Old Champlain Bridge not yet an empty nest as rare birds call it home
With the new Champlain Bridge opening on Monday, the deconstruction of its predecessor is going to be done with great care in order to protect some little neighbours.
The tear-down project is scheduled to begin next year and the federal bridge corporation is teaming up with wildlife experts to make sure a species of cliff swallow isn’t harmed.
Some of the birds have taken to nesting along the ice bridge across from the old Champlain, but some have preferred the main bridge itself. Pierre Molina, director of Falcon Environmental Services, said the species’ numbers have been dwindling, so great care must be taken to preserve the existing population.
“There is a lot of talk of putting many swallows into the endangered species list and making more effort to protect them,” he said.
To do so, Molina said his team is hoping to encourage more swallows to use the ice bridge. They’ve begun erecting special beams to try and attract the birds.
“They need corners, angles, so the Champlain Bridge engineers relied on different types of angled beams which are already put under the ice bridge right now,” he said. “When they put that structure that same year, the swallow started using it.”
The ice bridge holds the potential to be home to roughly 1,400 nests. When deconstruction begins, Molina said efforts will be taken to coordinate the work around the birds’ nesting season.
The Champlain Bridge project has produced some unexpected benefits, as experts have been able to learn more about the swallows’ habits.
“We were able to demonstrate you could actually work quite closely – 10 to metres – to the nest without disturbing them,” said Molina. “We’re learning a lot and we are trying to share that information.”