Docks on both sides of the harbour in Sydney, N.S., are under aerial attack, leaving behind an expensive and gross mess.
Seabirds, particularly cormorants, are leaving droppings on the concrete infrastructure and it's causing headaches for those who manage the facilities.
Paul Carrigan, interim CEO for the Port of Sydney Development Corporation, said the recently built cruise ship berth Liberty Pier on Sydney's downtown waterfront is being inundated.
"It takes eight hours [and] two people to spray our dock and then we bring in security overnight in order to keep the birds off the dock," he told Information Morning Cape Breton. "Now, if we don't do that, you will get probably close to 1,000 or more birds on the dock, resting overnight and doing what they do.
"We just have to keep a close eye, because the droppings — it's incredible. You could shovel it off, that's how bad it is."
Double-crested and great cormorants have been nesting on light poles in the waiting area of Marine Atlantic's North Sydney ferry terminal, dropping feces on vehicles and people. (Bruce Mactavish/Submitted by Ian Jones)
The Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in North Sydney is also getting bombarded.
Over the past couple of years, cormorants have begun nesting on the light poles in the waiting area, where vehicles and customers have been splattered with fecal matter.
Leo Abbass regularly takes the ferry service to Newfoundland and Labrador, where he lives.
He told CBC's The Broadcast out of St. John's that he was shocked with what happened last month while his family was waiting to take the ferry home.
"My son who was in the back said, 'I gotta grab something out of the back of our vehicle.' And I said, 'I wouldn't get out now,'" Abbass said.
"But of course he didn't listen and he got out and that was it. We got bombed. And I noticed a gentleman, and he had two children by hand. I'd say they were four and five years old. But they were walking up and then he suddenly stopped and he looked up. He stopped and I saw some good globs of droppings land."
Marine Atlantic has tried to deter cormorants from building nests on light poles, but the birds have thwarted those efforts using seaweed. (Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC)
Darryl Mercer, spokesperson for the Crown corporation that runs the ferry service, said Marine Atlantic installed spikes on the light poles last year to try to keep the birds from nesting, but that didn't work.
"They started to drop seaweed on top of the spikes and they did enough of that so that eventually the spikes were bent down and became ineffective," he said.
"Once that happened, they re-established their nests. I'm no marine bird expert, but from a layperson's view of this, it seems quite brilliant that they can come up with this type of workaround."
Cormorants are a protected species and once they build their nests, the corporation is not allowed to take any action.
Interim CEO Paul Carrigan says the port has spent thousands of dollars buying pressure washers for Liberty Pier and having a security guard patrol the dock the night before a cruise ship arrives. (Tom Ayers/CBC)
Mercer said staff have been working with Nova Scotia Environment officials to remove nests once they're abandoned, but they keep coming back.
Marine Atlantic does its best to clean up the lot and in an effort to help customers, it has installed shoe cleaners.
Carrigan said it's not clear if the birds are nesting in the area.
"We haven't seen any of that, but overnight accommodations is what they're looking for and they're not paying."
Port staff planted a Mi'kmaw flag on one of the mooring dolphins that hold cruise ships at the dock to try to keep seabirds, especially cormorants, from messing them up with fecal matter. (Tom Ayers/CBC)
The port has discussed several options, including using a gun or banger to scare the birds off. But Carrigan said the dock is too close to residences and the noise would contravene a local bylaw.
They don't like humans or activity, he said, which is likely why the birds don't frequent the port's main dock in Sydney.
Inflatable tube men coming
Carrigan said a staff member planted a Mi'kmaw flag on one of the mooring dolphins, but the flapping hasn't deterred the flying visitors.
The port is working with a local pest control company to try to come up with a longer-term solution and is planning to install a couple of inflatable air dancers — or tube men — that car dealerships use to attract attention.
Carrigan said people have suggested putting a Roomba vacuum or battery-operated remote control lawn mower on Liberty Pier and port officials are open to such innovative suggestions.
"We'll try anything at this point," he said.
MORE TOP STORIES