If someone mentions bird watching to you, median strips in the middle of a busy street surrounded by condo and apartment complexes probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
But a section of large eucalyptus trees located on the median of West 9th, between Link Lane and Stony Point Road might be the best location for easy birdwatching.
This site is known as a rookery, or a collection of nests, and is the designated location of where Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret and Black-Crowned Night Herons roost and raise their young. Great Blue Herons will also visit on their migratory path.
Located conveniently close to the several creeks that flow though Santa Rosa, this site has been used since the late 1990s. Outside of the rookery, herons and egrets can be found on the edges of our creeks and often in the marshy drainage ditches lining the roads. They feed on fish, insects, frogs, snakes, salamanders, aquatic insects, and occasionally, small rodents.
West 9th isn’t a direct path of travel for me, but I regularly make sure to go out of my way to drive by and take a glimpse of the congregation of birds. The rookery trees are surrounded by orange fencing and traffic poles, so it is not hard to miss. Nor is the ground that is permeated white from thousands of birds leaving their mark for the past 15 or so years.
I like to park down the street and walk over, watching the great white egrets soar in and land on the bendy branches, like acrobats, to feed their young. The graceful flying might evoke a feeling of peace, but the loud and obnoxious squabbling and squawking gives a feeling of chaos.
If you look up in the trees, you will see dozens of nests, made from clusters of twigs. Sadly, sometimes you’ll also spot a deceased fledgling, high up in the tree, having gotten caught in the branches on a departing flight, a reminder of how little control we have over nature.
Visiting the rookery is an excellent way to observe these birds, but make sure not to disturb them. The site is protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Thanks to Donna Jones at DonnaJonesPhotography.com for all the beautiful photos.