Herons, Humans & A Corruption of Nature's Way
Great blue herons thrive in the greater Oakland County area with nearly a dozen rookeries. One of those rookeries is at Holland Ponds. Although that rookery is just over the county line in Macomb, many of those herons fly west into Oakland to hunt their prey: frogs and fish being favored cuisine. Holland Ponds allows distant viewing from a bluff; a good practice with no human access near nests. And that's where my reminisce to another time and place begins. West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve once boasted the most productive, popular and loved urban great blue heron rookery in our county. I used to be the parks naturalist for West Bloomfield. Spring tours with school kids viewing from a designated platform was a high demand educational activity with a wonderous primeval Jurrassic Park feeling. No more: no heron nests in that rookery. Sadly, a deadly one-two punch came into play four years ago. Humans in active recreational pursuits were allowed closer access than permitted in the past in that nature preserve. Half Marthon runners raced the preserve trails creating for the herons a critical level of visual disturbance. And then high winds came. Trees toppled. And then more disruptive human activity: constant joggers and more runners in breeding and nesting season pounded the trails close to new nests relocated by the herons and closer than suggested by DNRE standards.The tolearance threshold was breached. All herons left for greener pastures. I did too. Nature finds a way if we let her and don't bend nature's rules to suit political whims and special interest pressures (IE: Wouldn't it be nice to run races on the pretty nature preserve trails?) however human intursions and disturbances are not tolerated by these predatory birds when nesting. And then last week a surprise: When I visited Holland Ponds I was delighted to see signs I designed for West Bloomfield years ago to create a Restricted Area to protect their herons are now in use at Holland Ponds. Let's hope the land stewards in Shelby Township keep doing the right thing. I think they will. We learn from errors. It take more than forceful signs. It takes park management with the courage and wisdom and knowledge of science to do the right thing.