The cypress trees in the wetland near the proposed DePave Park at Alameda Point have served as a safe and secure nesting site for Great Blue Herons for many years. This year is no exception, despite the trees having died and barely standing. On May 7, Audubon Society bird observer Dawn Lemoine counted 13 juveniles in the nests.
The wetland around the cypress trees provides the ideal landing spot for the young herons’ first flight and subsequent adaptation to life outside the nest. They can be seen for the first week or so after leaving the nest hanging out in the wetland preening and sunning themselves.
During the spring and early summer nesting season, the herons can be observed from the end of Monarch Street on the west side of the Seaplane Lagoon. Throughout the year, herons can be seen foraging for food along the shoreline of Alameda Point and even on lawns. The primary food of herons is small fish, but they will also feed on shrimp, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents, amphibians and reptiles and even small birds like ducklings.
In a photo of a nesting heron from 2013 included below, the cypress trees appear healthy enough to produce foliage. Not so today. The cypress trees have died from all of the droppings that contain acid. Herons have reportedly been nesting in willow trees on the north side of the VA property. But even those trees will be cut down if and when the VA builds its columbarium cemetery.
It’s time to plan for planting some new cypress trees before the herons return to nest and find the vulnerable cypress trees blown over in a storm or the willow trees cut down with a chainsaw to make way for the VA project.
Alameda Point offers attractive nesting habitat for herons, but we need to ensure the birds have a few good trees. Herons don’t typically like nesting on the ground, and may quit nesting at Alameda Point if conditions aren’t right. Allowing no trees for the herons would be a sad eventuality for an area reserved for wildlife.
Observation note: A spotting scope, such as the Kowa TSN-883 with a 20-60x eyepiece used by Dawn Lemoine, or high powered binoculars, is helpful for distance viewing of the social interactions of the nesting herons.
“Meet the Great Blue Heron,” by Marjorie Powell, Alameda Sun, April 25, 2019.
“Hot, Bothered, and Parasite-free: Why Birds Sun Themselves” by Kevin Wheeler, Audubon Society News, February 27, 2020:
“Avian sunbathing has mystified ornithologists for decades, but some recent research is confirming an old suspicion that the behavior helps fend off lice.”