Preserve the Cliff Swallow colony under the Argyle Bridge in Caledonia, Ontario, Canada.

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If nature interests you, you should be concerned for the fate of the large Cliff Swallow (CLSW) colony that nests under the current Argyle St. bridge. The old bridge will be destroyed, and the new bridge installed in 2023. Swallows build mud nests on concrete, but can’t build on steel, which is what the new bridge construction is. A study published in the Arkansas Journal of Science from Henderson University, examined the effects of bridge design on Cliff Swallow nesting success, and it’s unequivocal; they don’t nest-build on steel.

The Ministry of Transportation Ontario’s (MTO) bridge replacement team is aware of this colony. The MTO’s own assessment report states, “the colony is possibly the largest in S. Ontario.” but they’re not doing anything to preserve it. Ontario’s own “Significant Wildlife Habitat Guide” (SWHG) states “that any colony of more than 8 nests is considered significant and must be protected.” During the MTO’s feasibility study, they surveyed CLSW nests on the bridge and found 65!

It’s not like they’re disregarding nature; the MTO is spending $2 million on a Mussel Relocation program. The mussels will have a river to come back to when the bridge is finished; the same can’t be said for the swallows. Politicians and provincial and federal agencies have been contacted to make them aware, from the premiers, down to local Haldimand officials.

As a result of a number of social media postings about this issue, a couple of wildlife biologists in the Hamilton area have provided two important resources:

Insight into the provincial and federal wildlife regulations that are being disregarded, and, contacts with various government agencies, the most productive being the Canadian Wildlife Service. (CWS)

The most productive contact so far is the CWS. The CWS has contacted the MTO about the threat to this colony, and is pressing for design changes. A retired Hydro One engineer and naturalist has advised us of a list of coatings to make the steel more usable for the swallow nests. This info has been forwarded to the CWS. They are not interested solely in this project, but others in the future.

This isn't to say that the bridge shouldn’t be replaced, what we are suggesting is that we could do it in a way that doesn’t harm wildlife. If we’re such an intelligent, creative species, we should be able to do both. This has already happened with the recent Cayuga bridge; but it’s not too late to change the Caledonia bridge! The bridge tendering process hasn’t started, so design changes can still be made.

If you’re interested in adding your voice, please sign this petition. We will send the completed petition to the MTO’s bridge replacement team along with politicians and provincial and federal agencies, from the premiers, down to local Haldimand officials. Included below is the contact information for the only responsive person from the MTO bridge replacement team. If you'd like contact information for the remainder of all the folks that George has been in touch with please contact Colleen at colleenplus2@gmail.com.

Graydon Botsford (graydon.botsford@ontario.ca)

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Prepared by: George Naylor [georgenaylor44@gmail.com], and Colleen Reilly [colleenplus2@gmail.com]