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Blue herons take flight

PITKIN COUNTY A wildlife biologist confirmed Wednesday that great blue herons in a midvalley colony have flown the coop, so to speak, but he is uncertain if a new trail is to blame.Jonathan Lowsky checked the colony near Rock Bottom Ranch Wednesday with an officer from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Lowsky is a consultant working with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on wildlife issues.They responded to complaints by homeowners in the area that use of a new trail RFTA built between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Bridge scared the herons away this spring.”There are so many things that could have caused this abandonment that to say it was the trail would be a stretch,” Lowsky said. On the other hand, use of the trail could have played a role, he said”I am not in any way saying the trail is not the cause. We don’t know,” Lowsky said. “Is it an awfully curious coincidence that it happened within a week of this trail opening? Yes.”Wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton said the officer who visited the site concurred that is it uncertain whether the trail played a contributing role.Area residents Jim Duke, and Shep and Mary Harris brought the abandonment to the attention of RFTA officials last week. They said the nests in trees along the Roaring Fork River were abandoned about a week after the trail opened May 1.Mary Harris demanded “immediate action” in a letter to RFTA to salvage the heronry. Duke said the trail should remain closed longer each spring to give the herons a chance to hatch their eggs and raise their young.The trail opened in October. RFTA restricted use of a 2 3/4-mile stretch from Dec. 1 to May 1 because of wildlife concerns. The wildlife division advised keeping it closed until May 1 for the benefit of herons; RFTA honored the request.Lowsky said he is uncertain at this point if he will recommend that RFTA extend the closure of the trail. “That needs more thought,” he said. He has contacted “heron experts” and is consulting research materials.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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