Shell Beach residents battling sea birds

July 2, 2010

Dennis Eamon Young Photo

BY AIMEE VASQUEZ and KAREN VELIE

A colony of Cormorants’ invasion into a Shell Beach neighborhood has left homes splattered with excrement and neighbors questioning why they were forced to allow the birds to nest in their neighborhood.

Cormorants are known to move into an area, cover the landscape in droppings, which kills the trees before the birds move on.

And while public officials debated the definition of an “active nest,” homeowners along Ocean Boulevard were required to allow the invasive birds to roost in their backyards at a cost to their financial and physical health.

In the neighborhood, dried fowl excrement floats in the air like volcanic ash and fresh feces rains unpredictably from above. The stench burns the eyes and constricts the throat.

“It is constant,” resident Bruce Eisengart said. “If it’s not misty, it’s solid rain. I wear a hooded sweatshirt.”

On Thursday, tree trimmers removed the nests and trimmed a 90-year-old Monterey cypress tree, where a flock of Double-Crested Cormorant had roosted. Nevertheless, the neighbors contend that if the city had allowed them to scare the birds away before they had laid their eggs, their problems could have been avoided.

Some of the neighbors have left their homes because of the birds. Other are using breathing treatments to combat the effects of what one said was like living at the bottom of a bird cage.

“Because of this I have to take respirator treatments during the day and an inhaler,” Ellen Hudachek said. “I think this is deplorable.

“These birds are not unique to the area. In other areas they are allowed to shoot them.”

During the past few months, the homeowners have found dead birds and chunks of fish scattered throughout their yards.

Georganne Ferini’s said she has been spending $200 a week to have her walkways and patio power washed. Her grandchildren no longer visit because of the health risks.

In March, not long after the birds began to build their nests, Eisengart brought in falcons, a water truck and began trimming some branches in an effort to scare away the birds.

His attempt was short lived. A neighbor complained to Pismo Beach Police who told him to leave the birds alone because of federal laws that prohibit hazing migratory birds with active nests.

“The planning department said it was a no go, so we shut him down,” said Pismo Beach Police Chief Jeff Norton. “At that time it was thought that if a nest was in, it was an active nest.

“We were very sympathetic. It is clearly a health hazard,” Norton added.

Commander Jake Miller, assigned by the chief to assist Eisengart, contacted officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and was told that an active nest meant one with an egg or a young bird in it.

However, Pismo Beach Associate Planner Michael Gruver said that they had a letter that said an active nest meant a constructed nest.

“We were getting mixed messages from Fish and Wildlife,” Norton said.

And while officials debated the meaning of an active nest, the birds finished constructing their lairs and laid their eggs.

As a result, Eisengart had to file for a depredation permit to remove the colony of federally protected though non-endangered fowl.

The permit says that “in order to minimize the risk of illnesses from Double Crested Cormorant colony feces and regurgitant,” Eisengart is permitted to remove limbs and nests in which the eggs had hatched and the fledglings are able to fly.

Eisengart contends that if the city had been aware of the meaning of the law, he could have scared the birds away before they had laid their eggs.

He estimates the cost of removing the birds and repairing the damage will exceed $25,000.

“It’s a health hazard to people and people need to come first,” Hudachek added.

The following photo gallery is by Dennis Eamon Young. See more of the photographers work at www.DennisEamonYoungPhoto.com.


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14 Comments

  1. Rudyn says:

    Remember!!!
    Humans first, animals second, and insects third on the food chain. You people displaying jealousy over people having homes overlooking the ocean should get off your duffs and work as everyone else to be able to upgrade your lifestyle. BE FAIR!!!!!!!!!

    Rudyn

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
  2. voiceofreason says:

    What a relief for these residents and the people of Shell Beach that had to deal with this unfathomable infestation until they were granted the bureaucratic approval to protect their own homes! As a land owner, no one should have to tolerate this level of disturbance and destruction. Too bad this happened in California, anywhere else and a bird infestation of this degree could have simply be taken care of with a 12 gauge.

    (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
  3. cheseburger says:

    I read the rad article to my five year old, I guess she watched to much Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny because she say’s “twelve gauge” right of the bat, when she got the drift. Of course take out the lead shot and scare the birds away, and I agree, they can live up on the hill that has not been devoured by man kind yet.

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
    • Army says:

      Ahh, the unadulterated wisdom of children.

      Perhaps you should listen to her more often.

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
      • cheseburger says:

        Hey Army, you only take orders or give them, you are instructed not to listen just to do and I listen to my daughter all the time because I allege she can talk as well as you, she is five.

        (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  4. cheseburger says:

    The people who could afford to bought these luxurious beach front homes and some fall into the sea, some others get a little bleached, but this takes the cake,”A colony of Cormorants’ invasion into a Shell Beach neighborhood has left homes splattered with excrement.” This is laughable, you get what you pay for. An excrement inhalator’s dream home, the sales flier reads.

    (-3) 17 Total Votes - 7 up - 10 down
  5. Maxfusion says:

    Excellent, these creatures of the natural world have every right to crap on the residents of Shell Beach. Humans are invaders of this once natural habitat, and the birds are the rightful owners. Call any of the many environmental organizations to which you liberals swear fealty, and they’ll verify what I’m saying. Open wide.

    (-15) 25 Total Votes - 5 up - 20 down
    • Army says:

      So, we are NOT creatures of the natural world? Invaders? As there were no trees there to roost in BEFORE us evil human extraterrestrial invaders planted them, logic says that the birds invaded OUR unnatural world.

      I suggest Maxfusion remove all his/her clothes and eschew all traipings of humaness…including the unnatural human computer, powered by unnaturally human produced electricity, while unnaturally relaxing in is human invader home…….

      (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down
  6. Paperboys says:

    The thing with all seabird crap is it’s full of tiny little fish bones that can stick in your bare feet (or hands) and become infected.
    This story is a perfect example off why it’s best to seek forgiveness than to get permission.
    The guy should have just taken care of the problem without telling anyone or going to City Hall to ask for permission.
    But once the city guy said No, he and his neighbors should have trudged down to the next city council meeting and raised hell. Putt out blankets for the birds to crap on and take them to the council chambers to be unfurled on live TV. That might have gotten someone’s attention. It’s called ”raising a stink” — literally.
    Let this be a lesson for everyone, don’t take a mid-level bureaucrat’s final answer on anything. There is always someone higher up or an elected board who can over rule them.

    (23) 29 Total Votes - 26 up - 3 down
    • cheseburger says:

      Best one ever! LOL! And you are oh so right,”Putt out blankets for the birds to crap on and take them to the council chambers to be unfurled”!!!!!!!!!!!!

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  7. Rudyn says:

    The Green Peace, NRDC, Sierra Club, Surf Rider, WWF,and Audubon Society members should spend some time at the homes involved with the Cormorants…I did visit there and WOW what stench and filthy air to breathe. Definitely disease catching conditions. I certainly refuse to support any of those organizations that do not place Human health above birds or insects. Those people who cherish birds over human health resent the fact that anyone who afford to live in a choice location overlooking the ocean must be punished somehow. This is not fair!

    Rudyn

    (17) 33 Total Votes - 25 up - 8 down
  8. coyote says:

    It’s rather ironic. I wonder how many of those people contribute to Green Peace, NRDC, Sierra Club, Surf Rider, WWF and National Audubon Society. ad nauseum…

    (8) 18 Total Votes - 13 up - 5 down

Comments are closed.