I out this page together to provide information for anyone interested in the last great land-grab on the west island and the loss of green space and wildlife, especially, bird habitat that will ensue.
Fifteen years ago or thereabouts, as a relative newcomer to Montreal and working hard on my life list, I spent an extraordinarily cold and bitter winter’s day on the extensive open area across the road and south from the Cap-St-Jacques Nature Park searching out and finally finding my lifer Northern Shrike. Subsequent years provided (non-lifer) Great Gray Owls and a few other nice birds but it was only in recent times that, encouraged by an experienced birding friend, that I started to pay attention to this very fine area of undisturbed and wildlife-rich land. It is perhaps the last place on the island of Montreal where American Kestrels breed and maybe the only place you will see Northern Harriers (on a lucky day) and for that reason I have dubbed the area in my own mind as “The Kestrel Fields” … though “Cap-St-Jacques-South” may be more meaningful.
This land is now under extreme threat from development – and I, with others, am not happy about the prospect of losing it.
Where and what am I talking about.
This map shows the extent and location of the Kestrel Fields. The boundaries are approximate but close enough to reality for this page. That area that concerns me is the land outlined in red.
In a moment I will explain why I think this land must somehow be saved from the developer – but first let us look at what the mayor of Pierrefonds is proposing … it involves some 5000 houses and/or condos plus a major feeder road to take the future inhabitants to work.
How extensive is the proposed loss of land? Working from plans available in the press it would seem that the area under threat is approximately that outlined in blue below …
As is evident, that is a huge and damaging loss of wildlife habitat to the benefit of the Pierrefond budget and the profits of the developers.
What do the Kestrel Fields look like?
The land under threat is bounded to the north by Cap-St-Jacques nature park and to the west by l’Anse-à-l’Orme nature park with fairly extensive (owl-rich) woodland separating its southern margin from existing housing, The core area comprises long abandoned agricultural fields that are gradually reverting to scrub and thicket and eventually, left to themselves, will mature as more forest.
Scrubby grassland is a diminishing and important habitat that is attractive to a range of wildlife and especially birds that are otherwise absent from Montreal island.
The nature of this abandoned land means that access is actually quite difficult. There are few to no maintained trails in the area and heavy boots and a willingness to bush-whack are needed if you are to penetrate far. Precisely the reasons that the land does carry valuable wildlife – it can live there relatively undisturbed.
We know of 157 species of birds, ten of them at risk or endangered, that can be seen in this small area – you can see the checklist of species on this page
Here is a small gallery of recent photographs to give you a feel of the place. It isn’t particularly scenic but it is highly desirable real estate for wildlife. Click on any thumbnail below to see a full size image:
What can be done to Save the Kestrel Fields?
As stated at the head of the page, this is not a first strike in an attempt to whip up enthusiasm for an action campaign, though undoubtedly that is needed. I leave that to the professionals who understand how to go about these matters.
It appears that there is some support for preservation already:
For my part, it seems that when a preservation campaign does get under way one of its most valuable weapons will be to have a sound and scientifically rigorous knowledge and an understanding of the wildlife and plants that will be put at risk if the proposed developments are approved and allowed go ahead. This is something that citizen scientists could help with getting under way and I offer this web page as a place where the information can be collated and saved until such time as a local campaign group get organised.
I propose two things for now:
- Anyone who has personal records from the area (birds, mammals, insects, plants) in red on the map above is asked to send it to me at email@example.com Species, dates, numbers of individuals, other supporting data.
- An invitation is extended to birders and others interested to attend a potential one day bio-blitz on the Kestrel Fields in early June to take a snapshot of what the site holds. Again, if you are interested please contact me at the above email address.