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Rithet's Bog LogoReader Prefers Tranquil, Peaceful Bog

Saanich News Editorial Section, Wednesday, June 21, 2000

We have lived around Rithet’s Bog for over 15 years and have always found it to be a very peaceful area, where we walk our dogs (on leash) as is required.

Over the last few years there have been many disturbing factors. First of all there are special signs posted all over the place to keep on the trial, keep our dogs leashed so as not to disturb the birds. We are all obeying those signs, because we too do not want to disturb any nesting birds.

Now our peaceful walks are no longer as we find studying biologists all over the place with nets or just waiting to find a nest so that they can trample all through the bog with large boots to seek out those very nests we are told to avoid at all possible.

Not only are they seeking out these nests, but also aggressively take out the eggs or young birds while their parent birds are frantically flying over.

As a matter of fact, we are now getting bomb dived by those bird-parents. This used to be such a peaceful area and now we don’t even like going there because of these aggressive means.

We have first-hand experience two years ago when in the back of our property a Cooper’s hawk was breeding a brood high up in a tree. As soon as a biologist got the wind of this they were in that tree and did the whole procedure with the eggs and later the chicks.

We had several words with them, but we could not change their minds. Again, the parent birds went wild and of course never returned. We find this all so sad.

If you were those bird parents would you return? I am inclined to send copies of my letter to several people who might be able to help with this concern.

I feel at least I have taken a part in doing what I can to stop this silly work.

I certainly can understand scientists so like to do their studies by observation with binoculars, etc., but to be so invasive is against everything we are trying to accomplish – a tranquil, peaceful environment.

Adriana Jobsis, Saanich


Research Methods are Used World Wide

Saanich News Editorial Section, Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Re: Studies of the breeding success of song sparrows and brown-headed cowbirds in Rithet’s Bog.

First, although our methods may seem intrusive, we take pains to minimize our effects on the birds, and they do not desert their nests or young as a result of our brief visits to their nests or territories.

Indeed, spring 2000 has been spectacularly successful for many sparrow pairs at Rithet’s, and they are now rearing their third set of young. In other years, few birds raise more than two broods. We certainly do not seem to have harmed their breeding so far.

We do have to step on vegetation when we enter the bog, but it regrows vigorously, and the consequences for our activities are slight compared to the effects of natural disturbances like wind and rainstorms and the constant flows of fertilizer and pollutants into the bog from surrounding subdivisions.

These methods are used worldwide by bird researchers, and are fully permitted by the appropriate authorities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Saanich Municipality).

By using these methods, many wonderful things have been found out by biologists about the natural history and ecology of birds.

For example, in our previous studies in wetlands near Vancouver (with the full support of local wetland conservation groups like Burns Bog Conservation Society) we have shown that parasitic brown-headed cowbirds not only lay all their eggs in the nests of unsuspecting hosts like the song sparrow, they also frequently break the host’s eggs and kill their young. These studies have revealed that cowbirds are a threat to the health of wetland-breeding birds. This knowledge can be used in future to manage the wetland birds and their habitats.

I note also that Rithet’s is a conservation area, not a park designed primarily for recreational use and it is therefore an appropriate place to conduct scientific studies in ecology and conservation. In our studies, we respect both all aspects of nature, and the recreational users that we meet in the bog. We are always pleased to explain our activities to them.

Indeed, nearly all the people we meet are interested in and supportive of what we are doing.

James N. M. Smith (Professor, Zoology, UBC)

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