Eagle nest relocated

Graham Smith and Kevin Linka of Davey Tree Canada finish relocating the bald eagle nest on Signal Hill. Photo by Cpl Andre Maillet, MARPAC Imaging Services

Graham Smith and Kevin Linka of Davey Tree Canada finish relocating the bald eagle nest on Signal Hill. Photo by Cpl Andre Maillet, MARPAC Imaging Services

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

An eagle nest perched in the upper branches of a tree high atop Signal Hill has been successfully relocated.

The nest was moved in order to ensure that construction of the antenna on Signal Hill could continue this winter, and to remove the eagles out of the sightline of the antenna system. After building a platform, their nest was relocated to a similar tree approximately 150 metres to the southeast of the original nest, which is well outside the southwesterly transmission path of the antennas.

Time will tell if the nesting pair will take up residence at the new location.

The Feb. 3 move was carried out by contractors employed by Defence Construction Canada’s (DCC) and overseen by the Formation Safety and Environment (FSE) section.

“Both the FSE and DCC staff will be observing the relocated nest to determine if it is used in future years, but at this point it is too early to tell,” said Tracy Cornforth, FSE. “It is common for a nesting pair to have more than one nest, and it appears this year the pair may be rebuilding a nest in dockyard.”

The bald eagles built the nest on Signal Hill a 34-metre high Grand Fir tree that overlooks the Wardroom. The mating pair reared three eaglets at that location last year. Cornforth says the eagles appear to switch locations between the Signal Hill nest and a nest situated near the tennis courts on Commodore Road in dockyard.

Stantec, an engineering and consulting firm, was hired by DCC to study the site and suggest possible alternative homes for the eagles. In their Dec. 8, 2016, report to DCC they noted, “The modification of existing trees to improve stability for nesting is the preferred option.”

DCC then applied for a wildlife permit to conduct the move from the B.C. Ministry of Environment, which was obtained in December. Melissa Tokarek, DCC coordinator of environmental services, said time was an overriding factor in moving the nest since the breeding period for bald eagles on the South Coast of Vancouver Island runs from Feb. 5 to Aug. 31. Moving a nest within this time period is prohibited by Ministry of Environment regulations.

“Our biggest concern would have been if there were eggs in the nest, had that happened we would have been forced to postpone the work until much later this year,” says Tokarek.

But since no eggs were observed in the nest, a green light was given to the move.

On the morning of Feb. 3 two arborists from Davey Tree service and a raptor biologist from Stantec, working from the bucket of a large mobile crane, were hoisted high into the tree top to move the nest. They used chain saws to clear away obstructing branches on both trees, clearing a path for the safe removal from the old tree and then placement of the eagle nest in its new location. The entire process took approximately two hours to complete, but required over two months of coordination and planning.

Tokarek said handling the nest with great care in an effort to keep it in one piece during the move was the biggest concern. After the move was complete, she rated the operation a “success” and said cooperation between various branches of government and the private sector were essential in the operation.

“It has been so rewarding to be part of a project that demonstrates the department’s commitment to environmental stewardship supported by a team of professionals who are able to balance operational requirements and environmental responsibility,” said Tokarek. “I look forward to watching the eagles flourish in their newly constructed home.”

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