Saturday, March 27, 2010

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.


Anonymous Lois B. robbins said...

One wonders how much beautiful wildlife we might be sharing our property with if our power mowers weren't disturbing their communications with each other.

March 27, 2010 at 11:43 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the shot!!!!

March 27, 2010 at 1:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point. Admiring these creatures from a respectful distance is often the key to having them survive.

March 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a surprise to find one of WB's finest writing for the Oakland Press. They are lucky to have you on board. Keep up the good work!


March 31, 2010 at 4:47 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was on one of many Field Trips to the WB Nature Preserve Rookery that my children fell in love with nature & her beauty. Thank you for providing them with a great learning experience.

My Family will be glad to know there is a new home for Michigan's Herons.

March 31, 2010 at 4:59 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great writing!!!
Thanks for sharing the wonderful photo.
I hear there's a rookery in Oakland Township that's dead as well.

April 2, 2010 at 9:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kensington Metro Parks has a great rookery and those people understand that nature gets equal billling with sports jocks and runners. Running is a good excersie thing but not for a nature preserve if you realy want to protect animals.

April 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM 

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