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Birds or planes? Dilemma at Boundary Bay Airport

Conservation & Preservation
By Anne Murray, Georgia Straight Online
Photo by David Blevins
East Delta residents were shocked recently by the sudden demolition of a group of large black cottonwood trees at Boundary Bay Airport. The cottonwoods were popular with roosting eagles; one tree held a nest, with an eagle already sitting near it, ready for the breeding season. This was the second round of tree cutting at the airport: another nest and stand of trees were felled last spring. The airport is attractive for eagles and many other bird species because of its location beside the shallow waters of Boundary Bay, a major migratory stop-over and wintering area for tens of thousands of shorebirds, a hundred thousand waterfowl, and the greatest number and diversity of wintering birds of prey in Canada.

Just north of the airport is Burns Bog, a wetland habitat for ducks and geese, and the location of the Vancouver Landfill, which has attracted gulls and other scavengers ever since it opened in the mid ’60s. Tens of thousands of gulls, of several species, together with northwestern crows and bald eagles, feed at the landfill every day. Big flocks of gulls regularly fly across the airport to rest or roost in the bay and many join with clouds of blackbirds and crows to feed at a nearby compost facility and turf farm.


 Anne Murray is a naturalist and the author of two books on Lower Mainland nature and ecological history—Tracing Our Past: A Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay and A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay.

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