Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Bank Swallows of East Point

Bank Swallows flying along the bluffs

The Bank Swallow; Riparia Riparia 
Status in Ontario: Threatened
Location: East Point Park and Bird Sanctuary
East Scarborough, Toronto Ontario

“Threatened ” means the species lives in the wild but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.

A few facts about this delightful song bird:
  • Bank Swallows nest in burrows along vertical faces of silt, sand or clay. Territories may support colonies of 10 to 2,000 nests with burrows 2-3 ft deep
  • Bank Swallows are extremely social birds. They are seldom alone when outside the nest and because of this close proximity, they have developed many complex social behaviours
  • A small songbird, the Bank Swallow is distinguished in flight by its quick, erratic wing beats. They fly shallow typically gliding for 2 seconds at a time
  • An Aerial Insectivore, the Bank Swallow catches and feeds on insects in flight 

The cause for concern:
  • Bank Swallow numbers have been declining by about 5% per year over the past 40 years resulting in a cumulative decline of 90%
  • The global breeding population in 1970 was 19 million
  • It may now be estimated at 1 million

Threats to their population:
  • Changes in insect populations, habitat loss, and the use of pesticides along traditional migratory routes have contributed to their decline 
  • Changes in nesting habitat include alterations to vertical banks and bluffs
  • Erosion-control, flood-control and other building projects that remove or alter these banks make them unsuitable for nesting

Bank Swallows at East Point:

This colony of Bank Swallows is along the bluffs of East Point Park and Bird Sanctuary.

Due to the rich biodiversity of the area and the unique geological features of the bluffs, East Point has the following recognition: 

ESA - Environmentally Sensitive Area 
ANSI - Area of Natural and Scientific Interest

The bluffs along the shoreline of East Point provide excellent nesting conditions for the bank swallow. The sediment is soft enough to allow for excavation and stable enough to stay intact for the duration of the nesting season. 

East Point has significant and diverse habitat: 

Wetland, Forest, Ravine, Meadow, Bluff and Shoreline. 
55% of the plants of East Point are native.
  • Wetlands include ponds, thicket-swamps and meadow marshes
  • The extensive meadow habitat is 20.3 ha of Native and Exotic Forb Meadow and Exotic Cool-season Grass Graminoid Meadow
  • Ravine area is vegetated
  • Forest habitat is predominantly deciduous

East Point Shoreline:

The shoreline is a coastal community classified as "dynamic" because of the active wind and wave energy.

East Point shoreline is 3 km in length (from Highland Creek in the East to Guildwood Park in the west.

The natural sand beach is one of the last remaining natural shorelines in the Toronto area.

Plans are being proposed to alter the shore for recreational purposes by hardening it with paved access roads and armour rocks.

Essentially, large sections of the beach will be paved.

What can be done:

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is welcoming input from the public on the planned alternatives

If you would like to see this shoreline remain natural please email the TRCA  today: waterfront@trca.on.ca

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources states:

Threatened species and their general habitat are automatically protected.

If you would like to see the Endangered Species Act applied to this natural habitat and have the Bank Swallows protected, please email the ministry at esa.aurora@ontario.ca

Thank you for watching Nature Studio by Jen Falvy

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