Feb 21, 2014
Possible Black Crowned Night Heron rookery and the West Bank Horner Restoration Project: Pete Leki's comments
The project to restore the west bank of the river at Horner Park is soon scheduled to begin. I think that the energetic and creative last-minute input of neighbors helped to produce a revised project that was more complex, preserved more trees, and initiated many new connections between our community, Horner Park, Friends of the Chicago River, the Chicago Dept of Environment, and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE).
Late in the process some of our neighbors raised the issue of the existence of a rookery of Black Crowned Night Herons, (a species listed as endangered in Illinois) on stretches of the west bank tree canopy scheduled for removal.
There have been several attempts by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to assess and re-assess the truth to these claims. And there has been a series of visits to the site by a variety of bird experts.
The results have proved confounding and have failed to resolve the issue. This is partly because the extreme harshness of the weather makes access to the exact location of the potential rookery difficult, and partly because of ..... other complications.
I think that it would be wise, and fruitful, and unifying to have a definitive assessment of the claim of a Black Crowned Night Heron (BCNH) rookery before any work commences which might destroy an actual one.
I am not a bird expert. I know a few bird experts. I am not a wrangler for agencies, conservation organizations, or impassioned champions of a certain way of looking at things. But, I think the project, and the public goodwill towards the restoration project, would be well served by a general consensus among the birding, conservation and local activists as to the actual state of nesting of BCNHs in the neighborhood.
Director of Ecology Programs, Waters School
Organizer. Riverbank Neighbors