Environment File

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The garrulous grackle is one of the many birds that could show up for the first time in the St. Albert bird count later this month.

Count co-ordinator Alan Hingston put out a call for volunteers this week for the 26th annual St. Albert Christmas Bird Count. The event, sponsored this year by Wild Birds Unlimited, sees amateur ornithologists flock together to catalogue all the birds they can find within a 24-km wide zone centred on the St. Albert Airport, and this year falls on Dec. 28.

Hingston said he hoped to get about 50 bush-beaters to roam the countryside and 100 feeder watchers to monitor backyards. Volunteers will be paired with expert birders and can expect to have a lot of educational outdoor fun.

While the count technically lasts all day, Hingston said most counters will be active during daylight hours, with a few hard-core enthusiasts out at night to try and spot owls.

Count data will go to Bird Studies Canada to help scientists track trends in bird populations.

Last year’s count set records for many species, such as the bald eagle, northern flicker, blue jay, white and red-breasted nuthatch, and crossbills.

Hingston said he’s seeing more partridges and house finches in his yard than usual for this time of year, suggesting they may be out in force for the count. He had also heard reports of a common grackle (black, robin-sized, noisy) at a Sturgeon County bird feeder – unusual, as grackles typically don’t overwinter here. The bird will be the first grackle in the count’s history if it sticks around until the end of the month.

This will be the first St. Albert Christmas bird count not witnessed in some form by its founder, Peter Demulder, who died earlier this month.

Many counters will carry memories of him with them on count day, Hingston said.

“We’re all very appreciative of Peter for what he did.”

Volunteers should visit sacbc.weebly.com to register.

Canadians show strong support for policies to fight climate change, suggests a new study, including a carbon tax.

University of Montreal political scientist Erick Lachapelle published the results of the Climate of Change survey last week done on behalf of EcoAnalytics, a co-operative research initiative led by university researchers and non-profits such as the Pembina Institute.

The 40-question survey was published in advance of last week’s first minister’s meeting to create a federal climate plan, which includes a national price on carbon and commitments to renewable energy and electric vehicles. The survey involved some 1,200 Canadians reached by land-line and cellphone in early October and is considered accurate to within 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The survey found that 73 per cent of Canadians believed governments should do more to limit climate change. About 81 per cent supported a phase-out of coal power, with 71 and 85 per cent wanting more emphasis on wind and solar, respectively. About 95 per cent supported policies to enhance building energy efficiency, with 81 per cent supporting electric car rebates.

“Nationwide, we can say there’s broad support for a carbon price in Canada,” Lachapelle said, noting that some 72 per cent of Canadians supported it.

While support dropped when surveyors asked about a specific price – say, two cents per litre of gasoline – Lachapelle noted that some 46 per cent of respondents supported a tax as high as 11 cents a litre, which corresponds to the $50 per tonne price proposed for 2022 by the federal government.

“I can’t think of any other new tax that’s got 46 per cent support,” he said.

While Lachapelle said part of these numbers are due to climate change being a bit of a motherhood issue in Canada – nobody’s for extreme weather – the results suggest strong support for action on climate change.

“Canadians are recognizing it as a problem and we’re just searching for solutions.”

Survey results are available at www.equiterre.org/research.

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St. Albert Gazette

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