By Guest Blogger John Robeson
favorite gigs throughout these years has been our participation in SFBBO’s HEP survey of the egret colony at Bay Farm Island, near the Oakland Airport in Alameda, CA.
This active colony consists of both Great and Snowy Egrets, averaging 30 plus nests, or 150 big birds, per year! It is imbedded in an affluent condominium complex along a tidal slough which winds past suburban homes, along a well-used walking path where humans ride their bikes and walk their dogs all day long.
The primary colony tree, an aging pine, sits right next to a day care center, whose play yard is filled with the cries and shouts of very active boys and girls. In addition, there’s the constant sight and sound of jumbo jets, taking off from the airport, passing right behind the egrets’ tree! Mother Nature is nothing if not incredibly adaptive; the egrets seem quite oblivious to all of these human intrusions.
Even the colony tree has been beset with human drama - twice threatened with removal during the breeding season; twice rescued by the combination of SFBBO’s vigilant data collection and the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s diligent activism. It is against the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 to harm any of the over 800 species protected by the Act, and through this partnership the tree and colony were saved.
Despite all of these odds, the colony has thrived. Sadly, however, the effects of drought and perhaps years of “egret wear and tear,” have taken their toll on the nest tree – it is clearly dying, with many broken and missing branches, the few remaining needles completely brown. The tree is slated to be cut down this fall.
August marks our last survey for 2018. Barbara and I look forward to next March, when the new breeding season begins. We have formed an attachment to our Bay Farm Island egrets and want to be “hep” to what happens. Perhaps they will move onto neighboring pine trees, perhaps they will disperse to another location altogether. Only time will tell. Stay tuned for our update next year!
John and Barbara Robeson are citizen scientists in our Colonial Waterbird Program and have also volunteered in our Outreach Program teaching the community about the colonies they monitor.
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