(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Peggy Holman, Ward 2 alderwoman, said she had received several complaints of noise cannons being shot off, which are intended to disrupt nesting for the species in the property. These species were identified by the United States Departments of Agriculture as cattle egrets, snowy egrets, great egrets, little blue herons and black-crowned night herons.
All of these birds are considered migratory and protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which states the birds cannot be harassed or moved once they begin nesting. The city could be fined up to $15,000 for each killed bird or destroyed egg, she said.
"I came out here because I didn't want the city fined," Holman said. "And to protect the birds."
Holman said she went to the site Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning, when she found several nests, with the assistance of Leother Branch, Scott County conservation agent. "We found nests with eggs in them and also a nest with some baby egrets in it," Branch said.
"The plan is still in place, but we cannot actively initiate this plan until the end of July or first of August," Allen said. "Not until they have actively stopped nesting."
No active nests were observed on the property as of Friday, according to a letter dated June 5 from USDA wildlife biologist Robert Byrd. He urged the thinning as soon as possible, however. The noise cannons, which were also USDA-approved, were removed Wednesday, Allen said.
Those plans will resume in a couple of months. "Once the eggs hatch and those birds are able to fly, then they can go in there and manipulate that area and do anything they see fit," Branch said. "We'll go back and investigate and make sure there's no active nests in there."
The plans came about after a complaint from Frank and Sandy Wright, who live near the area in question. The birds have a foul stench and also present damage issues including human health and safety, vegetative destruction and aircraft strikes.
"When these species congregate to nest in urban areas, disease transmission to humans is a threat. Active rookeries contain airborne particles of dried excrement and down feathers," Byrd wrote. Common diseases associated with the rookeries include salmonella poisoning, psittacosis-ornithosis and histoplasmosis. Bird activities in areas also lead to defoliation of plants.
Allen worked to contact the property owner, who lives out of town, and other agencies to follow protocol. "The owner will be billed for the services at a very reasonable cost," he said. He declined to give the negotiated amount.
Once the vegetation is cut, officials will let it lay for several weeks, Allen said.
It will then be burnt, after wheat from a neighboring field has been harvested.
The problem is nothing new to the area, Branch, Allen and Holman agreed.
"The former administration was very aware of this problem," Allen said. "They just kind of slid it under the back burner."
Holman, who was elected in 2006, said Allen has never brought the issue before the current council.