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Mr RoglesRest assured that this has never been personal. I hope it
doesn't come across that way for that is not my intent.In my past
conversations with Deutsch, he has basically been a pretty straight
shooter. I disagree with their eagle "rest area" there by the HQ and few
other policies that don't make sense to me and many of the 'regulars'
that consider RMBS as the place we go to see birds. However, this is the
COE we are talking about. These are the same people that would dam just
about any river on a moments notice if it meant more federal funding and
the chance to utilize heavy equipment and to dole out contracts. Perhaps
it is an aside but they have been called to task for " the basis of their
economic benefit projections on numerous projects". In over 25 years of
watching the lack of management by the COE on such backwaters like
Brickhouse Slough and even the Alton Pool areas, I've learned to be a bit
more skeptical when I hear about all the bright people involved in this
or that project. Like you, I think Deutsch probably is a good biologist
and hopefully will right some of what I would call mistakes of the past.
Then again, it is the COE. Then again, I have to give them some props
because I don't think they would have installed pumps that constantly
malfunction due to sand intake like the MDC has at Columbia. Mississippi
and Missouri Rivers produce sand, who woulda thunk it?Also the Least
Tern Barge Project was a great idea but it came after many years of
failure with Least Tern Island. Once again we have floods in the spring
but they actually thought Least Terns would nest on a small piece of
ground that is inundated much of the spring.As a particular point:The
COE has allowed the large pond on Ellis Island to be overrun by the
beavers. If you walked the road into that area, you would have to climb
over several river beeches that the beavers have fallen. One of the trees
next to the parking lot has been partially girdled and most likely will
fall if we get a good wind. I don't think the tree is large enough to
make a fall into the parking lot but the area sign, might be a potential
'victim'.:)I suppose that the large pond is being allowed to "naturally
progress" while the Heron Pond requires management? There was a good
population of peepsin the back of the large Ellis Island pond but now
there is too much water and no mud.There used to be numerous wood ducks
that used that back area, but there isn't anything for them except
'loafing' water-- same with the mallards and ring bills and even hooded
mergansers. It was not uncommon to see black crowned night herons
actively hunting in daylight hours in and around the back area of that
pond. While the Heron Pond had actively hunting ( not roosting)
Kingfishers, it wasn't a rare occassion to see one on Ellis Island. It is
now. It might be that the Ellis Island requires more effort to see or
that it is closed between Dec 15 and March 15. Oh, sorry, the Heron Pond
is off limits even longer, Oct 15 to April 15. I've never really gotten a
good explanation from the COE staff on that.Considering the topography,
I can see the dome argument being possible. I also know that it doesn't
take that much time for that ground to go dry( as noted sandy soil). I
do wonder that the willows interfered with the "sight lines" comment. For
the practicing photographers, the willows gave a backdrop that blocked
the power lines etc. It also played the devil with shutter speeds in
Aperture Priority mode. Also wintering ducks, geese and trumpeter swans
feed on that vegetation that will be killed if I understand the 4 to 5
feet flooding idea. I do know that I can't recall not seeing a great blue
heron at the Heron pond and its surroundings, even in the winter. No one
will feel sorry for them because they seem to be everywhere but it seems
to be a shame to 'evict' them at least twice a year.Please don't
misunderstand, I hope I'm wrong and this project works, and kudos to
those that persevered, however the past actions of the COE have given me
a healthy dose of skepticism.As they say, time will tell.cheers-----
Original Message -----
From: "David Rogles"
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Heron Pond, redux (very long)
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 2009 12:37:03 -0400

Heron Pond, redux

I am responding to the Heron Pond thread as a birder and as President of
St. Louis Audubon. I know Mick Richardson (a smart man with a Phd. in
plants; he is an international birder and very passionate about birds); I
don’t know Mr. Chang, but he is obviously concerned and equally
passionate. I emphasize that nothing I say is meant to be derogatory or
dismissive of their concerns, many of which I have shared at different
times and in different situations.

Because I am human I consider myself the smartest of men; because I am
adult I try to remember my knowledge if very finite. I trust that
professionals, in the course of doing their jobs, have considered all the
things that I might suggest and their considerations take into account
contexts of which I am completely ignorant. My suggestions are, rightly,
considered elementary, even childish. Because a lot of professionals are
kind people, I am rarely slapped too hard.

My response to my failings is to devise thought experiments. These are
often very simple, and they quickly expose the complexity of the problem.
I usually abandon the experiment when I come to realize the limits of my
knowledge. For Heron Pond my thought experiment begins with a simple
cereal bowl. The bowl can be sitting correctly, or it can be inverted (I
call this a dome). Keeping in mind the circumference of the cereal as the
edge of HP, I then think of changing the amount of cereal in the bowl and
the exposed/covered areas of the inside as the possible mudflats. I ask
myself what are the relevant considerations? Certainly, to name a few,
seasonality of migration, need for vegetative growth (seasonal), wildlife
viewing (a bowl works better than a dome-think about it in the context of
a circum-navigating trail), need for habitat for resident birds (both
winter residents and summer), the need for control of water regardless of
weather (extends the seasonality concept), the need for the managed area
to be independent of the rest of the area.

It becomes apparent that the existing HP, before the improvements, is a
natural bowl. It is not independent of the rest of the area. The willows
interfere with sight lines of a trail. The 4 or 5 feet difference will
mostly not be used, but now, in times of high water will provide high mud
flats. The bowl provides site lines unbroken around the circumference.
The blinds are on skids that enable them to be moved out of harms way
(and being wood, as a last resort they might float). The control
structure allows water to be put in and out of HP independent of the rest
of the area. When migrations requiring mudflats overlaps with migrations
requiring water, then HP can be set up for mudflats and the rest of the
area can be set up for water. (Think late winter ducks and very early
spring shorebirds.) The willows are a stage in serial succession; with
wetlands being so limited it seems silly to let the remaining wetlands
convert. They must be managed.

The willows will not change anything among the non-shorebird species.
Herons and Egrets don’t feed on willows, only roost. I suspect that
both species travel many miles from their roosts to feed during the
day-in SE MO I find them up to 30 miles from their night roost, and I can
find their roost by tracking their evening travels. Kingfishers nest, I
believe, in the banks of rivers and creeks. Nothing in HP is nesting
habitat for Kingfishers. I think you can see where this is going-a lot of
planning by very smart people went into this project. St. Louis Audubon
has been agitating for some time and the Corps, to its credit, has
responded magnificently. The professionals at the Corps have asked for
input, we provided, things were discussed, etc. Paul Bauer’s 40-year
dream, and John Solodar’s many years of volunteer work, and the
willing, even eager, participation of Pat and Charlie and the others at
the Corps have gifted the St. Louis area with a new, improved, birding
destination.

Those that know me understand that I am passionate about birds. I am also
extremely pessimistic about the long-term survival (I am thinking 30
years here) of birds. I often say that we are the last of the birders;
our grandkids will not see the diversity of life we have these days.
Projects like this give me some hope. I would like to see 100,000 acres
of floodplain for the birds and wildlife in St. Charles Co; it is not
going to happen.

St. Louis Audubon will continue to push for habitat improvement. We need
help with the Little Creve Coeur project, a project which has the same
concerns as Riverlands, but is strapped by a lack of cash (the County
parks), leadership inertia, the politics of big money (they want Home
Depots in every floodplain- I know a few birders that refuse to shop in
floodplains, but we don’t make much difference in the dollars). We
would like to see more opposition to the casino development next to
Columbia Bottom; our VP-Conservation, Karen Meyer, and our Executive
Director, Mitch Leachman have attended many meetings about this project.
I welcome anyone interested in helping to contact me- visit the St. Louis
Audubon website for contact information. And if you want to discuss HP,
feel free to stop by Heron Pond and strike up a conversation. I will be
the one with a smile on his face.


Dave Rogles
President, St. Louis Audubon Society
St. Charles Co.

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