Effects of Construction on Wildlife

Has anyone else had opportunity to directly observe the effects of construction projects on wildlife, which translates into destruction of habitat and food sources? I live in the middle of a downtown residential area. Three years ago, several houses and a small church were pulled down to make room for an affordable housing condo. A fence surrounded the entire lot, which effectively kept out humans but not wildlife and stray cats. Water collected in the hole where the church had been, which turned into a pond used by wildlife and anyone else who needed a drink. Here are a few of my photos of activity at the excavation pond over the years.


Stray Cat Drinking, June 13 2022

Mallard, June 13 2022

European Starling Bathing, June 13 2022

Then in May 2023, the trees on the empty lot were taken down, a very bad time for the birds. But for me it was a time of keen interest and observation. I count birds for eBird. With fewer places for the birds to hide, I was now able to see more birds for my birding sessions. They sat out on fence and hydro lines as they grieved loss of nests and babies and habitat, as they figured out their lives now. I felt they never quite disappeared. Maybe I just got more skilled at watching them.

Construction was put on hold for another year. It is now 2024. In May, the machines were back. Every day, from seven in the morning till midafternoon. Nothing at all is left anymore of nature on the lot that was empty for three years. The pond is gone. The trees are all gone, even the cedar hedge that had been there a week ago, and some branches on our trees that stretched across the line. They wanted to take down our trees but we didn’t let them. And starting yesterday, they took down part of the fence, too, that belongs to us.

That was contracted and negotiated over legally. It was necessary for the construction. But the squirrels were not consulted. That fence was the Eastern Grey Squirrel Superhighway from one tree to another on distant parts of the property. Here’s a picture taken last winter.

Fence, Feb. 6 2024

Here’s a picture taken yesterday from the deck, showing the wooden fence removed and a steel fence installed instead. More below.

June 5 2024

See the tree on the right edge of the photo. There’s a squirrel in that tree. When the machinery stopped, it came out of the tree, ran along the steel fence, and came to this.

June 5 2024

The perplexed creature sizes up the barrier, turns around, tries again once or twice, and finally gives up.

June 5 2024

Another tenant watched longer than I did and reported this morning that in the end the squirrel took a completely different route across the lawn and through another tree.

Back to the birds. I put up a finch feeder a few months ago. More and more birds are finding it. A pair of American Goldfinches has been visiting for quite a while now, and also a pair of Black-capped Chickadees. Today a male House Finch arrived. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I’m thinking with the destruction of habitat and food sources next door, birds are finding refuge on our property in our trees, and feeding where they can find food. Maybe it is helping me with my new bird-feeding project.

So that’s the overview of the effect of construction next door on wildlife on this property.

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Hi, Sarah;

This post really got me thinking; I love to analyze how humans impact the day to day lives of animals, and I’ve actually had a lot of personal (and heart breaking) experiences with construction/development destroying natural habitat. I’ve been following the ongoing impacts of the construction in your neighbourhood for several months now, so I understand how the impact of the construction affects not only wildlife, but also nature-loving humans like you and me.

My Story #1:

To begin, I started going out for birding/nature walks in local parks near my suburban home in London, Ontario in 2018. I quickly grew to bond with the nature at a particularly species-rich wetland near my home, known on eBird as:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11344694

When I started going for walks at this wetland in spring of 2020, the field to the South-East of the lush wetland (right at the intersection of two main thoroughfares) had undergone some bulldozing in about 2014/2015. Therefore, this bulldozed area had begun to be overtaken by nature in the ~5 years that it had to “grow in”. By 2020, the birds were beginning to love this area! The Red-winged Blackbirds were nesting in the cattails surround the muddy gravel ponds, the Killdeer were laying eggs amongst the pebbles, Coyotes came to drink from the ponds, and a beautiful female Wilson’s Phalarope stopped over in one of the gravel ponds one day in late May to re-fuel. These are just a few of the species that called this area home.

The “bulldozed area” stayed this way until sometime in 2021, when bulldozers re-bulldozed the area SE of the wetland to start construction for medium-density residential housing. Many creatures abandoned this area for a while…no more Spotted Sandpipers, Wilson’s Snipes, or Coyotes. The only species that remained to call this there home include Red-winged Blackbirds and Killdeer. Presently, these are still the species that breed here. A couple species, like Coyote, Raccoon, White-tailed Deer, Canada Goose, etc., ocxassionally stop by for a drink. However, the area they inhabit is becoming smaller and smaller as the construction equipment moves closer to the North-East corner of the inferestion each year. Eventually, the Killdeer will be permanently absent from this location; the Red-winged Blackbirds that inhabit the gravel ponds will likely move the the marshy wetland to the North.

Inspired to raise awareness about the disastrous impact on this habitat, I began contributing to eBird and iNaturalist more in the recent years (like you have), hoping it would make a small difference. I also created an iNaturalist project to gather information pertaining to species diversity at the location:

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/species-of-stoney-creek-wetland

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My Story #2

In 2014, my family and I moved to a newly-constructed suburban neighbourhood in London, ON bordering a main highway. Our house backed onto an old farmhouse, barn, and fields, which had been there for many years. The farmland attracted many species to our backyard, including Grey Squirrels, Raccoons, Opposums, Groundhogs, Skunks, Meadow Voles, Rabbits,and Goldfinches. We loved having the nature in our backyard. During the summers, there was rarely a time when there was not some form a wildlife in our backyard. The groundhogs and raccoons seemed to especially love our yard, as we always left fresh water, vegetables/fruits, and seeds out for them.

This was day-to-day backyard life every morning we woke up from 2014 - 2022. Here is a photo of what we would usually wake up to:

In 2021, the owners of the farm sold their land to a major developer, and made millions…but at what cost? Development began officially in 2022. The historic farmhouse was torn down, the barn was burned, the century-old fir trees lining the property were cut down, and the fields with the groundhogs’ burrows were plowed deep. 2022 was a bad year there for nature. Very little habitat remained, and it is still that way. From that point on, there has been very little wildlife activity in our yard: no more groundhogs, raccoons, or opposoms. Only a couple Squirrels, the odd skunk and rabbit, Robins, House Sparrows, Starlings, and Meadow Voles. We began planting native trees in our backyard, hoping to attract nature: Silver Maple, American Sycamore, for example. Nothing has successfully nested in the trees, yet, but a Squirrel and a Robin built a nest in our spruce.

Below link: the burning of the barn. It made the Global News:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/globalnews.ca/news/7313682/barn-fire-northeast-london/amp/

As I am typing right now, the construction is still ongoing. A townhouse has already been completed, but the huge seven story appartment building is nowhere near finished.

Below image: a view of the current status of the devopment from my deck. Complete townhouse on right, in-progress apartment on left (where the barn used to stand):


I’ve learned a lot about the effects of development on nature in the recent years…the results are very sad, but there are some actions that we can take to make the situation for nature better. I hope the development near your home makes a turn for the better, eventually! It will take time, but nature will return…

Sawyer

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The less I see and say about this the better.
Elephant Corridors…No I won’t say anything more.

I know it is not the point of the first 2 posts - but I am a bit reassured - that both of you talk about wildlife that CAME to an abandoned building site. While there is still wild open space for them to come from.

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This is the key point. Whether it is a downtown Residential Area, A Village, Suburbs, within a buffer area- doesn’t matter.
Yes, I hv seen a lot, a lot, a lot.
Contemplating one point with another - everybody thinks in his/her own way.

I saw your other post and also this one. You say it’s too difficult for you to observe so I trust you have the self-discipline and will-power to focus on more positive aspects of your life.

I, too, have to pick and choose what I read due to personal sensitivity. There is simply too much hurt in this world. Constructive observations such as shared by Sawyer Dawson are more helpful for me as I watch wildlife suffer in a situation beyond my control.

For your information, I contributed to the public discussions on this building project with regards to the welfare of wildlife. But I also see the many hurting people in my city who have no place to live.

This housing is desperately needed. It’s very difficult to balance it all in one’s heart.

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Thank you for pointing out that bright spot. Maybe they can go back to that old place. Also, new feeding stations are going up, such as my finch feeder and others. That helps.

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Which Post? The less I see and say about this the better. Elephant Corridors …No I won’t say anything more- This one?.
Did you understand what I said? Haven’t you considered your observations in a larger perspective?
Why don’t I like to see them and talk less about ‘Effects of Construction and Wildlife’ (Your Topic)- Because I’ve seen So many such 'Effects’ and always felt sad on the concluding effect of such matter towards wild creatures.
There’s no need to trust me. I’m nobody. Trust the truth only. If something is not true, that may be ignored.
Elephant Corridors- Do you know what the Elephant/Animal Corridors are? Have you seen the pathetic scene of Elephants with their cubs trying their utmost to cross the wall and go to the jungle on the other side of the wall (failed ultimately) because it was their natural route blocked by somebody (in your case, replace Elephant with Squirrel). Have you seen the flood driven wild animals (also tigers) taking rest inside roadside constructions, which were their corridors to go to a highland above a hill for flood time shelter. Their access to the hill was also blocked for some day-to-day increasing construction projects (could be banned, with the efforts of some ‘not always positive’ minded indisciplined persons, by orders of the Hon’ble Apex Court). The elephants and the animals as above want to cross the corridors because they could not go back owing to dearth of food, shelter etc.
Where will the Elephants/animals (squirrel and the birds) go?
The front side to go to their desired place is blocked. They know left and right sides of the roads lead to villages/town and so they will not be welcomed there. They have lost their habitats to a large extent
We may feel happy to conclude the matter with observation that, they must have taken a different path and food shelter after observing them for one/two days from within the four walls of our home. Which direction the elephants/animals (finally Squirrels and birds) will go? Only path remaining- Extinction.

Not everybody make their focus on only positive aspects of life. Somebody live a true indisciplined life with a focus which they consider as ‘Positive’. If not, why do they rush into these disputed matters despite receiving several life threats from several corners with a conclusion that the situation is beyond their control and is not at all a constructive issue? They don’t think every such incident will lead to a Positive impact (when it can be observed clearly through practical evidences and logic that it will not). A tiger will go but in his/her place, a Robin will come in his place and so the tiger loss will be compensated by plus-minus effects etc are not at all any justified logic (to me).
Although I promised to talk less, I couldn’t keep that. I went beyond the Urban issue limits again (which was perhaps your key point) but I apprehended it wrongly as a bigger perspective issue.

I should learn to stop within the urban periphery limit henceforth.

I agree with most of what you say…the future for many forms of wildlife appears bleak when habitats continue to be destroyed, poaching continues at reckless rates, etc…very true. No arguing that. As a citizen scientist and a volunteer for multiple nature organizations and conservation authorities, I have seen the devastating effects first hand, countless of times. It’s definitely not something to “shove under the rug” and continue on in our lives happy-go-lucky about. I should mention, though, that I do not believe that all wildlife is currently on the path to extinction. Many species? Yes - it is a shame. But many have adapted successfully because of humans, including many native species. That is where we can be optimistic, for now - but not overly optimistic, because that is where things (we as humans) can become careless.

I did not interpret Sarah’s post in a way that was putting anything (habitat destruction, for example) on the back-burner. Actually, quite the opposite. If I understand correctly, Sarah, both you and I (and likely 99% of us on iNaturalist) have a deep bond with the nature that is closest to our back step. I know the feeling, as I shared open-heartedly in my first post, above. It is something we want to deeply preserve to our best ability. As humans, it can tend to be part of our nature to be optimistic when we know the hard truth; it helps us gain more strength as opposed to always feeling down about the ever-expanding urban jungle. I totally can relate to that. I’ve been through it myself on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, we must keep a healthy balance between emotions and the harsh reality. We have to face hard truths more often than we’d like to in order to stay educated on what goes on around us. Education is something I value deeply - if we do not learn, than we can not progress proactively to fight for what we love and want to protect.

I hope that makes sense…I know it can be hard to explain my true feelings sometimes (especially after a 16 hour day :slightly_smiling_face:) but no matter how long it took for me to express the above, I deem it important to share so it can serve as a reminder to all of us (my self included) so we can continue to be a supportive, influential community that is here to learn and move forward with nature.

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‘we won’t protect what we can’t name’ and there iNat (and its identifiers) make a difference. It is not a Kill It With Fire spider - it is this one with brushes on her legs.
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/904618-Trichonephila-fenestrata-fenestrata

Yes! that is exactly the point I was trying to convey–my dismay at the destruction of habitat, my heartbreak at seeing this, my search for a way to put everything into perspective.

Also, I don’t believe the species in this particular lot are at risk of extinction anytime soon, like the tigers, elephants, etc. I am not familiar with those species, only with the ones in my backyard here in Ontario, Canada.

In fact, the Eastern Grey Squirrels are so plentiful that they are a serious nuisance and have had to be live-trapped and moved elsewhere. But they have grown right back. The European Starlings were imported 150 years ago and have become an invasive species.

The approximately three to six pairs American Robins live in various trees outside that lot. I never saw them in there at all. Some of the finches who used to eat in the cedar hedge that has been destroyed eat at my new finch feeder.

I suspect some Common Grackles lost nests and food sources in that lot. I suspect this because they were extremely interested in the piles of topsoil after the machine was done pushing it aside, which I found tragic and wanted to protest. But I continue seeing them around. Three pairs moved into the area when they returned last spring.

And no, I did not notice this from inside the four walls of my house!

The point of posting this thread was simply to share what I observed. I wanted to share with someone the impact of construction on wildlife that I notice because I am fascinated by animal (and human) psychology and behaviour. Noting how the various creatures react is informative to conservation efforts.

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Yes, that’s another whole issue, isn’t it? In California, the term “affordable housing” is a euphemism that simply means housing priced below median; it has nothing to do with whether people can actually afford it. Why should I support a euphemism? Show me a genuine affordable housing project – one that someone like me could actually afford – and then we can discuss it. Until then, we’re still just destroying habit for profit as far as I’m concerned.

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