Birdwatchers have long known that one of the best birding sites in south-western Quebec is located along a gravel road in Godmanchester. Purchased by Bird Protection Quebec in 2018, the Montée Biggar Bird Sanctuary is visited by hundreds of birding enthusiasts each year. The sudden appearance of no-parking signs along the road in recent weeks has raised concern amongst the birding community that this protected site may now be off limits.
“When the property went up for sale, we grabbed it very quickly,” says Sheldon Harvey of Bird Protection Quebec, of the approximately 87 acres of rich and diverse habitat consisting of a closed-canopy forest, scrubland, and open fields, as well as a small stream that runs through. In the last ten years, sightings of over 185 bird species have been reported at the site, known as a “hot spot” on the E-Bird website. A birder logged sightings of 33 species in one visit on July 10.
Harvey says that since purchasing the property, Bird Protection Quebec has been working at the site conducting species surveys and bird banding, and leading regular field trips. “We have people working on an ongoing property management plan to maintain the fragile ecosystem,” he says, noting that there are no marked trails on the property and birders are asked to remain on the road. There is a healthy tick population, as well as other natural hazards such as wild parsnip, prickly ash, and poison ivy – all of which, suggests Harvey, are good reasons to avoid walking through the land.
The sudden posting of no-parking signs took place “without any warning or explanation to us as landowners on the road,” Harvey says. The group has reached out to the Municipality of Godmanchester for explanation but has not had any response. Regroupement Québec Oiseaux, the umbrella organization for all birding clubs in the province, has been informed of the development.
“We are taxpayers, and one of only three property owners on Montée Biggar,” says Harvey, while pointing out the municipality closes the road in winter, and no services are provided on the property. “We purchased this land to protect it, as it harbours endangered or threatened