Threatened bank swallows get extra protection in P.E.I. National Park
'This beautiful little bird that just soars around the campground ... he's lovely to watch'
There are now two endangered birds getting extra protection at the P.E.I. National Park: the piping plover and, new this year, the bank swallow.
Bank swallows were just upgraded to threatened on Canada's Species at Risk Act earlier this year.
"In Canada, populations of bank swallows are in trouble, they've decreased by about 98 per cent in the past 40 years," said Hailey Lambe, resource management officer with Parks Canada.
"It obligates us to take further measures to ensure their recovery and their well-being here in the park."
Camp sites closed
The measures include closing some campsites and putting up ropes and signs on the beach. They've also moved some campsites farther from the nests.
"This will lessen the disturbance to the nesting birds as well as lessen the chance of erosion in this particular area," Lambe said.
The new designation for bank swallows came after Parks Canada had already opened the campground reservation system for the season so staff had to contact all of the campers that were affected.
"The response from campers was overwhelmingly supportive," said Tara McNally MacPhee, visitor experience manager for P.E.I. National Park.
"There's a fine balance between visitor experience and resource protection and certainly it enhances their experience when they know they're contributing to conservation measures."
Parks Canada will also be adding interpretive panels to inform visitors about the species.
Bank swallows are a small migratory species that come to P.E.I. in May to nest and raise their young. They use vertical cliff faces and banks to build their nests, burrowing into the side of the cliffs.
"They're really fun to watch, they eat on the wing all the time," Lambe said. "You'll see them flying around and eating insects and they nest in colonies so generally you'll see a large number in one area."
Lambe says the swallows fly back to South America to winter so their foraging is to fuel up for the long journey back.
'Hope for the species'
"Although we don't know exact numbers in the park, they are monitored every year via nest counts so after they're done nesting each year, we go out and count the nest holes that we see," said Lambe.
Lambe says there are currently 900 nest holes in P.E.I. National Park.
"Over the last 5 years, the population has stabilized here in the park and they're assessed to be in good condition right now," Lambe said.
"It means that we hope there is hope for the species and we're going to take every measure we can here in the P.E.I. National Park to aid in the recovery and we hope that other areas are doing the same."
Parks Canada says there are penalties, including fines, for people who don't follow the new rules.
McNally MacPhee is hoping visitors to the campground will embrace the bank swallows.
"This beautiful little bird that just soars around the campground, he's quite noisy and he's lovely to watch," McNally MacPhee said. "So I think that visitors are really going to enjoy that enhanced awareness about this species."