Thethunderbird.ca, March 30, 2016 – Stanley Park works to nurture herons in centre of the city

Cities often drive out many kinds of animals, but Vancouver has managed to keep one unique species in the heart of the city.

This year, about 200 great blue herons have returned to their colony above Beach Avenue in Stanley Park for the sixteenth year in a row.

“This colony is super unique because it’s so tolerant of people and it’s in an urban area,” said Greg Hart, the urban wildlife programs co-ordinator with the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

“People often think of our city as this sterile vacuum away from nature, and the fact that these animals live with us, they co-exist with us, they’re something that can help us connect back to nature, it’s just really cool.”

Great blue herons can be found across the Lower Mainland but this is the only colony in the city of Vancouver. They are the subspecies fannine, which is listed as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act.

This spring, new initiatives are in the works to keep this species thriving in the city.

“We want to promote people’s awareness and understanding of these animals because we’re really lucky that we have this species at risk hanging out in our backyard,” said Hart.

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Bird’s Eye View

Last year, the Vancouver park board installed a camera to allow people to watch the birds in action. The feed was so popular that, this year, the park board spent $4,900 to upgrade the camera.

Showcasing the herons through the camera allows people to appreciate nature, build community engagement and supports the park board’s Biodiversity and Bird Strategies, said  Justinne Ramirez, the board’s communications co-ordinator.

About 35,000 views have been recorded since the beginning of March.

Hart said the camera makes it easier for the ecology society to collect data and creates excitement and curiosity about the herons.

If people watch between now and mid-May, they may see herons laying eggs. Biologists have already reported that some eggs have been laid.

Click here to see the live feed!