Bird man of Surrey tries to nurture nature

As David Hancock swings open the gate to his yard, he is greeted by his regular houseguests, including Bahama pintail and blue-billed ruddy ducks.

“Hello guys, how are you?” Hancock says in a melodic voice, as the waterfowl wade through a pond stretched across the lawn.

The South Surrey acreage is home to about 20 bird species, some permanent residents, others just visiting.

A pair of Canada geese come to Hancock’s property annually to raise their young, and this year they have four babies just learning to fly. Hancock, a biologist, says the youngsters will have seven to 10 days to master the skill before the family leaves and returns next February.

Other feathered members of the backyard community are heard long before they are seen. As Hancock navigates his way along the pond’s rock wall, he stops to listen to the cry of a nearby baby pileated woodpecker. It’s the first time he has heard its call.



While most of Hancock’s guests seem calm and indifferent to his approach, he steps more carefully around the aggressive, full-grown sandhill cranes.

Just a few metres away are two adults with stilt-like legs, long, arcing necks and pointed beaks. Their large, grey-feathered wings are folded around their bodies as they walk around the perimeter of the yard, watching their surroundings closely with eyes framed by a splash of red.

They are wary, and Hancock warns they could strike if threatened. It’s easy to understand why, once the couple’s baby – the size of a month-old kitten – emerges from some shrubbery, and scurries to catch up with mom and dad.

“Hello! How are you doing?” Hancock says as he walks towards the family. “What a fine little baby you’ve got there.”

The cranes edge away and head off – a different reaction than he receives from a pair of caged crane parents. As Hancock approaches, they make a loud trumpeting call in unison, before one runs at the fence, wings at full span.

It’s the distinction between captive-reared and wild cranes, Hancock said. Those in the wild avoid humans; those that have lived near people aren’t afraid to get close and attack.


Read the rest of the story, view the video and pictures of David's birds here:

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