Snow geese taking off at Alaksen National Wildlife Area in Delta. Delta is one of the main stopping points on the Pacific Flyway, one of the largest migratory corridors in Canada. (James Smith photo)

Biologist wants Delta named the bird capital of Canada

Raptor biologist Myles Lamont says the number of eagles and other birds puts Delta in the running

With millions of migratory birds passing on their way both south and north, the highest concentration of bald eagles anywhere in the world and some of the largest wintering populations of shorebirds, it’s no wonder some might want to call Delta the bird capital of Canada.

Myles Lamont, a local raptor biologist, is intent on making the title official.

“Growing up in the area, I was totally unaware of how important Boundary Bay was, despite the fact I was an avid wildlife enthusiast,” Lamont said. He grew up in Langley and Surrey, and now works as a wildlife biologist at the consulting firm Terra Fauna. “It wasn’t until I got older and in my 20s that I actually recognized the significance of the area.”

For Lamont, who focuses on birds of prey, the sheer density of eagles in Delta piqued his curiosity. It did the same for ornithologists David Hancock and David Bird.

“It just kind of grew into a discussion of how this probably is the raptor capital of Canada, in a sense,” Lamont said. The trio wanted to promote the area’s significance by calling it the Raptor Capital of Canada, something Lamont later decided against.

“Most people probably don’t know what a raptor is, and would probably associate raptors with dinosaurs or the basketball team” he explained. (Raptors are birds of prey, like eagles, hawks, osprey, owls and vultures.)

Instead, he decided Delta should be called the Bird and Raptor Capital of Canada.

Lamont submitted a letter to Delta council in June of this year, expressing his desire to give Delta its new title. In his letter, he asked council to help develop an app that could be used as a virtual tour guide to birding hot spots in the area, create a website to provide education materials on local birds and expedite the creation of signs along Highway 99.

“The objective I have is basically just to capitalize on the fact that there’s an order of 100,000 to 200,000 people that drive around Boundary Bay every day,” Lamont said. “Having some simple signage on the freeway … would just force them to pause and think a little bit about what they are driving through.”

Overall, Lamont’s hope is that a minimal investment will perform outreach that could create “some meaningful impact to residents, and hopefully some economic opportunities as well for Delta,” he said.

Council seemed intrigued by Lamont’s ideas and discussed them during its June 25 regular meeting.

“It has good tourism, it has business perspectives, and the timing is very good in terms of eco-tourism,” Counc. Heather King said at council. She proposed Delta work with Lamont to see how they could promote the label of Bird and Raptor Capital of Canada.

Of course, council needs to get a report from staff on what the city could do the support the proposal before making any decisions.

“It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to do it or pay for it,” Mayor Lois Jackson said during the June 25 meeting. “I think there’s no doubt that everyone supports this, but what exactly does that mean, or what form does it take?”

Lamont met with Delta staff on July 4 to discuss what Delta’s support could look like. He said staff didn’t want him to divulge details of the report before it is brought to council on Monday, July 16, but said it “wasn’t terribly surprising.”

“Basically, it sounds like Delta is prepared to support it depending on what they propose, which basically is what I was striving to achieve at this point anyhow,” he said.

One of the goals Lamont thinks won’t be achieved is getting signs on Highway 99 in time for the 27th International Ornithological Congress, or IOC, happening in Vancouver this August.

The congress is what Lamont called the “Olympics of the bird world,” an event that brings together the brightest minds of the bird science community, and thousands of bird enthusiasts from around the world.

“We’ve seen what the Olympics did for Vancouver and Squamish in terms of highlighting the area,” he said “My hope is that having the eyes and ears on Vancouver in terms of the IOC will have something similar.”

Even if the signage won’t be ready, he’s hoping Delta could make some sort of formal announcement about its capital status. Of course, this will create controversy among other Canadian bird hot spots, which Lamont welcomes.

Of course, this will create controversy among other Canadian bird hot spots, which Lamont welcomes.

“I’m anticipating there will be some folks in Ontario that also have some heavy migratory use areas, and they will say ‘No, no, no. We’re the migratory bird capital of Canada,’” he said.

“I think controversy is a good thing in this case, because all it’s doing is highlighting potentially two very important areas to birds and wildlife.”

But first, Lamont needs the City of Delta, and hopefully Richmond and Surrey, on board.

“I think once people see the upsides, there really is no downsides in my mind,” he said. “Hopefully we can all link arms and move forward with it.”



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

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