Monday, March 29, 2010

Sandhill Cranes on Lulu Island, Richmond, BC.

I recently learned of a hidden wetland in Richmond, only a few miles from my home. It is a former peat mine, south of Blundell Road and east of No. 6 Road. Its eastern edge lies next to a landfill, and its southern side abuts the Country Meadows Golf Course, which is the only point of easy access.

A fellow naturalist obtained permission from the golf course to visit, and learned from speaking to golfers that a pair of Sandhill Cranes has been breeding in the wetland for several years, raising one or two chicks a year.

On the weekend, with permission, we visited the golf course very early in the morning-- to avoid bothering the golfers (or being hit in the head with a golf ball). The wetland contains about a quarter-mile square of surface water, and was full of waterfowl, including Canada Goose, Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall and Green-winged Teal. Pacific Chorus Frogs called from emergent vegetation.

We didn't find the cranes; they found us. A pair of adults flew from somewhere in the depths of the golf course and swooped low over our heads. They landed nearby on the berm at the edge of the landfill, and then slowly walked toward us.

Apparently, like the cranes at The Reifel Bird Sanctuary, these birds have learned to mooch from humans. We didn't give them anything, and they sauntered away.

Worryingly, the company that runs the landfill has applied for a permit to commence operations in the wetland. This would be a shame. Although this habitat was created as a byproduct of one destructive practice (peat-mining), it has evolved into something far more valuable than a dumping ground.


Benjamin Vogt said...

Oh what a beautiful, sad, hopefully beautiful story. I've enver ventured 2 hours west to see the great Platte River migrations of sandhill cranes--they'll be moving on this and next week after gorging on corn.

KaHolly said...

I don't understand. I thought wetlands were protected. Isn't there an organization or anyone else lobbying to stop them? ~karen

PSYL said...

Great post about wildlife in unique places. Too bad about the commence operations.

Karen said...

Maybe time to rally the eco-minded community to protect the wetland before it's too late? Aren't these cranes a threatened/endangered species? Would their breeding grounds not therefore be a good candidate for preservation? I hope the story has a happy ending! They are such beautifully strange creatures.

Hugh said...

Benjamin, I know someone who saw that once (by accident, just driving along I-80). He was thrilled by it.

Karen, Not all wetlands are protected. There's also the question of the definition of a wetland. One person's wetland is another person's flooded peat mine.

PSYL, It's not a done deal yet.

Karen, Sandhills are blue-listed in BC (of concern), and the eco-community is now aware. (The golfers have known of the birds for years! Not a lot of crossover between these groups.)

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Sandhill Cranes are so beautiful, with their feathery bustles.