Herons making a strong comeback in Beacon Hill Park

Presence of more birds a bright spot to efforts to protect species

Herons sit in a tree at Beacon Hill Park

Staccato squawking fills the air around Goodacre Lake at Beacon Hill Park.

All the racket is a good sign.

“We’re hearing children demanding food, loudly,” explains Fred Hook, Victoria’s environmental technician.

For the past four years, the city has been keeping a close eye on the number of heron nests in the park. After they almost disappeared in 2009, the number of nests has climbed from 11 to 54 this year. That’s almost exactly half the number that were in the park in 2008.

It doesn’t take long to spot the endangered species, high in the sequoia trees. Spectators on the stone bridge point out several nest sites, visible only by the large flapping wings of parent herons.

Typically, herons build their nests in lower, more open trees. Hook speculates that this year’s switch to the tall bushy sequoias may be motivated by a desire to stay hidden from eagles.

Eagles have been more of a threat in recent years.

In 2008, a long-time resident eagle in the park died. His departure sparked the sudden drop in the herons’ population.

The presence of an eagle’s nest nearby actually serves to protect the heronry, explained Hook. “When we don’t have an eagle nesting in here, then random, marauding eagles come off the shoreline and look for an easy food source.”

Herons are primitive birds, he said. “You see that when they fly, they need to do those long swoops … They can’t turn quickly in the air, which is one of the reasons the eagles have such an easy time taking their eggs.”

This year, there are no new eagles nesting in the park, lowering the chances of success for the 54 heron nests, each with two or three babies.

“As to the long-term success rate, we don’t know,” Hook said. “We do what we can to protect them, but we can’t get up there to chase off predators.”

To help out the herons, the city planted 180 native species of fast-growing trees – but these won’t be big enough for nesting for another decade.

Next, the city intends to improve its signage to inform dog owners that their pets aren’t welcome in the heron rookery, south and west of Goodacre Lake.

Saanich is also working on a plan for its own heron habitat at Cuthbert Holmes Park.

The park has undergone an environmental review and mapped out sensitivity zones, including areas where herons nest, said Rae Roer, manager of parks. That includes limiting activities, maintenance and development in these areas, he said.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police arrest suspect in arson spree near Camosun College Lansdowne campus

Calgary man in police custody waiting for a tele-bail hearing, constable says

VIDEO: Man breaks up Saanich road rage fight

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road

Saanich Peninsula Hospital to host new COVID-19 testing facilities

It is not clear yet when they will go into action

Three impaired drivers stopped in Saanich over one weekend

Drivers receive 90-day driving prohibition, month-long vehicle impound

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ entertains home-bound kids in Cowichan Bay

Alora Killam, 16, played the part in musical two years ago

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Most Read