British Columbia

Biologist hopes to draw birds, reptiles, fish to Shuswap Lake with new habitat

A conservation society in Salmon Arm, B.C. is building finger-like sections of land on the foreshore of Shuswap Lake to enhance bird, reptile and fish habitat.

'Build it and they will come,' says biologist Gerry Leering

Western Grebe swimming amongst reeds at Shuswap Lake. (David Komljenovic)

On the foreshore of Shuswap Lake, just half a kilometer from Salmon Arm's downtown, a small excavator pulls up mud and piles it into two-meter-high hillocks.

The excavator is creating sections of raised land in long, finger-like formations to enhance the foreshore and encourage fish, reptiles and birds to use the area as habitat.

The "complexing features" are the idea of the Salmon Arm Bay Enhancement Society, a conservation group responsible for protecting the foreshore.

An excavator builds long, raised hillocks to create wildlife habitat on Shuswap Lake's foreshore. (Leah Shaw/CBC)

Biologist Gerry Leering says the western grebe, a species of bird native to the Shuswap, is decreasing in numbers in the region. He believes that population decline is due to habitat loss. 

He's hoping to turn that downward trend around. 

"By creating these little fingers, we're taking material from beside [the foreshore] and raising it so we have a height, close to the existing nature trails, so that then we can plant it with red cedar, black cottonwood — very tall trees — and plants on the raised hummocks," said Leering in an interview with CBC Radio One's Daybreak South.

"It can be a beautiful nesting habitat for the [western] grebes."

The habitat enhancement work is costing $50,000, said Leering, which may seem like a lot, but it's not just for the birds. 

These long, finger-like hillocks will be excellent nesting habitat for waterfowl like the western grebe, according to biologist Gerry Leering. (Leah Shaw/CBC)

"We're complexing the site for turtles, waterfowl, fish habitat and snakes," he said.

"We're hoping to get some poles for bat boxes [and] different kinds of nesting boxes."

The idea behind the project is, "build it and they will come," said Leering.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Leah Shaw