Several goshawk nests were discovered in the Alberni Valley Community Forest last year. Logging operations in the vicinity have been halted to allow biologists to study the site and determine if it is an active breeding area. (AV COMMUNITY FOREST PHOTO)

Several goshawk nests were discovered in the Alberni Valley Community Forest last year. Logging operations in the vicinity have been halted to allow biologists to study the site and determine if it is an active breeding area. (AV COMMUNITY FOREST PHOTO)

COLUMN: Hawks’ nests halt logging in Alberni Valley Community Forest

Biologists will take two years to study nest site, says forest manager

The discovery of some hawks’ nests has halted logging operations in a portion of the Alberni Valley Community Forest.

The nests were discovered in the Taylor Operating Area, one of two operating areas that are part of the community forest’s tenure (the other area is the Sproat Operating Area).

“There were five or six nests found in there,” forest manager Chris Law explained during the AVCF’s annual general meeting last month.

A subspecies of Northern Goshawk (its Latin name is Accipiter gentilis laingi, for those who are interested) that lives in coastal B.C. is listed as threatened on British Columbia’s “Red List” (species at risk) and is also considered by the federal government to be a species at risk. What will happen if the nest is considered an active breeding ground, is a Wildlife Habitat Area will be established for the area. There are rules for what forest tenure holders can do within a Wildlife Habitat Area.

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Law isn’t sure whether the nests are from Northern Goshawks or if they are even active breeding nests: goshawks sit low in their nests, and nestlings can’t easily be seen from the ground. Logging operations were halted and Law has consulted with a wildlife biologist, who will monitor the area to determine whether the goshawks have moved on or not.

“We’re allowing them to do their two years of studying,” Law said.

In researching goshawks, I came across an app you can download on a smart phone or tablet if you’re a bush walker and want to learn to identify the Coastal Northern Goshawk. It’s called BC Ispecies NOGO, and is available on the government website at www2.gov.bc.ca. I searched “goshawk”.

The app has photos and a video of the goshawk, recordings of bird calls as well as visual characteristics to look out for. If you’re a bird nerd, like I am (although admittedly a poor one), this app is for you.

It will be interesting to find out whether this is indeed an active breeding area, or whether it has been abandoned by the Northern Goshawks.

The community forest already has a Wildlife Habitat Area set up in the old growth portion, where some marbled murrelets were discovered. They too are on the species at risk lists, so no harvesting of logs can happen around that habitat.

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The community forest comprises 6,378 hectares west of Port Alberni (across from Sproat Lake Landing), with an annual allowable cut of 18,156 cubic metres. They don’t cut that much per year though. The community forest is also full of trails—25 established kilometres and maybe another 80 Kms of trails that users have created over the years. The forest saw a lot of use during COVID-19 shelter in place months, as people searched for remote outdoor areas to get some exercise and get out of the house.

If the goshawk nests are found to be active, logging will be halted in that area too, Law said.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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