The Dodge Cove Great Blue Heron Colony is situated in a grove of tall mixed coniferous trees close to the centre of Dodge Cove. It has been an active breeding colony for over 15 years. Nine to 11 nests have been in use from early spring to late summer with one to three young making it to maturity. June and July are traditionally very active months with the adult herons bringing small fish to their young who put up a constant racket as they demand to be fed at all hours of the day and night. The ground beneath the large stick nests is usually littered with fish bits and feces and gets quite ‘ripe’ towards the end of summer when the young fledge, following a parent to the waterline of the beaches and bays around Digby Island.
Now the colony is dead quiet. Sometime in early June, the nests were abandoned. There are no adults bringing food, no herons on guard in the tree tops, no young sitting in the nests of fallen on the ground and no fish bits under the nests. In mid-May there were egg shells under the nests showing the young were hatching. This is when the herons perch in the trees to guard their young from predators, most often eagles, who, more often than not, manage to knock a few young herons out of the nests where they fall several meters to the forest floor with very little change of survival. Typically four or five young herons meet their fate this way each year with the adult herons fending off the attacks until the eagle gives up.
What is different this year is that there has been constant helicopter traffic travelling behind Dodge Cove and the heron colony during all daylight hours as Nexen CNOOC investigates and prepares for the proposed Aurora LNG project on Digby Island. This has intensified this spring, directly behind Dodge Cove, as site clearing crews set up drilling platforms for core sampling.
There has never been a complete destruction of this colony’s young from predation.
There has never been such constant and intense helicopter traffic over Dodge Cove.
The residents of Dodge Cove and elsewhere on Digby Island have opposed the intense disturbance caused by Nexen/CNOOC helicopter traffic, often within sights of our houses, for over two years. We have often found it difficult to be outside on our properties from the intensity of the helicopter noise.
What affect could this have on the herons and other threatened wildlife on this island?
In my opinion, the abandonment of the heron colony speaks for itself.
The adult herons can still be seen on the waterfront, but now, rarely land on the colony trees. It appears that no new herons will hatch this year.