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Thread: Tree removal at UTSW

  1. #41
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Default Rookery is well populated this year

    Marie-Alda, Chalo and I walked the periphery of the rookery just around sundown on Tuesday, May 19, and were happy to note that the rookery seems to be very well populated this year. If the trimming around the periphery discouraged any birds from nesting there, it's not possible for us to tell that. It seems to me that there are more Little Blue Herons nesting than I saw during drought years. Among the rarer birds, we discovered an Anhinga nest during our walk. A day later Kastubh, a photographer, found three Tricolored Heron nests. He posted links to four photos of the adults in another thread on this forum. Last week we saw about 100 White Ibis fly into the rookery at 7:45 in the evening, so those once rarer birds are becoming more common. All in all, the state of the rookery looks rather encouraging, despite the poison ivy that popped up around parts of the edge where the former stumps of cut trees have been removed, particularly near the pond. Other poison ivy plants seem to have become obscured by the taller ragweed plants.

    Birds are nesting right at the edges of the rookery in places, in spite of the loss of buffer zone, but they do get disturbed when people walk by. The Cattle Egrets are particularly skittish, being closest to the edges.

  2. #42

    Default Re: Tree removal at UTSW

    I'm bringing back this thread from the past to ask for your collective help.

    The UTSWMC rookery, although not in imminent danger, needs official recognition and protection to ensure it remains a safe haven for the thousands of birds who nest there annually. Because the UTSWMC answers to the UT System's Board of Regents and the Board of Regents answers to the state legislature, it's time to push both to acknowledge and safeguard the rookery.

    So here's how you can help.

    (1) Send an e-mail to the Board of Regents. Here are the e-mail addresses to send to: (for the whole Board) (for UT System feedback) (for Vice Chancellor Tonya Moten Brown who's in charge of facilities management) (for Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa who's the UT System CEO)

    (2) If you live in Texas, contact your state senators and representatives. Go to to find out who they are and to access contact pages for them (some don't have contact pages, so you might have to write a real letter).

    (3) Whether or not you live in Texas, contact the following people.
    Senator Judith Zaffirini, Chair of the Higher Education Committee (to whom the Board of Regents answers):
    Representative Allan Ritter, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee:
    Representative Dennis Bonnen, Chair of the Land & Resource Management Committee:

    Finally, here's a copy of the e-mail I sent. You're welcome to copy it verbatim, modify it to fit your personal taste, use it for ideas, or ignore it entirely.
    Chancellors Cigarroa and Brown, and other concerned parties:

    It behooves me to write on behalf of the colonial-nesting wading birds and other avian inhabitants of the Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center campus in North Texas.

    As you no doubt already know, habitat loss has reduced native nesting areas in Texas to a fraction of what they once were for species such as the great egret, black-crowned night-heron, cattle egret, little blue heron, tricolored heron, white ibis and snowy egret. In addition to a lack of available space, recent scientific studies clearly show climate change is forcing coastal species such as these to move further north; a 2007 study from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University showed ongoing drought and higher temperatures in Texas had already begun, and in response the Gulf ecosystem can no longer support the diversity of life it once did.

    The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas has officially hosted a thriving rookery (nesting area for many species) for at least half a century, the space playing host to thousands of nests and many thousands of birds--all within a 3.5 acre motte. Circumstantial and anecdotal evidence indicate the nesting area has been used for almost three-quarters of a century. More than 70 bird species were identified during the most recent census of inhabitants.

    While the UT Southwestern administration has maintained the rookery in response to a promise made to Dr. Charles Sprague with regards to protecting and respecting the site, it seems prudent now to officially acknowledge this urban marvel and act to protect it so long as the birds choose to nest there.

    I am writing to ask for your support in declaring the UT Southwestern Medical Center rookery a protected nature sanctuary, including the Memorial Garden. As such, it should receive official recognition as a safe harbor for the multitude of birds who utilize it, and it should be safeguarded for future generations of people and birds alike. Under the guise of the UT System's "special responsibility" to manage the land responsibly, ensuring the safety of the rookery falls well within that mandate.

    This same proposal is being presented to the Legislature of the State of Texas as means to protect our natural heritage and the increasingly limited habitat available for native fauna, especially in light of our rapidly and dramatically changing environment.

    Thank you in advance for your attention and consideration.

    Best regards,

    Jason M Hogle
    Please, take a few minutes to speak out on this issue to the people who can protect it.
    Jason M Hogle

  3. #43

    Default Re: Tree removal at UTSW

    Thank you, Jason, for taking initiative. As a UT Southwestern employee and rookery birder, I will do anything I can to help.

    I have e-mailed each of the parties you listed, and will do the same for congress reps and additional contacts you listed this evening.


  4. #44
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Default Rookery Update

    The Birds

    The appalling, relentless triple-digit heat is severely stressing the birds at the rookery -- the youngsters in particular, but some adult Anhingas have died as well, from heat or causes unknown. This species seems to be particularly vulnerable for some reason. The pond dried up before the last big rain, so supplemental water is now being provided by members of the Heron and Egret Society and by the UTSWMC maintenance & grounds department, although they tend to need some prodding since they don't make a point of monitoring the condition of the pond. Many young birds have been taken to Rogers Wildlife. Not all of them live, despite everyone's best efforts to save them.

    (I planned to provide a link to the more detailed report written by Marie-Alda Gilles-Gonzalez to the members of the Heron and Egret Society, but Chalo has been so busy hunting for reported birds in distress, catching them and taking them to Rogers Wildlife that he hasn't had time to post the last few of these reports on the Society's website, so I'll quote it in the next post.)

    Interpretive signs to be erected soon

    The interpretive sign Anna Palmer and I designed, with photos by Anna and Danator (Daniel Lim) has been completed, reviewed, modified and approved. Two copies are being manufactured by Kinko's and will be collected and paid for Monday by the sign department at UTSWMC, which will then install them, one in the vicinity of the Memorial garden and one along Campus Drive. There's a pdf version of it here if you want to have a look:

    Heron and Egret Society website

    The Heron and Egret Society has started its own website here: -- check it out!

    Rookery blogging

    Jason Hogle, besides his efforts to get the rookery granted protected nature sanctuary status (for which kudos!), has been blogging about the rookery. Here are links to the first three parts of a projected four-part series (I'll add the link to the fourth part when it's written):

    Another WFAA Report

    Janet St. James of WFAA and cameramen will be at the rookery at 10 tomorrow morning (Friday) to shoot another segment for the evening news. Some of us will be there to observe and provide input.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Default State of the birds

    Here's Marie-Alda's detailed report on the state of the birds that I promised in my previous post. It's quite depressing.

    Today's News of the Rookery
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009
    By email from Professor Marie-Alda Gilles-Gonzalez

    Hello everyone,

    A cliche of science-fiction stories ever since H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is the idea that hostile aliens would want to gorge themselves on humans. Wells was a brilliant storyteller and prescient social critic who keenly followed the developments of his age and beautifully wove them into his novels. Unfortunately he lived when biochemistry was in its infancy.

    Modern writers of science fiction should know better. Aliens from other worlds could never consume humans nor, for that matter, any other earthlings. The scientific reason for this, of course, is that we can only consume what we can recycle: amino acids that will be incorporated into our proteins, nucleic acids that will become part of our DNA, vitamins that will assist the biochemical reactions needed for our bodies' functions, etc. Put more poetically, the act of eating is a communion with family. This brings me to the main point that I wish to make here: the notion that we exist independently of other living beings is an illusion. All that we breathe, eat, drink, and excrete, passes along its way, connecting us to all that exists, as so much water flowing over the pebbles in a river.

    I am sorry to report that things recently turned for the worse at the rookery, and the birds are suffering unimaginably of the severe drought. About two thirds of the rookery’s denizens have already fled.

    This Summer, we are rescuing the juveniles of Anhingas and Black-Crowned Night Herons: species who have rarely or never before needed our help. For the rescued Great Egrets, this past week the mortality shot up to about one in four. Initially, I was overjoyed to be able to see the rarer juveniles, but now I realize this to be very sad news. These are the early-arriving species who had the greatest chance of a successful season.

    For the late-arriving species, such as the tricolor herons and little-blue herons, the majority of the nests have failed. Bird lovers and photographers who monitor the rookery tell me that many of the eggs did not hatch for these species. Some parents took the more pragmatic course: they calculated that they could not reasonably maintain themselves and their young, and they abandoned their active nests. Others stayed and died trying.

    What is currently at stake is not the demise of the planet, as it has become so fashionable to say. This is as arrogant as imagining that when we sleep the world disappears. The planet will continue. On the other hand, our species might well become one of many index fossils, i.e. a precise marker for a geological era because its population exploded and then disappeared. What is under threat right now is the ecological ensemble to which we belong. Our lives depend on the continued well-being of this ensemble as surely as it depends on the continued beating of our hearts.

    It is for our own sakes that we must learn to “live in place” and support those plants and animals that surround us.

    Right now, we can help the birds remaining in the rookery by:

    1. Increasing the frequencing of our trips and rescues. Based on past experience, in the next few weeks we will see the worst injuries of the year. Collect any distressed birds and deliver them to Rogers Wildlife ASAP. Contact me (8-9438) or Chalo (8-2079) if you need help with the rescue or delivery.

    2. Making our work better known to others on the campus. As the juveniles begin to fly a little, they are wandering farther from home. We are already finding them in the tennis courts, the parking lots in the North campus, and various odd places. It is important that these wandering birds be discovered early.

    3. Inspecting, cleaning, and refilling the water troughs. The juvenile birds definitely drink from the water troughs that our Society has placed for them around the woods. There is a white 6-gallon container of water near the memorial garden that can be used to refill the nearby troughs. Bring gloves for handling the container and troughs. After emptying the container, refill it from the faucet by the faculty parking lot. If you cannot manage the refill, let us know that you have emptied the container, and we'll organize a refill.

    In addition, for the long term, we can help the rookery by getting it officially recognized as a bird sanctuary. Details about this are [two posts earlier in this thread].

    Additional suggestions are welcome.

    Yes, our humble little Society is making a difference. If you doubt this, drive to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and visit the birds we rescued this season. Some of them already wading about and feeding themselves.

    With best wishes,


  6. #46
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Default Tonight's WFAA news item about the rookery

    Anna Palmer, Jason Hogle and I met Professor Marie-Alda Gilles-Gonzalez and her husband Gonzalo (Chalo for short) Gonzalez at the rookery this morning for Janet St. James' shoot of the evening news item. Here's a link to the video of it:

    In case you're curious about some of the players previously named here, the elegant lady in black walking and talking with Janet St.James is Marie-Alda. The kind man holding the egret with the broken wing and pouring out minnows is Chalo, who does yeoman's work capturing injured and abandoned birds, giving them some food and water and taking them to Rogers Wildlife, and also created the Heron and Egret Society website.
    That young lady you see holding an egret in a box is Anna and the young man at the end talking about getting the rookery officially preserved is Jason. (I determinedly stayed behind the camera!)

    Here's the transcript if you can't see the video:

    An intriguing sound that's new to me this year is the gurgling trill of the young White Ibises. It has the cadence of a cicada, sometimes preceeded by a few eep eeps, as in eep eep eep eep eep rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, although more often than not it's just the rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. There are young White Ibises (which are actually quite dark on top, with dark bills) in several sizes at the moment. Good time for some photos! Some good views can be had by going left on the path after passing through the memorial garden. Go as far as around the corner a bit, where more good views can be had, especially of the largest pair of youngsters.

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Dallas, TX

    Default Re: Tree removal at UTSW

    Here's a sample of the sound of the Ibis chicks that Betsy was referring to. I recorded this today at the Rookery.


  8. #48
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Default Signs installed at last!

    Some of you who have been following this thread may remember that at our meeting with Kirby Vahle last spring, we got him to agree to replace the missing/illegible No Trespassing signs and to install a couple of interpretive signs as a way of promoting the rookery.

    I'm happy to report that these signs are now in place. Anna Palmer told me that there are about 24 No Trespassing signs -- enough to ensure that no trespasser can believably claim not to have seen one. There are two interpretive signs -- design by Anna, text mostly by me, photos by Anna, Daniel Lim and Kaustubh -- one visible from the memorial garden and one visible from the basketball court area. Anna took some photos of the signs this morning, which she posted here:

    The two that show a Great Egret apparently examining the signs are a kick!

    The rookery is really winding down now -- there are still some Great Egret chicks and a couple of Black-crowned Night-Heron chicks whose parents return to them each evening, and some young White Ibises wandering about. In another month or so it will be deserted by the colonial waterbirds for the winter. Meanwhile, members of the Heron and Egret Society are still supplying supplemental minnows and water for the youngsters that are left and taking ones that are severely stressed to Rogers Wildlife. Those birds are cared for!

  9. #49

    Default Re: Tree removal at UTSW

    Dredging up an old post here... I stopped by the rookery today for a quick look. Lots of birds. The Great Egrets have youngsters. One Tricolored heron nest, incubating. Several White Ibis nest also incubating.

    While on site, I made a point of checking on the pond by the basketball court. I was surprised to see that the screening they put in place way back at the time this thread was started is STILL in place! It is just so buried in the vegetation that it can not be seen without making an effort!

    Of concern, was the state of just a few of the signs around the perimeter. A little action now, to reattach a sign or reset a post, will save the cost of total replacement later!
    Last edited by DFW Urban Wildlife; 05-19-2013 at 07:37 PM.
    DFW Urban Wildlife
    Documenting the Diversity
    of Dallas/Fort Worth Area
    Urban Wildlife.

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