Calgarians cry foul after birdhouses removed near ring road

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WATCH ABOVE: A local bird watcher said a dozen birdhouses near the Calgary ring road project were carelessly taken down, right at the height of swallow mating season. Michael King reports – Jun 13, 2019

Bird watchers in northwest Calgary found a devastating sight Monday; a dozen birdhouses that usually sit perched on fence posts were found lying on the ground.

Local bird enthusiast Andrew Stiles has been looking after the birdhouses for a decade and was distraught when he found them overturned.

“I saw what had been done and was shocked,” said Stiles. “I propped [the birdhouses] back up and got busy emailing the government.”

The birdhouses are located in what is now a construction zone for the southwest leg of Calgary’s new ring road.

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Stiles said the birdhouses were carelessly removed by construction workers, and that many held nests and eggs belonging to tree swallows.

A swallow pokes its head out of a birdhouse in northwest Calgary. Michael King / Global News

The Government of Canada lists swallows as being protected under the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

Stiles feels the indecency shown to the swallow’s temporary homes was unnecessary.

“It was just so incompetent that someone would carelessly chuck these down right during the middle of the breeding bird season,” Stiles said.

The provincial government said that as soon as Stiles notified them of the destruction, project leaders followed up with the contractor.

Shane De Lorey, Transportation Project Director for the Alberta government, said EllisDon Construction Services was handed a $5,000 fine.

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De Lorey explained that supervisors will need to complete wildlife sensitivity training, and anyone working on the project will be notified of sensitive environmental areas.

He added that precautions will be taken in the area around the birdhouses, but that they won’t be there next year.

“The exclusion area will be set up around them and that will remain in place until the birds vacate,” De Lorey said. “They’ll be able to be removed without impact to wildlife.”

For Stiles, the future loss of the birdhouses is just one impact the ring road is having on the landscape in west Calgary.

“We’ve already lost a huge amount of vegetation,” Stiles said. “We want things to be done to the highest environmental standards.”

Despite the government’s promise of ensuring contractors are properly trained, he said he won’t be letting his guard down.

“Me and my neighbours will be … watching carefully to make sure they live up to their end of the bargain.”

Construction of the southwest Calgary ring road is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

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