This morning I met with Jan Robertson been volunteering at the “Pocket Rookery” site in Sacramento, checking out the birds and keeping stats for the Sacramento Heron and Egret Rescue (SHER).
It took less time to get to the site off of Windbridge Drive than I thought it would. There was very little traffic, so I actually got there about 20 minutes early. That was okay with me. I’m the sort who would rather be 20 minutes early than 2 minutes late. Jan showed up about 10 minutes later and walked me around the site.
There were birds in the fir trees along the road, and in the cottonwood and birch trees in the green areas at the adjacent apartment complex.
Jan said this is the first year there have been Great Egrets brooding there. We also saw Black-Crowned Night Herons, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets. This was the first time I’d seen Cattle Egrets in their breeding plumage. Normally, they’re all white, but when they’re breeding their head, back and chest get a rusty-colored wash.
I loved hearing all the different calls. I didn’t see the baby Black-Crowned Night Herons, but I could hear them making their tick-tick-tick calls. On top of that we could hear the adult herons rok-rok calls, and the egrets’ chatty burbling (think of Donald Duck trying to talk in water). Hah!
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There were quite a few bluish-green eggs shells on the ground, including one that looked like it fell before the chick even started forming. And we also found the carcasses of three babies that fell from the nests.
As the babies grow and begin to fledge, Jan said, they’ll be more visible, and will line up on the fences along a nearby canal.
Today, there were about eight Turkey Vultures in the fir trees, and several more on the roof tops and on fences near the canal. They’re no threat to the living herons or egrets (they don’t take live prey), but they might go after carcasses of the dead ones.
The amount of bird droppings was considerable and immeasurable. In some spots, the stuff covered entire bushes. One of the major problems with housing rookeries for herons, egrets, cormorants and the like is the amount of ordure the birds produce. It’s difficult for the humans to clean it up, and if it gets dense enough, the stuff can kill plants and even the very trees the birds are nesting in. So, it’s a mess.
Some of the people in the area are willing to deal with it — understanding that the birds aren’t there for very long, and they get to see baby birds born and fledged. But other people have no patience for it, so it’s always something of a balancing act for volunteers like Jan who work with the birds in these urban rookeries.
We were out there for about 90 minutes and then headed back to our respective homes. The place will absolutely be worth another visit in a few weeks.
The site is on the corner of Windbridge Drive and Cutting Way. Some of the birds nest inside the grounds of the Waterford Cove Apartment complex. Do not enter the apartment grounds without expressed permission. It’s best to enter with one of the SHER volunteers or become a volunteer yourself. You can get more information about volunteering with SHER at: https://sacheronsave.org/help/volunteer/
- American Robin, Turdus migratorius
- Birch, Silver Birch, Betula pendula
- Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
- Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkii
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura