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    Categories: Environment

Environment File

PESKY SURVIVORS – A number of invasive goldfish swim through Edgewater Pond last weekend. A warm winter foiled the city's attempt to exteriminate the fish. This picture was taken using a waterproof GoPro camera.

A city stormwater pond is still infested with goldfish after a wimpy winter failed to freeze them out.

Erin Ridge residents have spotted large numbers of goldfish in Edgewater Pond this month. The fish are an invasive species and should not be in the pond, as they could escape into the Sturgeon River and harm native fish.

City residents alerted Alberta Environment to the presence of the fish last summer. Last October, on the advice of the province, city crews tried to exterminate the fish by electro-fishing them and draining the pond so it would freeze to the bottom in winter.

But last winter was so warm that the pond never completely froze, allowing many of the fish to survive, said Sarah Cicchini, environmental co-ordinator for the City of St. Albert.

“We do know that they multiply fairly quickly,” she added, so the population will likely continue to grow.

The city is working with Alberta Environment on a solution, Cicchini said. They’ve discussed using the pesticide Rotenone (previously deployed in Riel Pond to exterminate the invasive three-spined stickleback), but it’s unclear if that chemical would be effective here as the species could easily be re-introduced post-treatment (the goldfish are likely unwanted pets).

Crews will survey all the city’s stormwater ponds this May to determine the extent of the infestation and post signs at stormwater ponds asking people not to dump fish in them, Cicchini said. They’ll also look at putting a screen across the pond’s outflow, although the risk of the fish escaping this pond into the Sturgeon is considered low.

Anyone who spots an invasive fish in Alberta should report it by calling 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

The ice is gone, and the birds are back – it must be time to spring to life.

Area birders are once again reading their bird guides and calibrating their spotting scopes this week in preparation for this month’s Springing to Life bird count at Big Lake.

The annual event is meant to get people out to celebrate the return of migratory birds after winter, said event co-ordinator Dan Stoker.

“The original intent of the count was to keep reminding people of the importance of Big Lake as a stopping point for migratory birds,” he noted.

Many species, such as tundra swans, use locations such as Big Lake as stopover points as they fly south in the fall and north in the spring.

Bird-lovers are invited to come to the Big Lake Environment Support Society’s viewing platform between 9 a.m. and noon on April 16 and 17 to check out the birds, Stoker said. Experts, binoculars, and bird guides will be available. Spotters will aim to count and identify as many birds as possible to collect migration data for Alberta Environment and eBird – an international bird database.

Stoker said the event would happen rain or shine, so guests should be prepared for cold winds blowing off Big Lake and possibly rain.

St. Albert birdwatcher Percy Zalasky said that he’s spotted a large number of tundra swans on Big Lake already despite it still being partially frozen. There were about a thousand northern pintails (a duck with a long, pointy tail) sitting on the ice there last weekend. Crows, starlings, northern shovelers (big duck with a green head and a huge bill), and American widgeons (duck with a white crown and a green stripe behind the eye) have also returned to this area.

Guests should come to this event if they want to learn something new and see the birds in their best breeding plumage, Zalasky said.

“It’s great after a long winter to see a renewal of life around.”

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.