Volunteer Spotlight: Kerrie Blaise
How long have you been a FLAP volunteer?
I joined the FLAP board in a volunteer capacity in 2019. It’s been great to be part of such a committed organization, whose work and efforts I’ve followed for over a decade.
In what capacity do you volunteer?
As a volunteer Board member, I work to find ways to amplify FLAP’s core purpose: preventing the needless death of millions of migratory birds, from collisions with buildings. For me, this often means assisting in the writing of letters to Ministers of the environment (both federally and provincially), reminding them of their responsibilities to protect migratory birds, and providing them with solutions. FLAP has many resources about making buildings more bird-friendly, but there’s a constant need to ensure awareness within our government and elected officials so that laws which protect birds are not eroded, and opportunities to enhance protections for birds in the built environment are not missed.
What initially drew you to volunteer with FLAP?
The need for long term solutions. There is no other organization doing the on-the-ground work and advocacy needed to safeguard birds from our built environment. Wildlife and humans can co-exist in urban environments, but only if we’re aware of the threats our infrastructure poses and actively work to remove those threats. FLAP gets us to solutions!
What keeps you motivated?
It is deeply upsetting to realize that every migration, over a million birds die because of the buildings that dot the Toronto skyline. However, every migration, there’s a team of dedicated volunteers who wake up in the early hours of the morning to document these birds (and rescue the lucky few who are still living). There’s also the FLAP staff who for years have been committed to ensuring bird-friendly building standards get taken up so that the worst building “offenders” make retrofits to prevent thousands of preventable deaths. When this collective action shows results – the change that is the Toronto Bird-Friendly Guidelines, the change that is the TD Centre retrofitting its buildings, then change becomes motivation!
Can you tell me about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience?
Through FLAP, I have learned tips for bird rescue and feel more equipped to respond to birds in emergency situations. For instance, I keep a small cardboard box in the trunk of my car, just in case I happen across an injured bird (FYI – FLAP advises keeping an injured bird safe in a box or paper bag until you can get it to a wildlife rehab centre). I’m also more attuned to birds in need, thanks to FLAP.
All of this was put to the test when I found myself in Thunder Bay for work. From the shore looking out over Lake Superior, I could see a gull was tangled on the breakwater, perhaps in a chain or rope. Putting both my bird rescue and paddling skills to the test, I paddled out to the bird with thanks to two people in the marina who loaned me their sailboat’s dinghy. Once I reached the gull, I was able to approach from behind, gently cover the bird with my scarf and disentangle them from a wire, which had held them in the rocks of the breakwater. Thankfully, the bird training and handling paid off as I was able to free the gull. They quickly flew a few metres away and landed in the cold water and start bobbing their head in the fresh water – delighted I thought – to be able to once again bathe and stretch their wings.
One bird saved is one life preserved!
What’s your favourite bird and why?
Without a hesitation, the cormorant! This may come as a surprise, but this is one of the most – if not the most – misunderstood waterbird. I spent many hours during my undergrad sitting in a blind in Tommy Thompson Park, on the shore of Lake Ontario, observing cormorant nesting behaviour.
For many Ontarians, observing cormorants in numbers often in the hundreds or thousands is viewed as alarming or unnatural and legitimates the need for a hunt (as was recently brought in by the provincial government). However, cormorants by nature nest in colonies thousands of pairs strong, typically on islands and usually on big lakes. While localized concentrations of cormorants and guano from nests can smother and kill the understory vegetation, the death of trees in cormorant colonies is a natural process and is part of the ecology which contributes to the biodiversity of the Great Lakes inshore region.
What would you tell someone who was thinking about volunteering with FLAP?
Non-profits critically depend on volunteers to grow their capacity and donors, who provide the funds that are so critically needed (and stretched) to ensure urgent response and change. From research, to writing, to communications and fundraising, there’s a plethora of skills needed to maintain and energize an organization. Don’t hold back – join us!
Interested in volunteering with FLAP? Check out our volunteer page for more information.