Given mostly aerial habits hard to tie to any given habitat type other than where structures for roosting/nesting occur
  11. 11. Specific nesting site selection criteria: • Nesting chimneys/trees >12” interior diameter • Rough interior • Preferred chimneys pre-date 1960 • In Canada, reported that most chimneys will not be suitable within 10 years Specific roosting site selection criteria: • Chimneys/trees >24” interior diameter, larger the better • Rough interior • Preferred chimneys pre-date 1960 • Best remaining in commercial and institutional buildings • In Canada >60% in religious institutions
  12. 12. Population trends: Many eastern US aerial insectivores have shown significant 30 year decline
  13. 13. Swifts have shown the fastest decline Since the 1960’s global chimney swift populations have declined 44%
  14. 14. In Maine only 4-6% of forest currently late successional stage (100-200 yrs) Most industrial forest managed on short rotation that does not favor old trees How is this happening? 1) Loss of natural habitat
  15. 15. 2) Switch to adopted habitat • First observed using chimneys 1672 in Maine • By 1812 Wilson noted nesting limited to chimneys in PA • By 1840 Audubon recorded most nests in chimneys in KY “American Swallow” from Catesby’s 1771 Natural History
  16. 16. 3) Loss of adopted habitat Based on current chimney upgrade trends, few nesting chimneys, if any, will be present in Canada in 30 years
  17. 17. Have chimneys resulted in artificially high numbers of birds? • Surveys of late successional forests in NY show average of seven >20-inch diameter swift eligible snags per acre • Based on US census data and estimates of chimney distribution per acre, available artificial habitat is 2 orders of magnitude less
  18. 18. 4) Climate change Possible factors for swifts: • Increase in hurricane activity • Increase in precipitation during breeding season • Likely shifts in prey abundance • Many folks upgrading heating systems Best we may be able to do is to maintain functional habitat
  19. 19. 2007 Assessment and Status Report on the Chimney Swift • Nationwide population = 12,000 •Quebec = 2,500 (Quebec City 553; Montreal 353) •Maritimes = 900 • Population down 30% in last 3 generations (13.5 yrs) • Range has declined 1/3 over same period • Overall 7.8% decrease/yr 1968-2005 (95% drop over period)
  20. 20. Maine’s ComprehensiveMaine’s Comprehensive Wildlife ConservationWildlife Conservation StrategyStrategy (Wildlife Action Plan)(Wildlife Action Plan) Identifies 213 Species of Greatest Conservation Need; Lists Chimney Swift as a Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need in SWAP; Under MESA, Chimney Swift listed as a species of Special Concern eligible for threatened status due to 42% decline in 20 years Maine Birder Band
  21. 21. Why should we care? Chimney swifts commonly feed at dusk when mosquitoes are becoming most active. Chimney swifts eat 1/3 of their weight in flying insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies and termites every day. A nest of four nestlings will be fed as many as 12,000 insects daily.
  22. 22. OBHS roost site is the most active documented in Maine What we have locally
  23. 23. The challenge ahead • OBHS to be torn down starting Spring 2009 • School Board Building Subcommittee working with PDT Architects on new school • MMAS members have been working to build support for maintaining a functional swift roost as part of plans • Funding and show of support needed
  24. 24. What are others doing? Preservation of existing sites preferred
  25. 25. What are others doing? Robie Tufts Nature Centre, Wolfville NS Preserved old dairy chimney Listed as #21 in the top 50 things to do in Nova Scotia 2007
  26. 26. What are others doing? Replacements: • Many examples out there •Specifications are key! Must extend above roof line +/- 20ft and have 36” x 36” interior minimum •Temperature shown to be a factor. Maintaining 55F key. •Have replacement roost ready upon birds’ spring return •Swifts don’t show any architectural style preference…
  27. 27. A Tremendous Educational Opportunity! • Many schools have incorporated A Swift Night Out and species ecology into curricula • Many schools have installed security cameras (<$500) in roosts for remote in-classroom observation • Swift roosts are well-visited tourist attractions from New Brunswick to New Caney, TX • Brunswick can lead the way for swift conservation in Maine!
  28. 28. MMAS efforts to date? • Roost monitoring and Swift Night Out coordinated during Summer 2008 •To date we have presented to Town Council and received a unanimous vote of support to pursue funding; • We have presented to the School Board Building Committee to address concerns; • We received grant support from MOHF, and have submitted to Bowdoin College Common Good • Will need to rely on private fund raising if this project is to come to fruition
  29. 29. We encourage everyone to becomeWe encourage everyone to become part of this unique project.part of this unique project. Merrymeeting Audubon SocietyMerrymeeting Audubon Society PO Box 544PO Box 544 Bath, ME 04530.Bath, ME 04530.

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