The first-ever publication on trends, historical accounts, and locations of past and current Bay Area heron and egret breeding colonies, dating back to 1967, is nearing completion and will be available later this year. The authors, researchers from Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) and San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, identified more than 80 breeding colonies of herons and egrets now active in the Bay region.
The most notable colonies in the region are on the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge in San Pablo Bay near San Rafael and at Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Bolinas Lagoon Preserve near Stinson Beach. John Kelley, acr research biologist, says the latter is “one of the best viewing spots in the world” for great blue herons and great and snowy egrets. On spring and summer weekends through July 17, the ACR preserve is open to the public. At an overlook above a redwood grove, visitors can view the herons and egrets nesting in the branches of redwoods up to 100 feet high. In April, snowy egrets will be posing in “beautiful courtship display postures,” says Kelley. After mating, the birds settle in to incubate nests for four weeks. Later, you can watch adult birds feed the chicks and see the ensuing competition between the young birds. In June and early July, the young egrets learn to fly.
There is no fee to visit the preserve but donations are encouraged. Access is available for people with disabilities. Visit www.egret.org for more information.