Technoparc (Saint-Laurent) bird walk – Despite a grim weather forecast, some 120 participants turned out for the Second Annual Good Friday Migration for the Birds of Technoparc (Saint-Laurent). The rain held off and the group spread out through woods and meadows to collectively report some 36 species including Red-Shouldered Hawks, Wood Ducks, Green-Winged Teals, and the American Woodcock.
“We are trying to make the public aware that Technoparc and environs are the number one bird watching spot on Montreal Island with 183 species recorded since 2016,” said Joel Coutu, an event organizer. “We have two endangered species nesting here, the Least Bittern and the Wood Thrush. Despite this, heavy machinery is still active in the area.”
Coutu, whose allies are fighting Technoparc management in court, is buoyed by recent events. On March 29, Montreal mayor Valerie Plante announced that the city is taking over administration of Technoparc, a non-profit group that will nonetheless receive $2.6 million in municipal funding this year.
Technoparc management has been criticized by Montreal’s Auditor General for numerous governance and accountability issues. This involves alleged lack of transparency, over-paying its executives, and under-estimating the value of land near stations for the proposed Reseau express metropolitain (REM) train.
Coutu has other concerns about the REM: “Construction of the train will mean massive tree cutting, draining of wetlands, dynamiting, and major earth-moving work in an area where birds are very sensitive to human presence. After the construction period, there will be fast trains every six to 12 minutes for 20 hours a day, traversing an area where many birds fly low to escape predators.”
In early 2017, Technoparc completed a dyke “to stabilize water levels” in one of the marshes there. Coutu is skeptical that this was merely a camouflaged effort to drain a wetland and eventually turn it into a parking lot. That year, a small marsh dried up in during a year of record rainfall and severe flooding in many other areas. Coutu suspects that the drained water was diverted into nearby Bertrand Creek.
The marsh that dried up in 2017 used to be home to rare birds such as Soras and Hooded Mergansers; they have not nested here since 2016. Coutu points to declining populations of many other species of birds in the general area, including Black Crowned Night Herons, Green Herons, and Grebes. The population declines coincide with the advent of road construction in this area.
Coutu is puzzled why the presence of endangered species nesting here has not halted the construction of the Hubert Reeves Eco-Campus or how the project ever obtained work authorizations. He claims that no proper environmental assessment of the area was ever done. Coutu is not against the Eco-Campus project per se, but simply wants to see it built elsewhere and not in a marsh.
Neil Whitehouse of the Westmount Park United Church, who also helped organize the event, refused to take credit for how the rain clouds blew away on Friday morning. Besides helping to preserve the Technoparc wetlands and woods, his church is affiliated with many environmental actions, such as monthly environmental discussions called “Climate Cafes.”
Feature image: Joel Coutu (standing on cement block) conducts a bird count