The birds are pretty large. They are noisy. And they are beautiful.
Great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons...
This really has to be seen to be believed.
On West 9th Street in Santa Rosa - now through the end of August - take a trip out of stressful every-day life into the World of White Birds. People from all over the Bay Area travel to this site to view and photograph these beautiful creatures.
How to get there: Take 101 North, College Avenue exit, left on College Avenue after exit. Go a couple of blocks to stoplight and sign for Link Lane. Left onto Link Lane. Continue 2-3 blocks to W. 9th St. Right on W. 9th. See playing fields and Lincoln Elementary School on left. Drive slowly. Look up. See flying white birds coming and going. You'll find the nesting site for the Egrets and Herons - now an annual occurrence in an urban neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Park. Find your viewing area. Enjoy. (suggestion: take binoculars)
The City of Santa Rosa thus far has closed the traffic lane closest to the two large trees that are primary nesting sites. Also, a street sweeper comes through frequently to clean bird guano from the road. Cooperation continues and is good for all involved - human and wild.
This nesting site helped originate the now annual Bird Festival at Lincoln Elementary School, sponsored by Madrone Audubon Society with the help of dedicated teachers and staff and cooperating organizations such as Santa Rosa Bird Rescue.
Sometimes, weaker chicks will be pushed out of a nest and fall, or a bird will be injured. If you are there and see this, call Santa Rosa Bird Rescue (SRBR). SRBR has volunteers who, during nesting season, come by 3-4 times daily - every day - to help. SRBR's phone # (please carry it with you) is 707-523-2473.
Fallen chicks or injured birds are transported by SRBR volunteers to the International Bird Rescue Center (IBRC) in Fairfield. There, volunteers provide care, rehab, banding and return to the colony when possible.
This takes much energy, focus and is expensive. See below for how to help these efforts.
This colony and the ones described below are all part of the North Bay Heron and Egret Project of Cypress Grove Research Center at Audubon Canyon Ranch in Tomales. In its 23rd year, this project is essential for data collection of nesting sites and nesting activities, and informs our region of ecosystem health, nesting patterns and habitat conservation needs. This is a very important project. Volunteers for the project, along with Audubon Canyon Ranch staff, dedicate time and energy to record and produce relevant research.
Cypress Grove also hosts an annual Egret and Heron viewing opportunity during nesting season at their facility.
Now, let's say you're in Petaluma and not going to Santa Rosa or Cypress Grove, but would love to see these phenomena. Here are two viewing sites for egret and heron nesting now through August - right here in Petaluma:
1. From the Shollenberger Park too-tall-pier on the Petaluma River. Take binocs. Great egrets are nesting in the eucalyptus grove on the Dutra property (yes, the site now in litigation to stop construction and operation of an industrial asphalt factory there). This is an established colony in the North Bay Heron and Egret Project of the Cypress Grove Research Center of Audubon Canyon Ranch. It's officially Colony #121.
Petaluma Wetlands Docents Bob Dyer, Len Nelson and Dennis Buss document and monitor this colony and two others for the Heron and Egret Project.
2. Less than a mile from the too-tall-pier site is a nesting site across from Warren Drive in south Petaluma. Great blue herons and snowy egrets (smaller than the great egret, equally as white!) are nesting. I saw a great blue heron there today, sitting on its nest.
How to get there: From Petaluma Boulevard South, turn into the McNear Landing subdivision on McNear Circle. Turn left onto Warren Drive. Look for the fire hydrant on the right near visitor parking spaces. Then, look up and across the river and see a tall eucalyptus tree with the nesting birds. To exit, prepare to turn your vehicle around if you're driving. This is a street with no outlet. This nesting site is officially Colony # 139 in the Heron and Egret Project.
Another established nesting site near the wastewater ponds at Ellis Creek hosts nesting Great Blue Herons and Double-Crested Cormorants. This is officially Colony #40.
So, this time of year - in Petaluma and Santa Rosa - there are three accessible sites for viewing, all highly recommended. Take binocs, plan to be very quiet, and maintain a safe distance.
A fundraiser this Tuesday, June 12th, at Lagunitas Beer Sanctuary will help raise money for legal expenses the community is bearing to appeal the Dutra industrial asphalt plant decision. A donation can also be mailed to O.W.L. Foundation for the Save Shollenberger Park Legal Fund. O.W.L.'s address is 1390 N. McDowell Blvd., Ste. G-306, Petaluma, CA 94954.
Santa Rosa Bird Rescue and International Bird Rescue play vital roles in helping rehabilitate and support the nesting experiences of Egrets and Herons in Sonoma County. The efforts are behind the scenes. The drive to transport the birds, one way, to or from Santa Rosa and Fairfield, is 64 miles. Donating to either or both of these groups is also a way to express appreciation for the tireless efforts and long hours of help during nesting season.
Santa Rosa Bird Rescue, 3430 Chanate Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 (on memo line, write "to help - egrets and herons").
International Bird Rescue, 4369 Cordelia Road, Fairfield, CA 94534. (on memo line, write "to help - egrets and herons").
A donation of $5 or $500 could help each and all efforts described in this blog post. The birds aren't counting the money. They are trying to nest, raise young and survive in a world where some humans would like to chop down the trees, kill the birds and make profits to add to their pocketbooks.