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Highway construction delayed as eaglets confirmed

Work on section wonÕt resume until August if young birds are healthy

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After weeks of watching and waiting, biologists have at last confirmed the existence of an active eagles nest in an area north of Horseshow Bay. Because it is illegal for highway construction crews to blast or create a disturbance within 1,000 metres of an active nest, work on that section of the highway has been delayed until mid-August at the latest.

The issue of the nest cropped up in May after a group of local bird watchers and biologists presented evidence of nesting behaviour to the Ministry of Transportation, former Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, and the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project (S2SHIP). The nest is well-known to locals who have watched the same male and female eagles use it for the past three years.

After hearing about the nest S2SHIP used their own biologist to examine the site, and he concluded that the eagles were not exhibiting any nesting behaviour.

The local bird watchers disagreed with this assessment, and staked out the nest to gather their own evidence. They took pictures and observed the nest in regular shifts, until at last they brought their case back to the highway builders.

After weighing the new evidence S2SHIP agreed to move work crews further down the highway until the end of June. If the eagles were in fact raising young that was the latest window in which they could expect to see eaglets in the nest.

The proof finally came last week when the North Shore Nest Environmental Stewards Team (NEST), a residentsÕ coalition formed to watch the eagles, released several photographs that showed two to three eaglets that are approximately seven weeks old. Because of the size and aspect of the nest, it was difficult to spot the young birds until they were big enough to appear over the top.

The pictures were actually taken on June 4, and were confirmed by bald eagle biologist and NEST advisor David Hancock on June 15.

"WeÕre very pleased Alex photographed the eaglets and Mr. Hancock was able to subsequently confirm their presence following photo analysis work in the lab," said Jim Cuthbert, a member of NEST.

The eaglesÕ nest is also interesting from a scientific perspective. The fact that it is so close to the highway and can be easily observed from a pullout section is rare, as is the number of young.

"In viewing several thousand nests, I have only ever seen three West Coast nests that have produced three young Ð suggesting that this is a very unique and productive pair of eagles," wrote Hancock.

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