Killdeer Habitat

A Killdeer's Dream Come True

A Killdeer's Dream Comes True! © Patricia M. Banning-Lover

The creation of Killdeer habitat on The Conservation Area's western boundary was a long-held dream. Those of us who recognized the potential of this small piece of land also knew that its necessary transformation would not be an easy thing to bring about. The land had been the subject of much discussion as it was conceptually slated to be the extension of an open-ended trail leading from Dollarton Highway to the waterfront perhaps, some mused, it would even house a viewing tower. Embedded in the decade and a half of discussion, were eleven years of meetings, reports, and site tours.  The struggle seemed at times endless. The fact that the trail would have a negative impact on wildlife as it led bicycles, pedestrians and dogs through and beside sensitive and crucial habitat was finally acknowledged when the findings of the Environmental Impact Study were released and reviewed. These findings overwhelmingly supported the Trust's steadfastly-held position that there be no trail, and in a marvelous moment of acceptance everything changed!

Somewhere Killdeer must have stirred in their sleep and dreamed of better days as the small piece of land which seemed so suitable for their breeding requirements now became ear-marked with the exciting words "new habitat creation'". Plans were also made for a fenced boundary with screens of indigenous plantings to protect the Park Street Marsh and area.

Rempel Bros.
Concrete Ltd., whose property borders the small piece of land, pledged to create the Killdeer habitat. When Rempel's Vice-President and General Manager Doug Blender and Rempel's Operations Manager Steve Szalkai met with me on site on September 5th 2008 to discuss the project, Doug fondly recalled the antics of Killdeer from his childhood. From the moment we started talking it was obvious that with access to this level of co-operative, caring manpower, materials, and big machines, the Killdeers' dream really would come true.

Plans were struck that very day to scrape the 15,000 sq. ft. area, line it with cloth, and place washed beach pebbles approximately l" - 3" diameter to a depth of three inches. In places, the pebbles would be raked to mimic two cigar shaped dunes and eventually several well-weathered logs, gathered from our beaches at The Conservation Area, would be placed to shelter Killdeer chicks.

In preparation for our meeting Doug had asked me to supply him with an estimate and description of materials needed. This was an easy task since fortunately an estimate of the requirements had been made by WBT Volunteers Kevin Bell and Rob Lyske on March 8th 2007 when the project was still in the "someday wish-list" stage. I consulted with WBT's Habitat Advisor Dr. Patrick Mooney about liner material since such a large area would need something much more robust than ordinary weedcloth. Patrick recommended an appropriate geotextile barrier cloth and supplier, information which I passed on to Rempel.

WBT's MCA Manager Ernie Kennedy and I now began to clean and glean the small piece of land. This included removing a human habitation, a recently-used fire-pit and the inevitable garbage which results from the thoughtlessness of long-term casual use.

Project implementation was delegated to Rempel's North Vancouver Plant Supervisor Alex Kirk who devised a safer plan for the entrance. Although this area will be completely off limits to the public (and members) there will be a need to service the area occasionally and Alex felt the point of entry should be through Rempel's property; to facilitate this he suggested a tall locked gate be in
stalled in their concrete wall. Alex also suggested that they construct a ramp and turn-around forward of the gate for us.

Now there was only one problem left to deal with. The helicopter pad had long been dismantled, broken into pieces and piled to one side, but what to do with the old fuel tank? I shouldn't have wasted one moment of worry for Alex Kirk had a plan for safe removal and disposal of this potentially hazardous item. After determining that the tank was empty and completely intact, Alex arranged for a large section of Rempel's concrete block wall to be removed. Now the path was clear for Rempel's Komatsu Wheel Loader to gently remove the last remnant of a time which had seen The Conservation Area's resident and migratory birds share airspace with helicopters.

The big machine entered the area and maneuvered into place. Under Alex's direction and with help from Diego Hernandez, the tank was harnessed and attached, then with impeccable skill Doug Beadle drove away leaving barely a whisper of impact to tell that he had been there at all.

If you have ever had something present in your life which has occupied serious "thought-time" over a period of fifteen years and then been able to witness solution in less than fifteen minutes you will instantly know how it felt to watch the procedure illustrated in these images.

With the successful disposal of the helicopter fuel tank by Rempel Bros. Concrete Ltd., in September 2008 at last behind us we could now anticipate the Killdeer habitat implementation.

Personnel and machinery were supplied by Rempel. Alex Kirk. Rempel's North Vancouver Plant Supervisor, scheduled and oversaw the installation with precision and great care. The area was scraped clear of debris and smoothed so that the special geotextile barrier cloth could be laid and layered. Next, came the careful placement of the pebbles which had been donated by Construction Aggregates Ltd., (Calgary). This donation included enough three inch minus "spawning gravel" (a round pebble of 1-3" diameter) to cover the 15,000 sq.ft area to a depth of three inches.

On February 25th 2009, well ahead of nesting season, several weathered logs which had been cast up by the tide on MCA beaches were placed on the pebbles by MCA Manager Ernie Kennedy with help from volunteers from Arc'teryx Equipment Inc. These logs, it was projected, would act as shelter for the Killdeer chicks who would one day be born at the site. To complete the security for the area the locked maintenance gate was installed by Rempel. All that was humanly possible had now been done to provide Killdeer with a new nesting habitat safe from human and pet intrusion; it would now be up to the birds to write the next chapter.

The project, part of a package which secured The Conservation Area's western boundary, was the culmination of many years of negotiation and cooperation between government, industry and conservation.

At WBT's AGM on November 22nd 2008, Rempel Bros. Concrete Ltd received the Society's "Making British Columbia a Safer Place for Birds" Award in recognition of their unbelievably generous commitment and support in providing Killdeer with a potentially successful breeding site.

Wild Bird Trust respectfully reminds the public, and our members, that "the small piece of land“ now officially set aside as Killdeer habitat - is a piece of true sanctuary and asks that no intrusion of any kind be considered.