Will the Herons Come Back?

(Editor’s Note: A mistake was made concerning the location of the rookery. The rookery is STILL intact, and just a little farther up the river. I will be going there early next week, and will bring photos and more information. Thanks to everyone that was concerned! Apologies about the mistake. See Loraine for for the update. -mjt)

On September 21, of 2009, Lorain City Council discussed the donation of the turning bin parcel, also known as the Heron Rookery, from US Steel Corp. Amounting to 10.16 acres of land, its donation was a goodwill gesture by the company, as it is a prime location for a nature preserve. Previously used for some dumping, and as a slag pit at one time, “it was not considered in need of huge environmental remediation..”, but did require some clean-up. It would require a “very minimal investment on the City’s part” and it would save one of the nicest areas on the Upper Black River.

Mayor Tony Krasienko said it was the City’s intention to leave it in its natural state, and improve it so it continues to flourish as a wild life preserve. It is also considered a future viewing point for a planned leg of a bike trail, in cooperation with the Lorain County Metro Parks. The area is very key as a wild life preserve. It will be a strategic viewing site for wild life and something that we want to include on that trail.

In the “Lower Black River Ecological Restoration Master Plan“, dated December of last year, the Rookery is one of the assets listed in the area. The Lake/Lacustuary Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (LQHEI) is a tool used to rate the habitat quality of portions of shorelines, as well as serve as a “guide to direct restoration efforts towards those activities that are most likely to result in improved habitat values.” The Ohio EPA documented the area as having aquatic life scores in the exceptional range, and the LQHEI gave the rookery a score of over 60, thus rating it as an “area of exceptional habitat.”

Great Blue Herons are an oft photographed bird here in Lorain, and usually breed in trees close to lakes and other wetlands. Groups of them together are known as a rookery, or heronry, and can number between 5-500 nests, with an average of 160 nests per colony.

Earlier this year, a group of 25 students from Lakeview Elementary were treated to a tour up and down the Black River. The kids were fortunate to see a Great Blue Heron fly past the boat they were riding in, and worked together to find more nests high up in the trees.

Mike Kennedy and I took a walk along the Black River Wednesday, and I was stunned at what I saw. Gone were the trees that these large birds called home.

(viewed from the north)

The entire area appeared to have been plowed down, and there were trucks spreading straw on what was probably recently seeded ground. According to a former councilman that voted on this clean up, part of the discussion in Council entailed being careful as to not harm the rookery.

(viewed from the west)

Of the entire area pictured above, the majority of it was populated with trees. Now,

 

the right-most area is all that’s left. And in the trees that are left, we were only able to find

one nest.

A lot of questions have been raised about this, and, unfortunately, only time will get us the answers. Are the majority of the herons gone for good? The males settle usually where there are nests from former years, either building a new one or restoring an old one. Will they build nests on the opposite side of the river? We didn’t see any on the northern or western side where we walked. The herons in this part of the country usually are permanent residents, and do not migrate south when the weather turns cold. Why did the entire shoreline area need leveled? Hopefully, someone will be able to tell us.

Below is video shot on October 1, with Mayor Krasienko discussing the clean up of the Black River shore line.

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7 thoughts on “Will the Herons Come Back?

  1. Hi Mark: At dawn this morning I hiked further into the wooded area at the rookery. They left the main body of the nesting area intact. It was hidden from our view across the river. I’m sorry for my mistake, and happy for the Heron. Mike

  2. Thought of you this morning;). no seriously, @ aprox 715 am, the moon was setting over the lake like the sun would. Just amazing! It was almost out of a sci fi movie setting. The phone’s camera didn’t do it justice, but it might be worth your time to see if it happens again tommorrow? Anxious to see if it works out for you.

  3. Thanks all for coming by and being concerned. I will follow-up next week with the trip out to the rookery. Glad to see it was not harmed and that so many people were concerned.

    Ben, I will check that out in the morning. Thanks for the tip!

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