Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Cliff swallows resume nesting on Petaluma River bridge

Cliff swallows resume nesting on Petaluma River bridge

As avian aficionados know, cliff swallows are tenacious creatures, birds that return to their preferred nesting locations decade after decade.
And so they’ve returned again to the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River, after causing disruption to the four-year highway widening project and endangering their nesting rituals.
A coalition of environmental groups and animal activists sued Caltrans in 2013 after more than five dozen birds died in netting the agency erected to try to prevent the birds from building their conical mud abodes in the safety of the concrete bridge supports.
About 800 of the birds — which are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act — have returned to the bridge area this year, Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk said.
They are being allowed to freely nest on the underside of the newly constructed center lanes of the bridge and portions of the old southbound lanes of the bridge. But Caltrans is trying to prevent them from nesting in active construction zones by erecting plastic sheeting and hand-scraping or pressure- washing to remove the beginnings of nests.
Bird lovers are keeping an eagle eye on the work, which was signed off on by both sides in a three-year settlement agreement.
“We’re concerned that they’re not being proactive enough,” said Veronica Bowers, director of Native Songbird Care and Conservation, one of the groups that has pressured Caltrans to protect the birds. “It requires daily action on their part. We’re concerned that it’s not happening and we’ve seen some evidence to support that.”
Read more at: Swallows resume nesting on Petaluma River Bridge | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on State adds funds to Petaluma River Bridge project to protect birds

State adds funds to Petaluma River Bridge project to protect birds

Caltrans will spend an additional $5.5 million to keep federally protected birds away from its construction site on the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River.
The California Transportation Commission last week approved the amount, acknowledging for the first time the extent of the project’s budget overrun because of measures taken to date — and those that will be needed going forward — to assure birds are not harmed by construction.
The allocation comes as construction crews are busy preparing to demolish a part of the old highway bridge before the migratory cliff swallows return next month from their winter grounds in South America.
The birds for years have made their conical mud nests under the Petaluma River Bridge, which consists of two 907-foot parallel spans. When Caltrans in 2013 embarked on a $130 million project to replace the structure with a wider, six-lane bridge, workers installed nets under the two existing spans to keep the birds from nesting. The nets actually trapped and killed dozens of birds, prompting a lawsuit from a coalition of wildlife advocates.
As part of a settlement agreement, Caltrans took down the nets during the 2014 nesting season and replaced them with hard plastic siding that discourages nesting under the bridge. Caltrans also agreed to pay for biologists to monitor the work site and ensure bird safety, and agreed to demolish the old bridge outside of nesting season, which runs from Feb. 15 to Aug. 15.
The additional expenditures for bird monitoring, legal fees and staff time dealing with the bird issue, including public outreach, raised some eyebrows with the Transportation Commission.
Read more via State adds $5 million to Petaluma River Bridge | The Press Democrat.