COVID-19 and OVN

Please be aware that although OVN events are still on our calendar, some near term events are likely to be rescheduled or revamped as web video meetings.

We will continue to be in contact with our speakers for the upcoming events to ask if they can reschedule for alternate meeting dates in 2021.

The Straffordville Communtity Centre is closed for community use as are most potential alternate sites.  In the meantime, there are still opportunities to observe and enjoy nature, but please protect our own species and do it alone or only with members of your own household.

 

2020 Spring Birdathon

30 May 2020

Thanks to several members who participated in the 2020 Great Canadian Birdathon while distancing.  Some members dispersed to different areas and together we came up to the edge of 100 bird species, as you will see in the list.

Several members have been kind enough to support this activity and to raise funds for Birds Canada and OVN in a 3/1 split, i.e. 75% to Birds Canada and 25% of the funds return to OVN.  If you wish to contribute, you still can.  The Canada Helps link is:

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/bird-studies- canada/p2p/birdathon20/team/otter-valley-naturalists/

2020 Birdathon - 3 columns

World Migratory Bird Day

9 May 2020

Several OVN members individually participated on this exceptionally cold day.  48 species of birds were observed.

Doc1

 

Bats and COVID-19

by Miranda Sawyer

Bats have been in the news recently for an unfortunate reason.  In late January of this year, it was reported that bats – specifically the Chinese horseshoe bats, of the genus Rhinolophus – may have been the original source of the then-emerging novel coronavirus that has since turned into a global pandemic.  Although this was widely reported, the actual situation is far more complicated and nuanced, and this early reporting may have already caused unnecessary harm to bat conservation.

The reason for these reports is that scientists studying the genome of this new virus quickly found that its closest known genetic match was to a coronavirus found previously in Chinese horseshoe bats.  It was a 96% match, making it very similar but not identical to the virus affecting humans.  Less widely reported, however, was that the virus was later also found to have similarities to one found in the critically endangered pangolin, or ‘scaly anteater’.  While this virus strain was less similar overall (only a 90% match), certain portions of it were a much closer match (99%) than the bat coronavirus.  It is now believed likely that this virus is kind of naturally occurring “chimera” of different viruses, which may have passed through multiple animal hosts such as pangolins before ultimately infecting humans.

Bats have a remarkable ability to seemingly resist viral infections.  As a result, it is possible for them to carry certain viruses without being harmed by them.  This ability to act as a “reservoir” for viruses has led to them being blamed for disease outbreaks, even in cases such as this where there is no current evidence of direct transmission.  This can have serious effects on conservation efforts, as people turn against them and blame them for these diseases.  There are already reports of a town in Indonesia killing hundreds of wild fruit bats in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, despite this species being entirely unrelated to the pandemic.  This mirrors a situation in 2004, where 10,000 palm civets were culled by the Chinese government after being identified as the likely host sources of virus responsible for SARS.

With the new link to pangolins, there is growing concern that something similar may happen to them as well; Pangolins are already critically endangered due to heavy poaching for the Chinese market, and a further loss in numbers would be disastrous.

This mass-culling of wild animals in response to pandemics is especially unfortunate when considering that these diseases are only able to jump from animals to humans because of human actions in the first place.  It is when these animals are taken from the wild and then kept or killed in unsanitary conditions that these kinds of disease crossovers can occur.  If these animals were left alone and protected in the wild in the first place, situations like this could have been entirely prevented.

Please, spread the word.  Bat conservation has always struggled against misguided public perception of bats as dangerous pests, rather than the beneficial and vital part of the ecosystem they truly are.  Don’t let this become yet another reason that bats are persecuted.

Sources and further reading:

  • It’s wrong to blame bats for the coronavirus epidemic

https://theconversation.com/its-wrong-to-blame-bats-for-the-coronavirus-epidemic-134300

  • Missing link in coronavirus jump from bats to humans could be pangolins, not snakes

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326144342.htm

  • Coronaviruses Similar to The COVID-19 One Have Just Been Found in Pangolins

https://www.sciencealert.com/coronavirus-discovery-in-pangolins-shows-why-wildlife-markets-need-better-regulations

Miranda Sawyer holds a Zoology degree from the University of Guelph. She has a lifelong passion for bats and has travelled to places as far as Jamaica and Israel to work with them in the field.  She had been the scheduled speaker for the Otter Valley Naturalists 14 April 2020 meeting.  Due to the pandemic that meeting was cancelled.  She has kindly agreed to give a presentation next year, 8 March 2021.

Purple Martins Get Help from Kathryn Boothby – CBC News

 

Our speaker for the May meeting, Dr. Andrew Peregrine, has provided this updated chart as of May 30.  Among the updates shown is the increased estimated Lyme disease risk for our area.pastedImage

Mike Burrell, co-author of this book, will be our speaker at the September meeting.

Best Places to Bird in Ontario covers the top 30 birding destinations in Ontario, with up-to-date information on hard to find species, directions, birding tips, and much more!

We’re excited to announce it’s release after spending the last couple of years preparing our book — Best Places to Bird in Ontario — scheduled for release in Spring 2019!

Best Places to Bird in Ontario follows a series that is being published by Greystone Books, and so far includes the Best Places to Bird in B.C. and the Prairies.

 

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Free Online Course:  The Cornell Lab Offers eBird Essentials

This is a new online course from their eBird Academy.  This eBird Essentials course guides one through how to get the most out of the eBirding experiences and invites one to become a part of this worldwide project.  It is estimated to take about three hours to complete, but can be taken a little at a time, if desired.

  • Discover tools that help you find birds wherever you go
  • Gain confidence submitting your sightings
  • Get expert tips for using eBird and joining the community

https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/

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What is the OVN?

The Otter Valley Naturalists consists of about 50 members.  We are members of a much larger provincial body known as Ontario Nature (ON). Ontario Nature includes over 160 clubs and over 35,000 members from across the province of Ontario.

The OVN meets monthly, usually the 2nd Monday of each month, September through June, at the Vienna Community Centre.  The club  has speakers and activities every month. Some of the activities include: the Christmas Bird Count, the Baillie Birdathon (in Conjunction with Bird Studies Canada), a summer butterfly count, Monarch Butterfly tagging, a spring cleanup, nature walks, education and outreach, habitat creation and rehabilitation projects.

We look forward to seeing you!

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