Pop­u­lar roost­ing site for en­dan­gered birds at risk

Swift ad­vo­cates want old Bridgetown school chim­ney pre­served

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - CHIM­NEY SWIFTS BY PAUL PICKREM

Bird­ers, sci­en­tists and the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments are seek­ing a so­lu­tion to pro­vide en­dan­gered birds with a suit­able roost­ing site in Bridgetown be­fore they re­turn in May.

Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists re­ported sight­ings of more than 500 chim­ney swifts roost­ing in the chim­ney of the now de­mol­ished Bridgetown Re­gional Hos­pi­tal School while mon­i­tor­ing the birds for Bird Stud­ies Canada.

Al­li­son Man­thorne is the Mar­itimes Swift­watch co-or­di­na­tor for Bird Stud­ies Canada. She says that made the Bridgetown site one of the busiest roosts in the prov­ince dur­ing the spring and sum­mer.

She said in an e-mail that Bird Stud­ies Canada has been co-op­er­at­ing with govern­ment agen­cies by pro­vid­ing data from ob­ser­va­tions by lo­cal bird­ers about the use of roost­ing sites in the Val­ley. She said she hopes the chim­ney, which is the only re­main­ing struc­ture on the site, can be pre­served.

“The best op­tion for the Bridgetown Re­gional High School roost is to leave the chim­ney in place with min­i­mal struc­tural changes, other than what­ever re­in­force­ments that are nec­es­sary for safety’s sake. Ex­pe­ri­ence from across Canada and the USA has shown this to pro­vide the great­est chance of suc­cess­ful oc­cu­pa­tion by chim­ney swifts,” Man­thorne said.

She be­lieves pre­serv­ing the ex­ist­ing roost site is prefer­able to build­ing a new struc­ture be­cause the birds may not choose to use the new lo­ca­tion.

“Build­ing a new chim­ney to repli­cate the ex­ist­ing roost is a less de­sir­able op­tion. Ef­forts to cre­ate or repli­cate chim­ney swift roost­ing habi­tat else­where across the chim­ney swift’s range have had very low suc­cess rates and are quite costly,” she said. “For­tu­nately, we do not have to look very far to find ex­am­ples of suc­cess­ful roost preser­va­tion and restora­tion, in­clud­ing well-known roost chim­neys in Wolfville, Mid­dle­ton, Truro, and New Glas­gow.”

How­ever, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Re­newal is seek­ing to de­mol­ish the ex­ist­ing chim­ney and cre­ate a suit­able al­ter­na­tive habi­tat be­fore the chim­ney swifts re­turn to roost next spring, ac­cord­ing to spokesper­son Marla Macin­nis.

She said the de­mo­li­tion re­quires per­mits from Nova Sco­tia’s Depart­ment of Lands and Forestry, un­der the Nova Sco­tia En­dan­gered Species Act and En­vi­ron­ment Canada, un­der the Species at Risk Act. The project is on hold pend­ing the out­come of these per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions.

“The ex­ist­ing chim­ney is in poor con­di­tion,” Macin­nis said in an e-mail. “Steps have been taken to en­sure pub­lic safety, in­clud­ing board­ing up ground-level open­ings in the chim­ney and boiler rooms, erect­ing a fence, and hav­ing se­cu­rity phys­i­cally mon­i­tor the site.”

She said a soc­cer field, in­clud­ing spec­ta­tor seat­ing, a stu­dent drop off, park­ing, and pub­lic park space are planned for the site af­ter the de­mo­li­tion.

Lo­cal birder Sharon Haw­boldt said she en­joyed her ef­forts as a cit­i­zen sci­en­tist dur­ing the spring and sum­mer. She and many bird lovers from the area worked dili­gently to pass on their ob­ser­va­tions of the swifts so that sci­en­tists can learn more about their be­hav­iour and pro­tect their habi­tat.

She said she sup­ports the govern­ment’s plans for the fu­ture use of the site. How­ever, she and other bird lovers hope the ex­ist­ing roost site can be in­cor­po­rated into those plans.

“I am hope­ful that the com­mu­nity can come to­gether and work out a so­lu­tion that would be good for the birds and for the com­mu­nity,” she said. “I re­ally hope the chim­ney isn’t torn down and for­got­ten.”

Man­thorne says it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple in Bridgetown to voice their opin­ions on the mat­ter.

“I think that lo­cal in­ter­est is a very im­por­tant fac­tor in the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process. So, I def­i­nitely en­cour­age peo­ple if they have opin­ions, one way or an­other, that they make sure they are heard.”

LAWRENCE POW­ELL

Chim­ney swift ad­vo­cates wish to see the old chim­ney that still stands at the site of the now de­mol­ished Bridgetown Re­gional High School pre­served as a roost­ing site for the en­dan­gered birds. How­ever, the provin­cial Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Re­newal has flagged the struc­ture as a safety con­cern.

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