Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for August 2019

August 19, 2019

Release of the Week: Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons

A bevy of Snowy Egrets, many from the Oakland Heronry Rescue in July, were released this month at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

With supporters looking on, another group of Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons, were released back to the wild last week at Arrowhead Marsh in Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline.

A pair of Black-crowned Night-Herons saunter out of cages back to the wild spaces in Oakland. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

Most of the released birds were part of the Oakland Heronry Rescue that began on July 10th after a large ficus tree containing a rookery of 50+ nests, split at the trunk and toppled in front of the downtown Oakland U.S. Post Office at Jackson and 13th Streets. The rookery included many nesting birds with baby egrets and herons, some of them which spilled onto sidewalks below.

Over a three day stretch, a total of 90 birds were rescued – including 51 Snowy Egrets, 22 Black-crowned Night-Herons, and 17 eggs.

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Thankfully a concerned citizen noticed these birds in crisis and immediately called our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center to come to the rescue. A Bird Rescue team, including JD Bergeron, Executive Director and Michelle Bellizzi, Response Manager, was on the scene right away at Jackson at 13th Streets and began gently scooping up the surviving birds and preparing them for transport to our clinic in Fairfield.

Read: It always starts with a phone call

After the remaining tree was deemed unsafe for the public as well as the nesting birds, the team worked alongside a tree service that helped trim branches and collect all the remaining eggs and birds in nests.

“This rescue has been an epic journey for us all–on-scene rescuers, partners, staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters!” said JD Bergeron.

“The plight of these fallen birds caught the attention of many who dare to hope that people can still come together to make good things happen. TV, radio, blogs, and newspapers helped to carry this good news story in the midst of so much bad news,” Bergeron added.

Thanks to our generous donors, Bird Rescue was able to raise enough in donations to cover the food, medicine, and daily care for these young herons and egrets. But our work doesn’t end with these 90 birds — we provide wildlife rescue and rehabilitation programs 365 days a year, and our 3,500+ patients each year don’t come with insurance.

The support of the community means the world to us and reinforces to us the belief that each of us, every day, must take action to protect the natural home of wildlife and ourselves. You can still help us with a donation

A Snowy Egret gets ready to fly off in Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

August 13, 2019

It Always Starts With A Phone Call

Baby Snowy Egrets, many that had tumbled out of nests onto a downtown Oakland sidewalk, were gently scopped up and put into boxes for transport to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. Photo by Michelle Bellizzi–International Bird Rescue

Note: First person post about the Oakland Heronry Rescue in July 2019 by Michelle Bellizzi, Bird Rescue’s Response Manager

After the ficus tree collapsed, Oakland city crews cleaned up the fallen branches. Photo by Michelle Bellizzi–International Bird Rescue

On Wednesday July 10, 2019, I’d just arrived home from work and was getting dinner together, when The Call came in. International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center Manager Isabel Luevano had picked up a message on the hospital phone describing a sad scene: a large ficus tree next to the downtown Oakland U.S. Post Office and used for nesting by the city’s iconic Black-crowned Night-Herons and Snowy Egrets had collapsed, and numerous baby birds had fallen with their nests across a city sidewalk.

Luckily, I live just a short distance away from the site and was able to grab my partner and convince him that saving baby birds was *the* thing to do in the evening, and together we headed down to the site. On our way, I received a text from Response Services Director Barbara Callahan, who had picked up a call on our 24-hour Oil Spill Emergency Hotline about the situation. We were met at the site by JD Bergeron, Bird Rescue’s Executive Director, and his partner Travis (Bird Rescue has a wonderful tradition of wrangling our significant others to step in when needed, and all of our husbands, wives, and partners are angels!), as well as concerned locals and city workers prepared to clean up the mess.

We quickly discovered that the tree in question had split in half, and the City needed to clean the fallen branches from the sidewalk. The remaining half of the tree was in imminent danger of falling as well and would need to be removed.

One of the people on-site was Shirl Simpson, the Branch Manager of the Post Office, and it only took a few moments for Shirl to become one of my favorite people in the world. Upon seeing the downed tree, the nestlings, and the remaining bird nests in the tree, Shirl said unequivocally: “We are going to save these birds – these are OUR birds, and we’re not going to let anything happen to them.” Shirl was the person who had contacted our Emergency Line – she had remembered a Channel 7 story on Bird Rescue and went to “Seven on Your Side” to find our number.

The sight of the tree was intimidating and heartbreaking: half of the tree was down with baby birds in the branches on the ground, and the half that remained standing had approximately 40 nests visible in the canopy…which was 30 feet up and inaccessible without a cherry picker.

“We are going to save these birds – these are OUR birds, and we’re not going to let anything happen to them.” said Shirl Simpson (seated), the Branch Manager of the Post Office, along with JD Bergeron holding a rescued Black-crown Night-Heron. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds–International Bird Rescue

On Wednesday evening, our job was clear: rescue the babies that had fallen and clear the sidewalk, and work on a plan for the remaining tree on Thursday. We sprang into action working alongside the Oakland City workers, carefully searching through the downed branches to extract any babies and handing the cleared branches to the city workers for chipping. We rescued 18 baby herons and egrets, and cleared the downed half of the tree just before dark. The birds were taken back to our Fairfield facility by 9:30 pm.

Later on Thursday and Friday, JD and I returned to the site to collect additional birds and to oversee the complete removal of the tree. Because the tree itself was on Postal Service property, Shirl hired Davey Tree service to remove the birds from their nests and capture unflighted birds in the tree canopy *and* cut the tree in sections as they removed the birds.

JD and I stayed on the ground playing outfielder, collecting the birds from the workers in the picker, and identifying areas in the canopy with birds so the worker was aware of birds moving through the foliage and nest areas. Because of the slow nature of the work, birds were transported to the facility midday and in the evening.

Interestingly, as the workers moved through the tree south to north, the birds got older! Apparently most of the nests on the south side of the tree were nestlings, and the north side of the tree housed the birds that were **just about ready to fledge**. As less and less tree was available to hide in, the birds congregated at the north edge and several proved to be good fliers and able to fly from tree to tree, and the decision was made to not capture them. By noon on Friday, the last branch had been cut, and the last birds were driven to our center so the real work could begin!

News Media Stories

Black-crowned Night-Herons, Snowy Egrets released into wild after surviving Oakland tree collapse, ABC-7-News

Using a cherry picker, Davey Tree Service, helped safely remove other birds and nests before trimming the tree back in front of the Post Office at 13th and Jackson Streets in downtown Oakland. Photo by Michelle Bellizzi–International Bird Rescue