Sun. Feb 25th, 2024
The problem with balloons

Today’s post was originally published in 2016 and comes from David Bree, then our Senior Discovery Leader at Presqu’ile Provincial Park and a passionate protector of Ontario’s shorebirds.

I don’t know Jason. But I do know that he turned six in the last two months and had a wonderful party with cake, gifts and balloons, surrounded by friends and family.

I hope you had a good time, but I wonder if you know that the legacy of your sixth birthday (from my point of view) is unpleasant garbage, extra work, and possibly an early death.

It’s those balloons, you see. Very pretty, but when you let them go, they float away and have to go down somewhere.

And “somewhere” is usually Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

balloon on the beachJason’s balloon where I found it on the beach.

Presqu’ile is a peninsula that juts out about 3 km into Lake Ontario. We are about 140 km east of Toronto, which puts us downwind and upstream of about 5 million people on both sides of the lake.

We get a lot of trash floating and blowing onto our west facing beach. AND nothing It is as insidious as the helium balloon.

The balloon is made of a material that apparently never biodegrades and it is simply located on our beach. Forever.

bunch of broken balloonsMy balloon ride after a 15 minute walk on the beach.

But the strings tied to the balloon are worse.

With the exception of old fishing line (don’t get me started!), Balloon string can be the leading cause of death on the beach. This thread gets tangled in the legs of birds and surrounds snakes and frogs, cutting off their circulation and preventing them from feeding. They die.

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What’s even scarier this year is We have plovers nesting on our beach for the first time in 100 years.

plover on the beach

This endangered species It is a small, plump ball of feathers that runs along the beach. If we’re lucky, we’ll soon have even smaller fluff balls running around when the chicks hatch. Stringing up a single balloon on our beach could reduce the total global population of this species by a significant percentage.

Female plover jumping through nest protective fence.Female plover jumping through nest protective fence

It was at Plover Beach that I found Jason’s balloon the other day.

Most six-year-olds I know are captivated by the natural world and love all animals. I’m sure you would be mortified if your balloon ever hurt an animal.

It won’t happen this time as I picked up his balloon (and about ten others!) on my short walk along the beach. But I’m not out there every dayand the winds and waves do not stop bringing them to our shores.

I don’t want to ban helium balloons, but keep them indoors and don’t let them wander; Otherwise the price might be too high.