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Hey birders & photographers, don't disturb Delta's wildlife

The city is once again reminding birders of proper etiquette
Photographers venturing into the marsh at Brunswick Point late last year.

Birds love Delta but not when they are being chased, followed or harassed by humans.

That’s the recent reminder on social media by the City of Delta for birders and photographers that they should not bother wildlife at trails and parks.

People are asked to remember proper birding etiquette when observing birds by watching or photographing quietly from a distance, moving further away if a bird looks at you or changes its behaviour in response to your presence, as well as not trying to follow birds including going off designated trails if birds move away.

People are also reminded not to bait birds, which can disrupt their natural hunting behaviours and draw them to roadsides, or trim foliage or cut down trees to get a better view.

City manager Sean McGill told the Optimist the reminder was not prompted by recent disruptive acts, but rather is part of an ongoing educational campaign stemming from past complaints.

A few weeks ago, concerned resident Margaret Munro sent an e-mail to the Optimist with several photographs showing a large number of photographers venturing off the trail at Brunswick Point and into the vegetated areas seeking a perfect picture of the wildlife.

She also provided a lengthy response letter from 2021, when she raised concerns with the provincial government about the situation and the Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

“Regulations alone are not sufficient to protect wildlife, and increased public education and outreach about responsible use of the Roberts Bank WMA are necessary to help protect wildlife. Staff from the South Coast Conservation Land Management Program (SCCLMP) have begun discussing with City of Delta, and others, ways in which to improve signage throughout the Roberts Bank, Boundary Bay, and South Arm Marshes WMAs, and hope to improve ongoing public education and respectful use of these WMAs,” stated the letter from Scott Barrett, Director, Resource Management, South Coast Region, for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Delta council in 2021 discussed a letter from another concerned resident about photographers following hawks, owls and other birds into the marsh.

Also writing a letter to Delta South MLA Ian Paton, the letter writer urged action to protect the wildlife and habitat. City council at the time agreed something needs to be done.

A memo from staff noted the Roberts Bank WMA is under the jurisdiction of the B.C. government and staff already forwarded the letter to a regional wildlife coordinator for feedback.

Mayor George Harvie at the time said the problem of photographers not obeying the rules is one that seems to come up every few years, but there doesn’t seem to be as much enforcement as is needed.

Council also agreed to ask the premier and the environment ministry to take action.

Later in the year, council received another letter from a concerned resident, this one claiming many eager photographers were spotted harassing barn owls at the foot of 72nd Street at the Boundary Bay dike.

A staff response to that letter noted Delta had been actively working with the province and Metro Vancouver on the issue of harassment of wildlife within Delta’s WMAs.

The staff memo noted that Ministry of Forest, Natural Operations and Rural Development staff were working on new signage in collaboration with the regional district and Delta staff.

It was to include information related to the harassment of wildlife by people and their pets.