A count of bald eagles and their nesting sites will form the foundation for a new data base that can be updated in the future.
The count by the Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society (GROWLS), is being conducted by Ian Moul, a registered professional biologist from Comox, who is compiling the data to create maps pinpointing eagle nesting sites.
“We’re just doing a real once over of all the nests we know, confirming that they’re there and getting a photographic record of them,” Moul said. “So often what happens is that someone will say the nest is gone, but we won’t even know where it was.”
Existing records go back to the late 1980s, but many of the sites haven’t been revisited. The new survey will help confirm the current status of known sites.
Eagles, primarily fish-eaters, like to perch and nest in large old trees next to the shoreline from where they can spot their next meals. It also happens to be where people like to build new houses. Pinpointing eagle nesting trees can help prevent construction too close to the roots of the trees, which could damage them.
“Big old trees have a possibility of falling on homes,” Moul said. “By knowing where they are it helps. Some jurisdictions put around known eagle nests.”
Having those trees mapped also helps protect eagles by allowing communities to establish development buffer zones around the trees. People knowing the location of nests can prevent someone from quietly cutting a tree down to get it out of the way. Moul said a nesting tree was cut down near Campbell River with eagles nesting in it.
Moul said there are currently about 60 nests on Gabriola Island. Eagles nest in territories and there can be several nests within a territory.
“They are very territorial,” Moul said. “They defend their territory and the don’t like their neighbours coming too close, especially during the nesting season.”
Once the map is updated it is easier for local conservation groups to update, maintain the inventory and keep a running tally of which nests are being used versus those that have been abandoned.
For more information about eagle related projects on Gabriola Island, please visit the wildlife rescue society’s website at www.growls.ca.