Great Egret

Great Egret (Photo credit: lone photowolf)

I took an after-dinner run last night on the route of my upcoming walk. As I jogged past the firs and redwoods on the 500 block of High Street, I heard bird noises. At first, I thought I might be hearing chickens, but when I stopped, I quickly realized it had to something else. I looked toward the tops of the trees and spotted the noise-makers — a pair of great egrets (Egretta alba). They hopped from the end of one branch near the tops of the trees to another, calling to each other as they went. Although I couldn’t see the breeding plumage from that distance or in the fading light, they were clearly engaging in mating behavior.

This pair of egrets are a good reminder about how important big (and old) trees are for wildlife. Calder Hill was once covered with Douglas fir trees and undoubtedly served as rookery for many egrets, herons and ospreys that hunted around the Laguna de Santa Rosa. As Sebastopol grew, the area was logged and converted to agriculture, and later, houses. Second-growth Douglas fir covered much of the area on the west side of the hill — Swain’s Woods — until the late 1970s and early 1980s, but now the stand of second-growth trees on High are the only remaining tall trees. Elsewhere in town, egrets and herons do nest in the cypress trees near Berry Lane, just off North Main Street.  Judging from their calls and squawks, the area prior to the arrival of European settlers must have been quite a lively and noisy place each spring.