I'm beginning to think that I am the only one that thinks it is ironic
that the area is called the Heron Pond yet every management decision
since last October has been to reduce or eliminate the Herons, egrets
etc. If the Audubon Society prefers peeps over other species, I sure hope
that it is not considered a precedent in its interactions with other
species. The fact that almost all the other ponds are low and all the
water ditches are dry and overgrown with vegetation, the appearance of a
mud flat would make me think that the peeps that would concentrate on
that area. If the original system had been used to replenish the ponds
and the other mud areas, you may not have gotten "Disneyland for the
shore birds" in the Heron Pond.  Before the new intake, the RMBS water
levels were obtained by either seasonal rainfall or by opening the
original intake that would feed the dtich to the Pintail Pond. The series
of water control devices and ditches then would allow water to travel the
entire length of the system. The key points in the system would be the
intake and the last control. Since the Heron Pond is in the last portion
of the system, the exit control actually determines the water level. The
only time I can recall the entire system and all the ditches 'full' was
after the floods a few years ago. It has essentially been 'closed' since
then except for the period when the controlled burn was executed in the
Dragonfly Marsh and the ponds adjacent to the eastern part of the Two
Pecan Trail. To get the heavy machinery into the Heron  Pond to cut and
mulch the willows, you had to starve the system of water. The mudflat
that everyone is applauding could have been accomplished with or without
the willows being cut. This would have allowed the species that evidently
are less "valued" to have a "normal" summer. Pull the plug in August, the
water drains, you get mud and it would seem everyone would have been
happy. A fellow I run into at RMBS is a retired contractor and he would
certainly disagree with the project, especially when it comes to the
Kingfishers. He pointed out the the front end of the Heron Pond is the
lowest part of the area and adding water isn;t going to produce the
effect that you want. Consider that the water level that produced the
mudflat is optimum. The additon of a few inches of water from the rains
made the area less attractive to the peeps. Consider that the majority of
the area, even after the rains was "dry". Consider that it will require 4
to 5 feet to flood the area to eliminate the vegetation. (Wonder what
happens to all the critters that live on or feed on the vegetation are
going to do this spring.) That now means your optimum mudflat is under 4
to 5 feet of water. Any draw down only produces periphery mud. My retired
contractor friend asked the rhetorical question, "Doesn't anyone know how
to shoot a transit?" I don't know how may people have been to that
observation blind. I have and I walked to the edge of the mudflat from
both the front side and the back side of the pond. I'm visualizing that
ground I was standing on being 4 to 5 feet under water. If you are in the
observation blind-- you better have some hip boots because there will
probably be water in it.  In fact, that water level may produce a "lake".
I hope the new intake has good screening because if the big eye carp that
are in Ellis Bay get through it, you won't have to worry about the
vegetation but when you draw the water down, you might consider the stink
the fish carcasses are going to make when they don't have enough water to
survive and they die. Of course the turkey vultures will have a field
day. I'm not a hydrologist. You say this is a good plan but I've walked
nearly every one of those pond areas and looked at where those water
levels will be and I have my doubts. I hope I'm wrong but only time will
tell. respectfully    

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: "John and Nancy Solodar"
  To: [log in to unmask]
  Subject: Re: The early shorebird gets the mud ....
  Date: Sat, 17 Oct 2009 10:02:26 -0500

  Wu Chang makes some valid points about the loss of some species
  around Heron Pond when the willows are cut back.   However, those of
  in the St. Louis Audubon Society who have been working with the
  biology staff at RMBS know that there are two overriding
  considerations that are guiding the work at Heron Pond.

  (1) Left unchecked the willows will overrun a small shallow body of
  water such as Heron Pond.   We have seen this happen at Little Creve
  Couer Lake where there was marvelous shorebird habitat for few years,
   but this habitat has been all but eliminated by the growth of
  willows into the shallow water.  Even the amount of open water is
  declining.  The willows have been cut back at Heron Pond a number of
  times within the last few years but new seeds come in and the willows

  (2) There is an abundance of habitat throughout the greater St. Louis
  area for the species that Wu has seen depart Heron Pond when the
  willows were cut.   On the other hand, there is an incredible
  scarcity of reliable shorebird habitat in our area.   The changes
  that are taking place at Heron Pond are designed to allow for control
  of the water levels so that there should always be good shorebird
  habitat in Heron Pond during the migration seasons.   In addition to
  cutting the willows the following has been done: (a) The size of the
  basin for Heron Pond has been enlarged to about 3 times its current
  area.  This was done a couple of years ago but it is not obvious now
  due to the infusion of plants into the hollowed out area.  (b) A
   controllable intake pipe for water has been constructed under
  Riverlands Way.    This will allow Heron Pond to be filled with water
  to kill off vegetation when shorebirds are not present and to enhance
  water levels within the pond when they are present.   (c) A
  controllable outlet system has been constructed on the downstream
  point of Heron Pond.   During migration this, along with the water
  intake system, should allow for control of water levels within an
  inch or so which means that mudflats can be maintained for a long
  time during non-rain periods.  (The sandy bottom beneath Heron Pond
  causes a quick loss of water without any water inflow.)  (d) A new
  trail around the expanded Heron Pond has been constructed and a
  viewing blind has been installed with another scheduled.

  A good number of local birders have been working with the RMBS staff
  to establish reliable shorebird habitat at RMBS.  Paul Bauer has been
  leading this effort for nigh onto 16 yrs.    The only other location
  in St. Louis with reliable shorebird habitat was to have been
  Columbia Bottom.   Things looked good there the first year after the
  water pumps were installed, but the ongoing repairs to the pumping
  system have cast this project in doubt.

  The dedication ceremony for the new Heron Pond and the water intake
  system will take place on Oct 25 at 2:00 pm.  The man of honor will
  be Paul Bauer.

  John Solodar - St. Louis Audubon Society liaison to RMBS
  8135 Cornell Ct
  University City, MO 63130-3639


  [log in to unmask]

  On 10/15/09 9:28 PM, "Wu Chang" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

    No need to apologize. From that perspective, anyone would have
    come tothe same conclusion.However,if you had gone to the back
    end of Heron Pond you would have found the remaining yellowlegs
    and killdeers with no problem ( they were still in the front mud
    areas but they are in and out of there as they see fit and will
    often be on the near edge where it is hard to see them).
    You would have found that barring falling into the giant hole the
    COE has left in the levee(you can still walk around it) a short
    walk and there you are. The recent rainfall, created  temporary
    mudflats back in the area where the willows had been eliminated
    in the first and second phase of elimination. While not
    extensive, they appeared to provide food for a smaller number of
    the shorebirds you were looking for and may not have seen at the
    front of Heron Pond.
    When the COE removed the remaining willows in the Heron Pond, the
    choice was made to evict the egrets, great blue herons, black
    crown night herons and the wood ducks that roosted in the reduced
    willow area. Hardest hit were the wood ducks. It also eliminated
    the edge habitat that most biologist say provide the areas most
    useful to wildlife including the deer,coyotes as well as the
    birds.  After the first cut of the willows, the water levels were
    allowed to diminish in  the back end of Heron Pond to the point
    where the Kingfisher's that made their living there abandonded
    the area. Fewer and fewer wading birds visited the back end of
    Heron Pond and the number that visited the area was reduced by at
    least half and maybe more. Many of the regular birders stopped
    going to that part of Riverlands due to the actions that dropped
    all the water levels.
    If the plan is to swap one monculture ( the cultivated lands that
    surround Riverlands) with another, the manipulated mud flats,
    then it will take more than a few years to decide if this is a
    good managment plan or if the more natural rythmn of seasonal
    water levels would have been just as effective given the COE's
    decison to let the area drain with the pre sluice gate water
    control structures that were in place but never used to create
    mud. I wonder if we will ever see the Kingfishers use that area
    again. I suppose the trade off of the Least Terns diving for food
    back there helps but if the entire area is going to be a mud
    flat, then I wonder if the terns will use that area.
    Considering the majority of people that go to Riverlands never
    visit the ponds along the 2 Pecan Trail and the sloughs adjacent
    to the Pintail pond, they never see the black necked stilts, the
    pectoral sandpipers, upland sandpipers or even the least
    sandpipers or the semi palmated plovers and sandpipers that find
    the natural mud in those areas. Dragonfly Marsh is nearly
    inaccessible so who knows what shorebirds may or may not be using
    If anyone wants to see a pond that has been flooded to kill
    vegetation, then visit the large pond on Ellis Island and see
    what the beavers and muskrats have done-- there is no vegetation
    in the pond and what used to be productive mud flats and areas
    that supported wood ducks, herons,killdeer, yellowlegs etc is now
    essentially a 'desert' suitable only for rough fish like buffalo
    and carp. If the COE wants to restore that area, all it will take
    is a couple of people with a shovel to open the 2 "dams" the
    critters have built.
    Please understand, I like shorebirds as much as the next person,
    but I'm not sure it is a good thing to swap one set of birds for
    another just because we think they are 'neater' than the others.
    I'm willing to wait and see.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Peter Richardson"
      To: [log in to unmask]
      Subject: The early shorebird gets the mud ....
      Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009 18:05:17 -0700

      The early shorebird gets the mud ..... and the later ones get
      to be bumps on a log. But only this year!
      Wow, I have learned a lot from the responses to my
      observation about the water from an opened sluice covering
      the mud in Heron Pond, RMBS, St. Charles County! I have been
      firmly informed that my observation was incorrect. It was
      rain, and not the open sluice, that caused the higher water
      levels and the disappearance of the bare mud.
      I was delighted to further learn that the mud exposed in
      September was due to manipulation of the water level in the
      summer which prevented vegetation growth, resulting in bare
      mud when the water level was lowered. I was further informed
      that in future years the water level will be manipulated to
      keep a continuous area of exposed mud when the shorebirds are
      migrating. This is wonderful and I applaud what has been done
      at Heron Pond. I look forward to seeing bare mud for the
      entire shorebird migration in future years. I think that all
      birders will be delighted when this happens.
      Several people told me that heavy rain caused the bare mud in
      Heron Pond to be covered by water prior to my visit last
      Sunday. One person told me that the open sluice was having
      little or no effect on the water level because water was
      being released from the other end of Heron Pond. Obviously, I
      do not understand the complex water dynamics of this area. I
      have been offered a tour and an explanation of the water
      management of Heron Pond and the surrounding area. I look
      forward to this.
      One person suggested that Heron Pond was being flooded for
      the ducks. I have been assured that this is not correct.
      My original comment was written on behalf of the migrating
      shorebirds. Where are they to feed? Photographic evidence
      (thanks, Bill) shows that they are reduced to landing on logs
      floating in Ellis Bay. They may get some rest there but they
      need food if they are to continue their journey south
      I apologize unreservedly to anyone who was offended by my
      comments. They were an immediate reaction to seeing an opened
      sluice and no bare mud, as well as disappointment because I
      had been telling my out-of-town visitor that we finally had
      some great shorebird habitat near St. Louis.
      I truly hope that there will be bare mud and shorebirds at
      the official opening in a few days time.
      I have deliberately not mentioned names of people who
      contacted me. They know who they are. I thank them all for
      contacting me. I have written private replies to several of
      Mick Richardson, Kirkwood, St Louis County
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