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Anti-oil protests in Anacortes coincide with blue heron nesting season

A great blue heron soars along the beach near the Edmonds, Wash. ferry dock on April 14, 2008. A kayak protest planned for May 13-15, 2016 in Anacortes may impact a large colony of herons nesting and feeding their young.
A great blue heron soars along the beach near the Edmonds, Wash. ferry dock on April 14, 2008. A kayak protest planned for May 13-15, 2016 in Anacortes may impact a large colony of herons nesting and feeding their young. Associated Press

Thousands of people are planning to rally in Anacortes this weekend to protest the oil flowing from two refineries in the area.

But some worry that the more than 2,000 people expected at March Point, on land and in kayaks, also could interfere with the region’s largest colony of great blue herons.

Biologist Ann Eissinger tells KUOW-FM that the cause may be noble but the timing and location of the event are terrible for about 1,700 adult herons that breed at March Point. The birds are currently are foraging to feed the babies in their nests. She’s worried all the activity from the protests do real damage.

“They’re in the middle of their nesting cycle,” she said. “In some areas, we have as many as 500 to 700 herons feeding at one time. So these are highly sensitive areas and the food is so important for the young.”

Event spokesman Ahmed Gaya says organizers have adjusted their plans to minimize the impact on herons. They’ve moved the location to avoid critical habitat, modified when kayakers would be in the bay and make other changes.

He says the nearby Shell and Tesoro oil refineries ultimately pose a bigger threat to the birds.

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