2016 may be one of the most memorable years for HMREC. The Hilliardton Marsh has been a feature of our community for more than 20 years, and I have had the pleasure of being a part of it first as a local classroom teacher and currently as a member of the board of directors. When I look back on the history of the marsh, I am amazed at the growth of the organization, and very proud to reflect on its many accomplishments over this past year. In contemplation, we must be reminded of our mission, and goals in order to truly celebrate our success and look forward to new opportunities for growth.
Our Mission is to offer a unique environmental opportunity through the provision of a bird observatory for research and education that serves school groups, the general public, birders, and researchers primarily drawn from Northeastern Ontario. We offer bird banding programs, workshops, special community events, summer work experience and career preparation.
Although we still have lots to do and accomplish, I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back and say, “2016…Well Done!”
HMREC hosted 6 major public events this year. With the help of event-planning sub-committees, volunteers and a lot of public interest, events like Thanksgiving Owl Banding, The Hummingbird Garden Party, Wild about Wings and Wetlands, For the Love of Birds Family Day Event, and The Christmas Bird Count for Kids were incredibly successful.
In addition to events, HMREC accommodated a number of School groups for wetland education. With the retirement of education and research coordinator Bruce Murphy from his teaching position at DSB1, we look forward to focusing more attention on improving opportunities for school visits within the community in the coming year.
Again this year we were able to provide employment opportunities for students considering careers in ecology or natural resources. First were able to host two interns. Initially, Nicole Richardson a Nipissing Biology student and bird bander spent numerous hours at the marsh helping with our many research initiatives. Then, “Green Tech” funding made it possible for us to hire Sidney Col to help coordinate banding research with educational opportunities and new technology at the marsh. Also, we were once again able to provide summer employment to five local youth through our Marsh Ranger program.
In 2016, The Hilliardton Marsh continued to attract banders and researchers from around the province and beyond. Many young birders came to see and band new species, other more seasoned banders from the south came to see northern birds like Boreal owls. A highlight for us was an extended visit by Greg Rand; bird bander and Curator of the Nature Museum in Ottawa. Greg brought to us his knowledge of banding and bird expertise, and we look forward to more visits from him in the coming year. Lastly, I cannot forget to mention how much we appreciated all the volunteer hours that our very own Chris Sukha contributed to our banding program this year.
Next 2016 brought some very exciting technological advances. This year the marsh was able to get involved with MOTUS. A motus system and tower was erected at the marsh this summer which now provides us with the ability to collect and download data on birds flying over the marsh. Motus technology is a way for researchers to track the movement of migratory birds without the need to recapture them. Birds, which have been fitted with a tracking device, are detected when they fly within a 15 KM radius of our Motus tower, or any of the other towers spread across North America. These towers work best when they are placed above trees or other line of sight obstacles and we are pleased that we have already been able to raise the funds to build a permanent tower structure.
Continuing with banding research at the marsh, HMREC banders banded 7648 birds of 87 different species. If we were to include other HMREC banding locations there would be over 9000 birds of approximately 90 species. We are already looking toward 2017, as we hope to reach a new milestone by banding our 100 000 bird! To get a more complete picture of our banding research and totals read Bruce Murphy’s article featured later in this publication.
Another exciting development in 2016 was the establishment of a new partnership with the Township of Hilliardton. HMREC is very pleased that we were able to set up a residence at the township garage. This arrangement allowed us to accommodate guest banders and researchers at the marsh. We look forward to continuing to develop more connections with the township community in terms of events and services. Additionally with the acquisition of frog’s breath funding, the marsh will be able to build permanent bathrooms and extend our parking area in 2017. If you have been fortunate enough to attend a popular marsh event you will certainly appreciate how these advancements will improve future marsh visits as well as facilitate a better experience for staff, banders, and potential researchers.
Finally, and most importantly it is our 198 marsh members that deserve the most acknowledgement. We are blessed to have such a supportive community of members who believe in our research, conservation efforts, and dedication to environmental education. As a non-profit organization HMREC is totally dependent on membership support, financial donations and a volunteer work force. And it is the financial support of our members that is the primary reason for our success in 2016.
If you would like to become more involved at the marsh by becoming a volunteer, joining a committee, or believe you have talents that you can share with us, we would love to hear from you. Please send us an email at,
http://www.thehilliardtonmarsh.com/#!contact-us/con8 or stop by and see us at the marsh.
Here’s looking forward to another incredible year!