For Isabel Luevano, rehabilitating lost and injured baby birds is a small way of making up for the effects humans have on the earth.
"Even though people do so much harm to nature and wildlife and the ecosystem in general, it's a really good feeling to know you're helping a part of it, doing better things rather than worse things," said Luevano, a rehabilitation technician for International Bird Rescue, after releasing a flock of juvenile birds into the wild at the Laguna de Santa Rosa on Wednesday.
All but one of the 22 birds, a mix of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons, were born in one of Santa Rosa's more peculiar natural features: a nesting site for hundreds of egrets and herons in two huge trees in the median along West Ninth Street, in the midst of one of the city's most densely populated areas.
Bird Release At Laguna de Santa Rosa
These birds either fell or jumped from their nests before they were ready to fly. In a wilderness nest, they would be relatively safe on the ground until they learned to fly, but given the urban location many of these hatchlings plop down helplessly on the busy street, vulnerable to cars, people and predators.
Volunteers from Santa Rosa's Bird Rescue Center patrol the area rigorously during the nesting season, said Mary Ellen Rayner, executive director of the center. They scoop up the lost and injured chicks and send them to the International Bird Rescue Center in Fairfield, which specializes in raising waterfowl such as these.
Every year more than 100 Santa Rosa-born chicks wind up in the care of the facility, which feeds and protects them until they grow large enough to fly, and nurses injured animals back to health.
The birds released Wednesday were six or seven weeks old.
In previous years, the center has released rescued Santa Rosa birds elsewhere in the state, but this year it decided to do something new: release the young birds in the Laguna de Santa Rosa, just a few miles from the nests where they hatched.
The birds were tagged with identity bands, allowing researchers and bird watchers to identify them later, so rescuers will be able to tell where the animals end up.
Next year, they hope to see that at least some of the birds were able to get back and breed in their old home trees.