Kinder Morgan & The Birds of Burnaby Mountain

Nov. 26 2014:  On Gabriola Island a lot of us have been paying close attention to what’s happening on Burnaby Mountain, just across the Strait of Georgia. Maybe you’ve heard? Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based multinational oil company is drilling in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area,  a 576 hectare park created, in perpetuity, by a 1996 referendum of the citizens of Burnaby British Columbia. The drilling contravenes the by-laws of the City of Burnaby and is opposed by its Mayor, its citizens, and much of the province of BC.

Totem Poles on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake with thanks.

Totem Poles on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake with thanks.

The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area (BMCA) is primarily forested park land. According to the BMCA Management Plan (2000) it is “one of the most significant natural areas in the Lower Mainland and the largest component of the Burnaby Parks System…. (it) represents an important island of wildlife habitat in a predominantly urban area.  … at least eleven species of provincially Blue and Red-listed wildlife may be found at or near Burnaby Mountain based on the types of habitats present and the geographic ranges of the species.”

The forest supports Black-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and occasionally black bears as well as bats, squirrels, rabbits, moles, voles, shrews and mice. And since it is part of the Pacific Flyway, habitat for more than one billion birds, you’ll find lots of birds here, especially in spring when large fallouts of migrants, including warblers, sparrows, vireos, flycatchers, hummingbirds, and tanagers, stop on the mountain for rest and sustenance.

Here are photos of just a few of the many birds that inhabit Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area year-round or use it during migration. (Many thanks to Adam Blake for the use of his gorgeous photos.)

Wilson's Warbler. Photo by Adam Blake.

Wilson’s Warbler on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

White-crowned Sparrow on Bby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

White-crowned Sparrow on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

Spotted Towhee on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

Spotted Towhee on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

Sooty Grouse hen, on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

Sooty Grouse hen, on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Adam Blake.

Other birds known to inhabit the BMCA include the Varied Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Black-throated Grey Warblers, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo and Warbling Vireo, Fox Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Fox sparrow on Gabriola. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Fox sparrow on Gabriola. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Red-breasted sapsucker.  Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Red-breasted sapsucker. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Varied Thrush. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Varied Thrush. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Olive-sided Flycatcher. Photo by Dominic Sherony (CC License)

Olive-sided Flycatcher. Photo by Dominic Sherony (CC License)

Pileated Woodpecker. Photo by George Clulow, Burnaby Outdoors.

Pileated Woodpecker. Photo by George Clulow, Burnaby Outdoors.

The city of Burnaby has been working to preserve and protect the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area for years. For details, check out the BMCA Management Plan (2000) here:  https://burnaby.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?Id=1172

You’ll see nothing in these plans about pipelines being built through the mountain. So it’s hardly surprising that Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is fighting Kinder Morgan in the courts, and that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and a majority of BC citizens and First Nations are opposed to the project.

Gabriola's Save Our Shores Group joins the ptotest on Burnaby Mountain

Gabriola’s Save Our Shores Group joins the protest on Burnaby Mountain. November 26 2014.

I walked up the mountain today, Wednesday November 26. On the way, I looked for birds.  (It’s a habit I can’t seem to break.) I struck out. Not one. Is it any wonder?

Drilling equipment being used in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area by Kinder Morgan.

Drilling equipment in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area

We islanders are sensitive to the events unfolding on Burnaby Mountain. After all, if the Kinder Morgan pipeline is ever built, some 400 tankers a year, some of which are sure to be of the AfraMax variety holding 750,000 barrels of oil, will make their way from Burrard Inlet down the Salish Sea, right past this island whose shores we share with Harbour Seals, Steller’s Sea Lions, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Belted Kingfishers, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Bald Eagles, and a huge variety of species of geese, ducks, and gulls. Do you know how much oil it takes to kill a sea bird? One teaspoon. And how many actually survive, even after cleaning? Estimates run from 1-10%. Those are not great odds.  

Female Belted Kingfisher with fish. (Creative Commons photo. Thank you.)

Female Belted Kingfisher with fish. (Creative Commons photo. Thank you.)

Black Oystercatcher and Gull on shores of Gabriola Island.  Photo by Sharon Mcinnes.

Black Oystercatcher and Gull on shores of Gabriola Island. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Many of the bird species that live on the shores of Gabriola also live in and around Stanley Park on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, a nationally recognized Important Bird Area. It is from here that oil tankers carrying fuel from the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would depart for Asia. It is also here that Great Blue Herons nest in huge colonies.

Great Blue Heron at Brickyard Beach on Gabriola Island. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Great Blue Heron at Brickyard Beach on Gabriola Island. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

The birds of Burnaby Mountain, Gabriola Island, the Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, the planet: they’re all at risk if this pipeline goes through. As if tar sands tailing ponds and habitat loss and climate change weren’t enough to deal with!

A GOOD NEWS UPDATE! Yesterday (Nov. 27) the BC Supreme Court refused to extend the Kinder Morgan injunction and ordered the company to leave the mountain by December 1. All 103 arrests for Civil Contempt were thrown out! Thank you to all the protesters, supporters, and to Judge Austin Cullen and the rule of law. 

 

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16 Responses to Kinder Morgan & The Birds of Burnaby Mountain

  1. Pingback: Birding News #92 | Prairie Birder

  2. Thanks George. I agree – it is “truly stunning.” And thanks again for the use of your stunning photo!

  3. Maureen Karagianis says:

    Excellent piece of work Sharon. I will send it to all my contacts.

  4. when will humans learn to love and respect all other beings that share this globe of life

  5. such sacred beauty that most of humanity is blind to

  6. Good article, Sharon. The throwing out of the civil contempt charges against the protesters was a real victory. For Kinder Morgan to be unable to even accurately GPS the locations for their own work sites shows a level of technical incompetence that is truly stunning. And this is the company that wants to pump bitumen through our province, drill holes through our local parks, and then ship the stuff through our coastal waters. Really?

  7. Burtt Fidler says:

    Nice work Sharon. I remember you did comment on the lack of birds the other day as we were all walking up the mountain to the Kinder Morgan bore hole.

    I lived on Burnaby Mountian for almost four years in the early 1990’s and saw all of the birds shown and mentioned in this article. I particularly remember seeing four Eagles that used to soar above the top of steep north slope of the mountain on the north side. These eagles were clearly visible from the campus and I used to seek out a cubical in the library to work where I could see them. It always made me feel better about having to be inside working, especially on those rare sunny winter days.

    Good of you to remind us of some of what we stand to lose with this Kinder Morgan madness.

  8. Jean and Mary and Nancy and Eileen and Kristin – Thanks for your comments! Glad you enjoyed the piece.

  9. Jean McLaren says:

    those photos are so beautiful they brought tears to my eyes. I was also one of the arrestees this past week and was amazed at what I saw of the park and to think that it might have been used for dirty oil underground caused me to decide to risk arrest. So many people in one week felt the same and the courts cancelled our arrests and stopped the drilling. In these days of so much bad news it was wonderful to be able to have something to make up happy.

  10. Mary W. says:

    As a former student of SFU, I’m familiar with the mountain in some ways. I’m feeling pretty sheepish looking at these wonderful photos, though — clearly I was a lot less attentive to the world around me than I thought when I was up there in academia.

    Thank you for these wonderful images, Sharon and Adam, and thank you for reminding me that when we think of residents who are upset by these projects, we must remember that some of them have feathers.

  11. Nancy Crozier says:

    What a great piece of writing! Sharon McInnes managed to cover the issue of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline and the threat to the wonderful wealth of birds on Burnaby Mountain. The pictures were very good. We all know how tricky it is to capture these shy creatures.
    ai look forward to more of these postings.

  12. Eileen K. says:

    Thanks, Sharon for an important article – and lovely photos. The contrasts between the beauty of these birds and waters on the one hand, and the police-protected drilling rigs marring the Conservation !! Area of Burnaby Mountain are stark. Thanks for your contribution to waking us all up to the need to realize our interconnectedness to all this life, and to take part in its protection.

  13. Kristin Miller says:

    Sharon McInnes’s article and the vivid photos offer a new insight into why it is so important to protest when large international companies such as Kinder Morgan trample on the rights of municipalities and small communities to protect their own turf from industrial exploitation.

  14. Thank you for the post and thank you to all the West Coast protesters. We can no longer sit in the armchair and have opinions, we need to get out and make a statement. I am appreciative of all the efforts that went into this particular battle!