Magazine article Sunset

Home of the Great Blue Heron

Magazine article Sunset

Home of the Great Blue Heron

Article excerpt

Visit the rookery and slough at Lake County's Rodman Ranch

On the northern edge of Clear Lake, I'm having a hard time distinguishing the birds from the trees.

I'm motoring upstream with three members of the Lake County Land Trust. As we pass willows edging Rodman Slough, adjacent to the Rodman Ranch rookery; a canvasback dives underwater near our boat, and a cluster of swallows passes overhead.

Then, in the branches of a massive blue oak, a golden leaf metamorphoses into a large orange beak; shadows become black stripes on a white face. Once I can make out one great blue heron, I see dozens more, all of them crouched in the oak, guarding their nests. We drift past silently, struck by the awesomeness of a whole flock of these huge birds.

The slough, which empties into Clear Lake, is one of the last remaining wetlands on the 43,000-acre lake, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. Thanks to local efforts, the rookery here will continue to house heron families into the future.

This wasn't always the case. Nearly 10 years ago, when longtime county residents Roberta Lyons and Susanne Scholz heard that some 400 acres of land around this waterway were for sale, they worried. If houses were built here, they knew the herons could lose their nesting site. Ospreys and bald eagles could lose habitat as well. The tule reeds might be ripped out, damaging the slough's filtration system. More algae might grow in Clear Lake. One problem would spiral into many more.

So Lyons and Scholz, aided by others including John Graham, Mary Tualanian, Glenn Dishman, and attorney Peter Windrem, got to work. …

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