The good news
Some support is coming in for the birds. For example, Audubon Dallas has stepped in with a report about the rookery.
The bad news
The expert who is advising the university is a retired biologist who wrote about “Nuisance Heronries in Texas” and how to “manage” them. Beware! In parlance about wildlife, “manage” usually means destroy.
If you don’t have time to read this article, here is a snippet:
“Nuisance conditions — where removal of birds might be considered — are subject to federal permit requirements and procedures. The Texas Wildlife Damage Management Service (TWDMS) is the state agency that can assist the public with the proper procedures to apply for a federal permit. After the breeding season, when the birds have left the nesting area, the nests that remain are still under federal protection. To remove these nests, or to modify nesting habitat, you must first apply for a federal permit. If you believe that you may have a nuisance heronry, or would like to modify a site containing nests, contact TWDMS at (210) 472-5451.”
So it appears that somebody screwed up by bringing in the chainsaws while there were birds nesting. Is destruction of the rookery in the planning stages? If so, you are doing a great service. An infuriated wildlife rehabilitator, and more recently, somebody from Audubon told me that this sort of chainsawing operation beneath sitting birds is done to drive the birds away with the clear message that their world will be chopped away from beneath them. Indeed, there are downed nests near the memorial garden, below where birds were actually sitting.
Interestingly, this expert is knowledgeable about Texas plants, as I am. One of his sites describes the great value of hackberries and red mulberries.
Most of the hackberries and all of the red mulberries of the rookery were savaged last week. The destruction was so systematic as to make one wonder whether they had been targeted for destruction. These are natives trees of small stature, tough as nails, and long lived. They provide great cover for birds, protection from erosion, and even food for the songbirds. Some of the trees destroyed were quite mature. See the attached photo and count the rings. Another photo shows the depth of the “perimeter” removal.
What the Society can do
Please keep on keepin’ on. Our Society is awfully good, though we don’t waste time on meetings and other nonsense. We do not have to leave the final word on the rookery to the university’s expert. I expect that I am as knowledgeable about Texas birds and plants but infinitely more caring. I am also not retired. There are others in our group who are knowledgeable about ornithology and ecology. All of us in the Society have direct experience of this specific rookery and its birds. He does not; he is based quite far away. Your suggestions on the rookery matter more.
Please keep up the pressure in every way you can so that the recent damage is repaired. One approach is contact everybody you know who cares about wildlife and ask them to make their opinions on this known. Public disapproval is the major thing shielding the birds and their rookery.