Winds take out large section of blue heron rookery by Ironbridge Golf Course

John Stroud/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

High winds that blew through the Roaring Fork Valley recently took out a portion of a long-established great blue heron rookery along the Roaring Fork River near the Ironbridge neighborhood.

River users who frequent the area south of Glenwood Springs reported the downed tree to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials this week, and District Wildlife Manager John Groves was out to inspect things on Wednesday evening and again Thursday.

Groves said the top half of one of the big old ponderosa pines that line the river in that stretch broke off and fell into the water, trapping and killing several near-fledgling birds that occupied at least four nests in that particular tree.

“When I went out there (Wednesday) night, I found one still alive in the river and pulled it out,” Groves said. “A bunch of others had made it back up into the brush out of the river.”

Numerous adult birds were also still in the area. Groves said wildlife officials will let nature take its course, and hopefully the parents birds can be reunited with the young that survived.

“As far as rehabbing a heron, that’s pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s probably been about a month since they hatched out, so they were pretty close to fledgling and learning to fly at this point.”

Groves said there are at least three or four more trees along that stretch that still have active nests, so it wasn’t a total loss.

“Over time, this particular heronry has kind of spread out along the river as other trees have died,” Groves said.

Blue herons do tend to spoil their own nesting sites over time, due to the weight of the large nests and bird excrement that builds up and can eventually kill the trees, he said.

Groves said there are about 10 other nesting sites along the Roaring Fork River from Ironbridge upstream to the area east of Carbondale, including several on the old Sanders Ranch parcel near Aspen Glen.

Two summers ago, another large ponderosa pine at Aspen Glen that had contained a bald eagle’s nest for decades also fell over into the river. The eagles had at that point abandoned that tree for another site farther upstream, Groves said.

The nesting sites along the river for both bald eagles and great blue heron have resulted in various protections being put in place as residential and golf course development has occurred, including at Ironbridge and Aspen Glen.


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