OPG partners with Heartland Forest to build new nesting boxes in Niagara
Birds in the Niagara region will be enjoying some new homes this summer thanks to a partnership between OPG and Heartland Forest to build and deploy 100 new nesting boxes.
The project to provide new bird habitats sprung from the need to replace old bird boxes that fell into disrepair and were long overdue for replacement. OPG’s Niagara Operations began its nesting box monitoring program in 2007 as part of the company’s site-specific biodiversity program, but no new boxes have been installed over the last few years.
“We’ve expanded and replaced a lot of broken and old boxes,” said Nancy Laser, an Environmental, Chemical and Safety Technologist with OPG who has been responsible for the nesting box monitoring program since 2015. “As an animal lover, it’s a good feeling just understanding and helping the birds, and knowing they have new houses to enjoy.”
The 100 new boxes were built and hand-painted by clients of Heartland Forest, a registered charity that supports an accessible park west of Niagara Falls. Laser and her team are now busy hanging the boxes around OPG’s Sir Adam Beck Generating Stations (GS), DeCew GS, the Bruce Trail, and various other areas across the region. Her aim is to get as many birds to use the boxes as possible.
“We’re hanging these from poles, fences, and trees to get as wide a variety of species as we can,” Laser said.
Some species she is hoping to find using the boxes during her spring survey include the eastern blue bird, tree swallows, house wrens, and blue jays. For the eastern blue bird in particular, Heartland Forest built 20 experimental boxes with a special entry slot that allows the bird in while keeping pesky sparrows out.
And it’s not just sparrows who have posed as unwelcome visitors in the past.
“It’s interesting to see all kinds of different animals we have run into since I’ve been doing this,” Laser said. “We’ve seen beavers, foxes, even a flying squirrel.”
With this new batch of boxes completed, Laser said OPG will be partnering with Heartland Forest again this winter to build bat houses to provide new habitats in the Niagara area.
As a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the Niagara Escarpment is among the most environmentally diverse areas in Canada. Stretching 725 kilometres from Lake Ontario to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, this corridor boasts the largest contiguous stretch of forested land in south-central Ontario and hosts habitats with the highest level of species diversity among Canadian biosphere reserves, including more than 300 bird species.
Earlier this year, OPG’s Niagara Operations was designated as “Gold Certified” by the Wildlife Habitat Council. The designation recognizes Niagara Operations’ commitment to biodiversity and conservation work at its various sites across the region, which includes the nesting box monitoring program.