Power wires create a death trap for migratory birds headed into future park

One recent evening, I sat and watched night settle over Big Lake. The sunset could not have been more resplendent. It was silent all around. Even the great blue heron glided in noiselessly to fish near the shore. It was my first sighting of him this year and I delighted in his secure grace.

Then there was a sudden thump-sound in the air above me, and a duck plummeted into the flooded marshland before my eyes, as if it had been downed by a bullet. I had held my breath as I watched it trying to make it over the high power lines between the river and the lake. When it tried to pass underneath, it got entangled in one of the many lower wires. Maybe it was disoriented by the setting sun. It was so very sudden; one second there is life, the next moment it is gone. I felt as if I had been hit myself. A pack of coyotes started to howl nearby.

The yearly migratory bird-killing season at Big Lake in St. Albert is upon us again.

The west end of our Red Willow Park is meant to become the pride of St. Albert, the portal to the Big Lake Lois Hole Provincial Park. How sad that the “gate” to the park consists of a death trap for so many migratory birds, which make their summer home in one of the most important wetlands of Alberta right here, in St. Albert! You can find dead birds underneath the power line in the water, on shore, in the marshes, near the BLESS platform. You can watch them hit the power line as you sit in a canoe or on the platform. Who can forget the great blue heron who dangled by his neck for two years on one of the overhead wires? What examples are we setting for our children when we take them to the lake and teach them nature appreciation?

Is this unlicensed killing of migratory birds not in contravention of the International Migratory Birds Convention Act? When are the responsible authorities going to intervene to stop it? It will get worse once part of the Riel lagoon is transformed into an artificial wetland, inviting more water birds and waterfowl to nest on either side of the power line right-of-way. They will try to fly back and forth between the adjacent lagoon and the south Riel marsh or into Big Lake. Many hundreds are being killed now each year. How many more will have to pay the price of a progress which is unwilling to use state-of-the-art methods to prevent bird collisions with high power lines?

St. Albert is willing to spend millions of dollars on a heritage plan because immediate action is needed to prevent deterioration of our city’s historic buildings. Our famous quality of life also should call for implementation of the recommendations made in the many dust-gathering consultants’ reports for the protection of our dwindling natural heritage. That includes our wildlife, our wetlands and the life forms it supports, our river, lake, riparian edges, trees and the few natural green spaces surviving in our city. By the time we eventually get something even as minor as a tree bylaw, it will be too late.

Eke Blodgett, St. Albert

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Elke Blodgett