Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raining Anhingas and Other News

Things are looking a bit better this week. Much thanks to those of you who have volunteered to do more!

WFAA News segment. The recent news segment was excellent. It was aired on Saturday evening instead of Friday.

New volunteers. The Heron and Egret Society has several new volunteers. Welcome Anna, Julie, Kris, Alex, Lesley, Jane, and Jennifer!

Our logo. Diane has agreed to design the logo for the Heron and Egret Society. She thinks this should be a shared vision and wants your suggestions.

State of the rookery: Here is what is happening now at the rookery and what we can do. The end of nesting season is near. If you go to the rookery now, you will notice dozens of great egrets walking around and through the woods. Though these birds look large, they are juveniles who are left to survive by their wits throughout the day. This is a dangerous time for them. This week we rescued an average of about two a day, all of them emaciated, and half of them with injuries. We think this is because:
  • There is little for these birds to eat. Gone are the days when a fast brook full of small fish, etc., flowed through the woods. Juveniles typically get stabbed in the head if they beg for food from other juveniles or from adults who are not their parents.
  • There is little for the birds to drink during these impossibly hot days, and they can quickly become dehydrated.
  • Juveniles who are inexpert at flying often get caught in tree branches and break their limbs.
  • Predators (hawks, raccoons, cats, etc.) who seem to know exactly what season this is are skulking around the place for meals.

Quite a few adult great egrets return to the rookery at dusk, and the total number of birds of this species is rapidly dropping. We think the adults lead small parties of juveniles away every day. In addition to monitoring the great egrets, we are watching the nests of several white ibises, little blue herons, and tricolor herons. Their young are still scrambling around in the nests and cannot yet fly. This is the time of year when a supply of clean water and minnows can be a lifeline to the rookery’s denizens (juveniles who are struggling, and parents who cannot leave their nests).

You can assist our efforts by:
  1. Rescuing injured birds,
  2. Delivering birds to Rogers Wildlife,
  3. Helping to keep the water troughs full and clean,
  4. Moving bird carcasses away from living birds (This should be done with a “grabber”. Do not touch any dead bird.),
  5. Helping to deliver goldfish and minnows to Rogers Wildlife,
  6. Doing volunteer work at Rogers Wildlife.
Let me know what you are willing to do. Better yet, go ahead and do it. If you need instruction, do not make an appointment. I am finding that this does not work. Phone me or Chalo when you are free to go to the rookery, and we’ll see whether someone can join you.

Fish deliveries. An example of success: today’s fish deliveries. Things seldom work as ideally as today’s fish feeds! Peter went to a live-bait depot near where he lives and picked up the fish: 1 lb of minnows for us, 6 lb of goldfish and minnows for Rogers Wildlife. Chalo and I delivered the minnows to the rookery and temporarily stored the rest. Egrets were standing by as we poured in the minnows. Anna picked up the 6-lb load from us and delivered it to Rogers Wildlife. Though we operated like clockwork, only about half of this was planned. The rest was improvised. I envision a time when all our work will go as smoothly as this, and I welcome suggestions for new ways to work that will minimize formalities.

The “Birdintrouble” posse. Chalo is setting up a bird-rescue communications system to coordinate our rescue efforts. He is testing it now.

The way this will work is that anyone finding a distressed bird will e-mail to:

This e-mail will be automatically forwarded to everyone who volunteers for the rescue team.

The person who decides to take the call will send another message to:

saying that he/she is "on the case", to prevent multiple volunteers from answering one call.

Yes, you guessed it. I am calling for volunteers for the BIT posse. Anyone willing to pick up an injured bird should volunteer their email address for this to

The Anhinga situation. The situation with the Anhingas is probably signaling some quite worrying ecological collapse. This is worth monitoring. Last week, it was “raining Anhingas” over the campus. Thankfully, this has stopped. Over a period of about two weeks, we found:
  • 1 Anhinga in basketball court (Weezer); he unfortunately died at Rogers after about a week.
  • 1 across street from basketball court in parking lot. Died.
  • 1 in closed tennis court with 20-foot high fence. Had to have flown in, but seemed unable to fly away. Good condition.
  • 1 in closed courtyard near North Campus D building. Had to have flown in. Good condition.
  • 1 on rooftop parking lot at St. Paul’s. Had to have flown. Good condition.
  • 2 very young (less than two weeks old) Anhingas at one of the watering troughs (see picture above). Good condition, and very, very cute.
  • 1 in parking lot behind building Y. Probably flew there. Delivered to us but died before we got back from dinner.
  • 1 in faculty parking garage. Died before delivery to Rogers.

To our knowledge, there are fewer than 10 Anhingas nests in the rookery, so this is a significant fraction of the total number of birds of this species. In the past three years, we have never rescued an Anhinga and only seen one dead individual. Kathy Rogers tells us that in 20 years, her rehab center has seen only two!

Our web site. Please check from time to time. There are new pages for art and literature featuring Herons and Egrets. Please send us your favorites. So far we have Diane Stewart’s lovely egret paintings and a link to the Flickr Heron, Egret, and Crane group. We are looking for poems and essays. We want the site to be absolutely first rate and would appreciate advice from the artists among us.

Campaign to make the rookery a protected sanctuary. We are getting a bit of a runaround from the politicians. This is expected. Keep right on writing. Point out that the rookery is a treasure that should be protected for the State of Texas.

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