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Great Blue Herons

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  • Robert J. Keiffer
    9 March 2010 - For over 40 years I have kept an eye on a Great Blue Heron nesting colony that is located near the Old river Road near Hopland. As a youngster,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2010
      9 March 2010 - For over 40 years I have kept an eye on a Great Blue Heron
      nesting colony that is located near the Old river Road near Hopland. As a
      youngster, from around 1968 to 1974 I spent time watching this colony, even
      collecting egg shell fragments from the ground after the chicks hatched.
      During that era I recall numerous nests, definitely in excess of 40 or 50
      nests atop the high Cottonwood trees. The Valley Oaks Ranch, which at the
      time was owned by Fred Haas, is the location of this colony, and is now
      owned by Browns Foreman Corp./Fetzer Winery. I knew Fred Haas personally,
      and Mr. Haas and I had a verbal agreement that the colony was important and
      was to be protected. After the Fetzer family purchased the Valley Oaks
      Ranch, I again, using the Peregrine Audubon Chapter as a platform, brought
      the nesting colony to the attention of John Fetzer and Paul Dolan. Under
      their direction, they agreed to protect the colony, and the Peregrine
      Audubon gave them a "Conservation Recognition Award". This important
      riparian grove is still undisturbed and protected by the current managers of
      the Browns Foreman Corp-Valley Oaks/Fetzer Winery.

      In that early 1960s/1970s era I sadly visited the colony one time after
      poachers had illegally shot numerous adults from the nests with shotguns and
      the ground was littered with carcasses.

      Over the years I have witnessed this nesting colony diminish in size,
      gradually dropping to fewer than 15 nests in recent years. What I saw today
      is even more shocking. I could find ZERO nests in the tall cottonwoods of
      the traditional riparian grove . a first to my knowledge. I did find two
      nests very near the Old River Road in a tall Calif. Valley oak tree, and
      another three nests that I could see at a distance to the east of the winery
      itself . again atop oak trees. Possible there are a few more that I could
      not see.

      I cannot even guess as to why this change has taken place. I do know, that
      for some reason, the resident population of Great Blue Herons in the Sanel
      Valley has plummeted over the last 40 years. I speculate that it might
      have something to do with the change of waterflow and timing of waterflow in
      the Russian River but I cannot say for certain. there may be other factors
      like changes in ag land practices, changes in fish populations, a drop in
      open pasture land (where they feed for rodents, etc.). I do NOT think it
      has anything directly to do with the Brown-Foreman/Fetzer vineyards
      operation . as they are doing a great job of not disturbing this pristine
      riparian grove.

      I do not intend this to be a "blog-type" report, but I thought folks would
      be interested in the background behind my current observations. Good
      birding. Bob Keiffer

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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