Saturday, 03 December 2016 17:26

Political ideology won’t influence where a Peregrine calls home

Written by Michael Short
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The peregrine is considered to be an indicator species and the fact it is thriving a top an operational coal stack speaks volumes as to the quality of the local environment The peregrine is considered to be an indicator species and the fact it is thriving a top an operational coal stack speaks volumes as to the quality of the local environment

Coal has been in the news recently. Both the provincial and federal governments are looking to shut down the industry across the country in the coming years. They are citing massive amounts of carbon emissions contributing to global warming. Industry counters with the argument it is developing new technology that has resulted in cleaner coal burning power stations and smelters. Either way, the dispute over the science continues.

For its part, the provincial government states that coal used in producing our power is not good for the environment. If we take that argument at face value it would suggest the areas surrounding our power stations would be seriously impacted. Water quality would be poor, and there would be declining populations of wildlife, birds and/or plant life.

Banding a Perigrine Falcon chick

These Peregrine chicks are taken out of the nest to be banded and checked over for any health issues.

So all of this got me thinking about a story I did a couple of years ago out at the Genessee Power plant located at Lake Wabamun about a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons.

In case you are not aware, the Peregrine was almost eradicated from our province some forty years ago by another environmental threat: DDT. By the mid-70’s Alberta recorded just one breeding pair. Fortunately, a ban on DDT’s and an aggressive breeding program in Alberta resulted in pulling the Peregrine back from the brink.

So we know these birds are influenced by what is happening to their environment, and that’s where I have a problem understanding the ‘evironmental’ argument made about the coal-fired power plant. If they create such damage, how is it Peregrine Falcons nest and raise their young on active stacks at some of the coal fired power plants in Alberta?

Perigrine Falcons are attracted to high points, such as this stack at the Genesee power plant

Peregrines are attracted to high points for a nesting site. For over nine years they have been returning to this stack at the Genesee Power plant.

They obviously have to hunt in the area immediately surrounding the power plant; that means there has to be a sufficient food source. A peregrine falcon's diet mainly consists of smaller birds, such as pigeons, starlings, doves, jays, shorebirds, songbirds and waterfowl. So this would mean the shoreline and marshes in and around the power station would have to be relatively healthy to sustain a Peregrine’s high protein diet, keeping not only themselves healthy, but their chicks as well.

If the Peregrines have this figured out, why can’t we?

Check out the video here

 

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