Egrets invade Bastrop County

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

khou.com

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 6:35 PM

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas -- It's a sight the people on Laura Lane haven't seen before -- thousands upon thousands of cattle egrets, great egrets, snowy egrets and little blue herons making themselves at home on less than an acre of land in a residential neighborhood.

"It's a mess," said Rick New who lives right next door. 

"It's the first time that we're aware that there's been a nesting colony in this residential area," said Greg Creacy, a wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. 

Creacy said the birds normally set up their colonies near lakes. This time, they chose an area just north of the City of Bastrop.

"They are coming together to build their nests, lay their eggs, you know, hatch their young," Creacy explained. 

In the process, they make an obnoxious sound all day and all night. Their acidic droppings desecrate the land beneath them. Then there's the unique odor.

"The smell is unbelievable," New said, comparing it to ammonia.

Luckily, the people on Laura Lane won't have to deal with the birds for too much longer. They should be gone by late July or early August, and in the meantime, they will do some good.

"It's not very often that we get to view such a large congregation of nesting birds up close," said Creacy. "And the birds serve an important purpose to us. They eat mass quantities of insects."

"I'll take the bugs over the birds," laughed New.

New and his family don't have a choice. Since the birds have started building their nests and laying their eggs, they are federally protected, making it illegal to kill them or try to get rid of them.

So homeowners are counting down the days until the smallest egrets are big enough to disperse across Central Texas before making their fall flight to the Texas coast.

"Can't come soon enough," added New. "So we'll see. Just wait them out I reckon."

Waiting them out is all the neighbors can do because for now, the menacing neighbors are here to stay. 

Bastrop County isn't the first area with this type of egret problem. Homeowners in Taylor have waged war against the birds in the past. Now they aren't coming back into their neighborhoods. The secret is to make noise when they first come to an area, generally in March and April, because the birds like quite areas.

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