Longtime crow roost threatened by development, residents say

Residents of a Halifax neighbourhood are raising concerns about clear cutting near a long-standing crow roost.

Over the past couple of weeks, tree-clearing has begun on a property next to Mount Saint Vincent University to make way for a large housing development.

In a widely shared Facebook post and video, artist Shelagh Duffett laments the loss of the natural habitat.

“Trees clear cut. Forest gone. Copper beech trees and red maple trees over 100 years old chopped,” she writes. “Hundreds of crows who have nested there for centuries have no nests. They are confused and mill about. This was an oasis of nature in the city.”

Thousands of crows have roosted in the trees surrounding Mount Saint Vincent University for at least 60 years, possibly longer.

CBC Nova Scotia has received about a dozen emails from residents who are concerned about how the cutting of trees will affect the crows.

Thousands of crows have roosted on and near the property for at least 60 years. (Robert Short/CBC)

Seton Ridge, a Southwest Properties project, will see about 2,500 residential units built over the next eight to 10 years in the form of single-family homes, townhouses and multi-unit mixed residential/commercial buildings ranging in height from six to 16 storeys.

The development will cover 25 hectares, and roughly 10 hectares of forested area will be cut to make way for the project, said Ben Young, the senior vice-president of development for Southwest Properties. Some swaths of trees will remain, including around a small pond on the property and likely some trees along Seton Road. The company will also offer a tree-planting program to homeowners whose properties are adjacent to the development.

An aerial shot of the planned Seton Ridge development shows where the buildings will be constructed. (Southwest Properties)

Young said he’s not sure what impact the clearing will have on the crows, but the company has been instructed not to cut trees during birds’ nesting period.

“They’re adaptable birds,” he said of the crows. “I’m sure they’ll change their route slightly but there’s quite a bit of tree cover around the surrounding area for them as well.”

The company has said it consulted with professionals in the area about the crows, but Young didn’t have details on those discussions.

The development is expected to house about 7,000 people and have a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and multi-unit mixed residential/commercial buildings ranging in height from six to 16 storeys. (Ekistics/Southwest Properties)

Dog walker Jenn Cordin frequently visits the area and said although she knew it was only a matter of time before the trees were cut for the development, she’s been “plagued with a sense of regret” since the clearing started.

“I did not hold back the emotions,” she said. “I was bawling. It was really, really devastating.”

Cordin said crows roosted in the trees that were cut and in other nearby areas, and a herd of deer and a fox also lived in the forest. She said she’s not sure how the development will affect their behaviour.

The forest that was cut was part of a large, long-standing crow roost. (Frances Willick/CBC)

Russell Walker, the councillor who represents the area, said he has received two emails about the tree-clearing, but not specifically about the crows.

“Right now, I don’t have any concerns,” he said. “In HRM today, you can cut trees on your own property. And it’s their property, so they’re cutting the trees on their property.”

Walker said he believes the development will provide several benefits to the community, including increased road connections to the Bedford Highway and the extension of transit services in the area.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with most of the single-family dwellings slated to be built in the next four years and the multi-unit buildings over a longer period of time.

The Seton Ridge development will cover about 25 hectares of land. (Frances Willick/CBC)

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