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Local conservationist pens book on the birds of Nunavut

Oshawa native Jim Richards has captured, both in words and in pictures, one of the first books dedicated to the birds of Nunavut. It’s set for publication in 2018. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s not the most hospitable of places to study and document avian life, but for Jim Richards, documenting the birds of Canada’s northern reaches was something that needed to be done.

“There’s a bible for every province,” he says, noting the collection of books that document the birds common to each of our country’s provinces.

Now, the founder of the Friends of Second Marsh organization and noted conservationist is publishing one of the first in-depth books dedicated to the birds of Nunavut.

For Richards, who instantly fell in love with the territory of Nunavut when he first visited, there are many unique aspects of the bird-life in the territory.

When it comes down to it, a lot of the birds that travel to the far reaches of Canada to breed, can be seen in other, more habitable places for birders. Richards notes that perhaps there is only one species of bird that can only be seen in Nunavut.

However, what intrigues Richards the most, are the birds that show up in the northern reaches unexpectedly,  flying perhaps a little bit out of their normal range.

“That sort of became my interest in arctic birds, sort of the occurrence and distribution of these extra-limital species,” he says.

Now, the new book, slated to be published in 2018 by the University of British Columbia Press, will include 145 “true” arctic breeding species and 147 extra-limital species of birds.

This is also not Richards’s first foray into the publishing world. In 1974, alongside close friend and Algonquin Park naturalist Ron Tozer, the pair wrote the Birds of the Oshawa-Lake Scugog Region. Since then, Richards has also written and co-authored five books, several book chapters, journal notes and magazine articles dealing mainly with birds.

And while a lot of the writing and over half of the images in the Birds of Nunavut will have been shot from Richards’s camera, he’s also enlisted the help of a collection of freelancers to provide images for particularly difficult to spot species.

The project is also completely not-for-profit, with all of the money raised being put back into conservation efforts and birding programs in Nunavut.

“One of my stipulations with all of my co-authors was that we’re not doing this for the money,” Richards says.

With that said, the project has received monetary support from a collection of agencies including Bird Studies Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the World Wildlife Fund, the Government of Nunavut, and the Canada Wildlife Service.