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Shollenberger Heron/Egret Colony Doomed

News and information from the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance.

Shollenberger Heron/Egret Colony Doomed

Postby Petaluma Wetlands Alliance » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:01 pm

The eucalyptus trees that house the Shollenberger Heron/Egret Colony will be chopped down "prior to February 15, 2013" according to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (Staff Report of November 19, 2012). The report states that "The Caltrans led environmental process has determined that the removal of these trees is not a significant impact..." As part of the narrows project, Caltrans will construct a Petaluma Blvd. South Interchange, and Caltrans believes that the trees are too close to the area where this contruction will start in early 2013.

The February 15 date is important as the generally accepted period of active heron and egret nesting is from February 15 to September 1. Federal and state laws ban distruance of migratory bird nests during the active season, however, nesting trees may be removed during the balance of the year. The State Department of Fish and Game told Caltrans that they would have to stop construction in that area if there were active nesting, which Caltrans claims would cost millions of dollars in delays.

During the 2003-2012 history of this colony, the following healthy young birds were raised:

Great Egret - 366
Snowy Egret - 33
Great Blue Heron - 25

Total - 424

This is according to reports submitted by Petalauma Wetland Alliance docents to the Cypress Grove Research Center, Audubon Canyon Ranch, which tracks colony activity in the greater Bay Area.

The PWA and local emvironmental groups have asked for mitigation for the loss but Caltrans states there is no legal case for mitigation. There is another colony about one mile away near Ellis Creek, adjacent to the Petaluma Wastewater Holding Ponds off Lakeville Highway but access is not allowed for the public to view that colony, whereas the Shollenberger Colony can easily be watched from the trail at Shollenberger Park near the viewing platform. Caltrans hopes that herons/egrets looking for the Shollenberger Colony and finding it gone will go to the Ellis Creek colony and set up housekeeping there in the future.
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