A popular Redwood Shores bird-watching pond was drained Friday as officials try containing an outbreak of avian cholera they believe is behind the death of 150 ducks in the past week.
The South Bayside System Authority’s pond — technically called a landscape impoundment at 1400 Radio Road in southeast Redwood Shores — draws tens of thousands of birds and birdwatchers. But ducks began dying Friday, Jan. 3 and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials think the avian cholera confirmed in Hayward has spread to the Peninsula.
Fish and Wildlife has collected dead birds and sent them to a facility for necropsies and confirmation of the suspected cause. The removal of the remaining fowl and draining of the pond is a preemptive move, said SBSA Manager Dan Child.
Child said SBSA spoke with several agencies about the situation and ultimately made the call to nip the problem by eliminating the water.
“It is believed that draining the area is in the best interest of the health of the birds that frequent the area,” Child said in an email to the Daily Journal.
Although avian cholera can be fatal to waterfowl, gulls and other species, it does not pose a threat to humans, Melisa Amato, wildlife refuge specialist and hunt program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, said in a prepared statement.
Child said there is not an estimated timeline for when the pond may be refilled, or if it even can be, but expects that at least several months are needed to stabilize and test the soil first.
“We realize this area is a very nice bird watching site and want to make sure the birds are safe as our first priority,” Child said.
Draining is just the beginning. With the water out, the next step is addressing a large area of mud and bird droppings that Child expects will have “extremely high” odor levels. The plan is to mitigate the smell while stabilizing the soil — a process he expects will take months to accomplish.
The pond has stood on the west side of the sewage treatment plant since 1998 when it was created to eliminate dust from the barren dirt which in turn helps protect the plant’s equipment. Recycled water refreshes what the pond loses through evaporation and the Sequoia Audobon Society estimates birdwatchers can see more than 10,000 birds at the site.
Amata asks public help with the birth death investigation by reporting any mass die-off greater than 10 — especially if the birds appear fresh and with no other obvious signs of death — to the agency by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102