Another songbird silenced

I really enjoyed “Incredible journeys,” by Bridget Stutchbury [Spring 2009], about our glorious songbirds. It is, however, so sad to read about their loss of habitat and population decline.

I live in south Mississauga and today – sadly – I picked up a Blackburnian warbler that had hit our front door glass. I just hate that this happened and even postponed the washing of my windows until the little birds settled down after a busy spring spent flitting around.

I thought I’d report having a Blackburnian warbler in our backyard. I don’t know if they are all that common but, even though it did not survive, it’s good to see that they’re around!
Carol Dyck
, Mississauga

Editor’s note: The Blackburnian warbler is common throughout southern and central Ontario and populations seem to be doing well. It is important, however, for property owners to take precautions to ensure that we don’t lose birds to collisions with windows. For more information on how to make your property safer for boreal birds, see “Flick the switch” [page 29, Summer 2008].

Sustainable income

I am commenting on the letter titled “Quit dawdling,” by Klaus Keunecke, in the Summer 2009 issue.

Keunecke’s letter suggests that much of modern agriculture is unsustainable and that Ontario Nature and other nature groups should lobby provincial and federal governments to mandate “the planting of natural buffer strips along all waterways” and “the creation of mini-wetlands on farms so that all surface runoff and field drainage is filtered and treated before it enters public streams.”

I agree. This would be ideal, but who is to pay the capital cost and for loss of productive cropland? We have owned three farms in our lifetime and have voluntarily created buffer zones around our fields and streams. Currently, our buffer zones cost us $1,600 per year in lost revenue. We happen to enjoy birdlife and wildlife that abound in our fencerows and are willing to sacrifice the income. If naturalist/conservation organizations are planning to promote the mandating of buffer zones, then we as a society should be willing to reimburse the farmer for lost income.

Therefore, if a farmer withdraws 10 acres from production to support mandated conservation principles, he or she should be paid the prevailing rental rate annually for his or her region as compensation. Rates in our area vary from $160 to $180 per acre. (A compensation cheque would then be received for $1,600 to $1,800 each year.) Otherwise, wetlands will continue to be drained and fencerows and buffer zones will continue to disappear. The farmers I know must maximize economic returns, because margins in agriculture are very slim.

If our society desires to embrace sustainable agriculture, it must be willing to pay the cost indirectly by financing government programs through tax dollars rather than expecting farmers in Ontario to absorb the costs and then compete with imports from jurisdictions that do not enforce the tools of sustainable agriculture.
Gerry Pierce
, Arkona

Correction: In the last issue of ON Nature (Summer 2009), we mistakenly described the magnolia warbler and the great gray owl as species at risk (page 44). Neither of these birds is so designated, and we hope both remain off species-at-risk lists.

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