Te­choparc backs off from bird­watch­ers

Montreal Times - - Front Page -

The Au­gust 27 bird­walk in the Technoparc area of St-Lau­rent pro­duced a morn­ing bird count of 78 species, but did not pro­voke an ex­pected con­fronta­tion with se­cu­rity forces. Technoparc's lawyers sent bird­walk or­ga­nizer, Joel Coutu a Mise en de­meure (le­gal no­tice) on Au­gust 24, threat­en­ing vague le­gal ac­tions if the walk con­tin­ued.

"We have to fight for this wildlife or we will lose it," coun­ters Coutu. "There are over 180 species of birds cat­a­logued here which is by far the best bird­ing spot on Mon­treal Is­land. For them to send a bailiff to my house, I find this mo­ti­vat­ing. I must be do­ing some­thing right!"

Some 100 par­tic­i­pants turned up for the bilin­gual walk, which avoided Technoparc prop­er­ties.A dozen species of war­blers, king birds, vul­tures, hawks, and many spar­rows were counted. Some birds, like cat­birds and pileated wood­peck­ers, were more au­di­ble than vis­i­ble.

Miss­ing, how­ever, were wa­ter birds such as : rails, green herons, green wing teals, wood ducks, and so­ras, all ap­par­ently scared off by con­struc­tion that be­gan in 2016.A sim­i­lar count in late Au­gust last year came up with 86 bird species.

The con­tro­versy is over Technoparc's on­go­ing con­struc­tion of the so called "Hu­bert Reeves Eco-Cam­pus" in the mid­dle of wet­lands which are now noted for their abun­dance of birds, es­pe­cially wet­land species and song­birds. Coutu has con­ducted over 100 bird­walks in the area, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the bio­di­ver­sity found here and pro­vok­ing calls to save th­ese wet­lands.

Iron­i­cally, Hu­bert Reeves is a Que­bec-born en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who has called fre­quently for greater ef­forts to save bio­di­ver­sity. Reeves now lives in France where his rep­u­ta­tion ri­vals that of David Suzuki in Canada. There is spec­u­la­tion that Reeves' foun­da­tion was paid off to give nam­ing rights to the Eco-Cam­pus, a high-tech busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor.

Coutu main­tains that the Eco-Cam­pus is be­ing built in the worst pos­si­ble spot from an en­vi­ron­men­tal view­point. He is not against the project per se, only wish­ing it could be put else­where.

Coutu also al­leges that Technoparc hired trap­pers who snared and skinned coy­otes in the area, leav­ing the car­casses be­hind. "The coy­otes were not hurt­ing any­body; they were ac­tu­ally help­ing bird species that nest on the ground, chas­ing away foxes and rac­coons."

Coutu es­ti­mates he has put in al­most 500 hours of vol­un­teer bird­watch­ing in Technoparc, lead­ing over 100 group bird walks or just cat­a­loging species, in­clud­ing the en­dan­gered Least Bit­tern. His work se­ri­ously chal­lenges the en­vi­ron­men­tal study that pre­vi­ously de­scribed the area as "hav­ing lit­tle eco­log­i­cal value."

In the Mise en de­meure, Technoparc ac­cuses Coutu of tres­pass­ing onto pri­vate prop­erty. "What are they wor­ried about, that a bird­watcher will pho­to­graph a yel­low war­bler on a branch?" asks Coutu.

Joel Coutu talks to CBC ©John Sy­mon

Cy­clist mas­quer­ades as Least Bit­tern (fr : Petit Blon­gios) ©John Sy­mon

Was that a yel­low war­bler? Bird­watch­ers quickly look up.©John Sy­mon

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