Killdeer were spotted for the first time in the past 10 years in the Esquimalt Outer Beach area in Colwood. (Graham Sorenson photo)

Human behaviour dramatically changing bird habits in Esquimalt Lagoon

More Great Blue Herons spotted, fewer mallard ducks seen in post-pandemic survey

More birds are flocking to Esquimalt Lagoon since the pandemic first began.

According to five recent surveys conducted by Birds Canada, the double-crested Cormorant, Rhinocerious Auklet and Pied-billed Grebe all saw increases of more than 200 per cent in the Esquimalt Lagoon/Outer Beach area. For the first time in the past 10 years, killdeer birds were spotted in the Outer Beach area, the part facing towards the ocean from Ocean Boulevard.

Notably, the Great Blue Heron was spotted during all five surveys and there were 10 individuals at a single time versus a maximum of three in the past 10 years.

“A lot of people have been surprised to hear about the [increase of] herons cause they’re an at-risk species on the coast of B.C.,” said Graham Sorensen, BC Projects Coordinator. “Any benefits to their survival is an important thing.”

READ MORE: Survey says: Keep Esquimalt Lagoon fully open to vehicle access

According to the survey, some birds have been flying the coop, including Surh Scoter, Northern Pintail and Mallard, collectively down by 70 per cent. Sorenson suggests that perhaps the reason why birds like the mallard have been showing up in fewer numbers is due to less humans contact as they’ve been accustomed to being fed.

A 400-metre section of Ocean Boulevard along the Lagoon is closed until September due to CVD-19 as Colwood continues to explore its best options to improve the area.

“Traffic is less likely to deter birds from coming to an area versus people that are using the areas,” said Sorenson.

“The easiest thing you can do is avoid dumping trash when you’re out. By keeping the place cleaner, we can prevent small pieces of plastic floating into the water and having birds eat them. Also, keeping dogs on leash when required helps to avoid interfering with wildlife.”

Birds Canada is looking for more intermediate to expert birders to help survey areas including the Esquimalt Lagoon and throughout the Greater Victoria area. There are also other programs that are suitable to birders of any skill level.

All interested volunteers can contact Graham at gsorenson@birdscanada.org.

aaron.guillen@ goldstreamgazette.com

birdsesquimalt lagoon

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