June 5, 2020
Friday, June 5th is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is ‘Time for Nature ― encouraging us all to stop and take notice, to raise our voices, and to bring nature back into our communities. It is also time for businesses, like ours, to step-up and be a leader and an advocate for the environment. Englobe is proud to be a Canadian leader for sustainable solutions and we are up for the challenge to do more.
Today, more than ever, we are in a favourable position to transform the industry to positively impact climate change by challenging industry standards, investing in technology, and fostering innovation at our organization. As a team, we are engineering ‘green’ into our future through designs that are in balance with the environment.
One way that we are making our communities better is through projects like this one: new habitat for at risk Barn Swallows. The new structure was designed with the support of expert biologists, so it met the Barn Swallow’s needs and standards – as well as ours!
Infrastructure Ontario called our team to complete Barn Swallow surveys as a due diligence component prior to the demolition of an old barn in Pickering, Ontario. The surveys involved a thorough inspection of the barn and surrounding structures to identify the use by Barn Swallows and other potential Species at Risk (SAR).
During the inspections, our team identified several active Barn Swallow nests and observed numerous adult birds brooding and feeding young. Provincially, Barn Swallow populations have decreased 65% between 1966 and 2009 and the loss of their population has largely been attributed to the destruction of nesting sites. Barn Swallows are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act S.O c.6 (ESA 2007), and the use-patterns at this project site showed the barn was critical nesting habitat.
A solution was needed to compensate for the habitat loss and to ensure the well-being of the local Barn Swallow population before the barn could be deconstructed. The recommended approach was to construct new Barn Swallow habitat and naturally relocate the birds. The new structure was to be built in compliance with Section 23.5 of Ontario Regulation (O.Reg) 242/08) under the ESA (2007) and the project was managed by Englobe’s Ms. Michaela Haring, an experienced Professional Biologist.
Ms. Haring utilized her extensive knowledge on avian reproductive and brooding behaviour to locate Barn Swallow nests and determine the number of new nests, old nests, the ‘scars’ of past nests and the status of the nests (active or inactive). She also applied this knowledge to the design of the new Barn Swallow structure, taking care that the building would meet the habitat needs of the Swallows.
By creating a new habitat such as this the team knew they could compensate for the loss of the established nesting site. However, the challenge was knowing if the Swallows would use it. Traditionally, these birds have a high nest fidelity rate meaning they use the same site, and even the same nests, year after year. To be successful the team needed to understand Barn Swallow habitat and behaviours and incorporate this into the plan to facilitate nesting in the new structure.
The new Barn Swallow habitat was constructed prior to the destruction of the old barn to support the successful transition. Features included:
The entire team is extremely proud to report that the ongoing monitoring of the replacement structure confirms the success of the new Barn Swallow habitat. Multiple Barn Swallows are nesting in the new structure. The old barn has now been safely deconstructed, clearing the land for future use.
Michaela Haring, M.Sc., P.Bio. is a Biologist working out of our Sudbury, Ontario office but she consults and collaborates on projects across Canada. She has extensive experience conducting biological field work and wildlife studies for various projects including breeding bird surveys, avian point counts, fish habitat and population assessments, baseline studies, and Species at Risk (SAR) surveys. She has a deep understanding of a variety of legislation relevant to projects involving fish and wildlife, including the Fisheries Act, Endangered Species Act, Species at Risk Act, The Migratory Bird Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Ms. Haring currently holds a Professional Biologist designation with the Alberta Society of Professional Biologist.