Orleans takes aim at roosting birds

Noisemakers fired at cormorants (11/11/98)
Double Crested Cormorant
A cormorant sunning at Cedar Pond off Route 6 in Orleans. Town Officials including Harbormaster/Shellfish Constable Dawson Farber are attempting to encourage the flock of birds to scatter to alterantive roosting sites as the guano causes this pond to die.
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  4. Orleans blasts away at cormorants roosting at pond



    ORLEANS - Cormorants got a warning yesterday as officials fired exploding shells at the birds roosting on the transmission lines that cross Cedar Pond. At dusk, Harbor Master Dawson Farber ferried police sharpshooter Matt Watts out to fire off the shells, which resemble cherry bomb fireworks, at birds returning to roost for the night. The booms emptied the wires for a few minutes but the cormorants straggled back, observers said.

    Yesterday's firing was only to sight out safe lines of fire away from Route 6 and houses on the pond and gauge the birds' reaction. "Today we're not shooting any birds, just the 'scare' shells to see what the reaction may be," Police Chief William Stone told selectmen yesterday morning. "If you should decide to kill some birds, then we'll use the same team. Again, the goal is not to kill every bird in sight but to scare them away." Orleans got a federal permit to kill some cormorants, which arrive in the spring from their Louisiana wintering grounds and stay until fall, because of the health risk to pond abutters and the pond itself. The white dust from the droppings of thousands of birds each summer is sickening residents and clogging and killing the pond.

    To scare away the birds, the Orleans team will fire off a mix of the exploding shells as well as shoot to kill three to five birds a day for six or seven days. "Then we'll see what happens," Stone said. "My gut feeling is that we'll scare away the few birds left but we'll have to do it all over again in the spring. The thousands of birds that come back from Louisiana won't know what happened here."

    Catfish farmers in Louisiana also have federal permits to kill and scare away cormorants because the birds feast on their fish.

    Cormorants are back - it's a blast

    Orleans to use rockets to scare birds from Cedar Pond

    Cape Cod Times (5/1/99) ORLEANS - Screeching skyrockets and booming cannons will greet cormorants Monday as they fly in for a night's roost over Cedar Pond. With the noisy pyrotechnics, Orleans is trying to scare the birds away from the transmission lines over the pond, which has been fouled by the cormorants' droppings for the past several summers. "We no longer think we need to kill the birds but only harass them," Police Chief William Stone said after researching scare tactics with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Last year, Orleans provoked an outcry by getting a federal permit to shoot a few cormorants, if necessary, to scare away the thousands of birds that roost around the pond. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty, it's illegal to kill or even harass the double-crested cormorant without a federal permit. The town fired its first shots last November, scaring a few birds, but most cormorants already had flown to southern states for the winter. Now the cormorants are back. Two weeks ago there were 50 to 75 birds on the transmission lines during Stone's visit with a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At 7 p.m. Thursday, about 150 birds were perching on the wires, one of their last nights of peace.

    Starting Monday, six shooters around the pond will fire 12-gauge shotguns loaded with firecrackers, like skyrockets, which will arc into the air and explode near the arriving cormorants. A cannon, fueled by propane gas, will blast periodically. Since cormorants won't fly after dark, they may find another place to land for the night, in another town, Stone said. After three to seven nights, the birds will roost someplace else for the summer, the USDA advises Stone from its successes elsewhere in the country. The fireworks display in Orleans will be repeated at least twice, at two-week intervals, to scare away new waves of cormorants migrating north from their winter habitat down south. "By July 1, we will have solved the problem, at least for this year," said Stone, who is becoming an expert on the goose-sized diving birds that like to return each year to the nesting place where they spent their youth. "It'll take three years to really rid the pond of cormorants. The residents will have to put up with a little noise."

    The residents welcome the noise after years of asking for a solution from the town and Commonwealth Electric Co., the owner of the transmission lines. The white dust from the droppings of thousands of birds creates a health risk to pond abutters and the pond itself, they say. Police are looking for volunteers to shoot off the fireworks. The volunteers must have a firearms permit or a license to carry a gun. Anybody interested may call Anne Reynolds at 255-0117. The first week's scare tactics are financed by $2,882.50 from several wildlife groups that urged the town to scare rather than kill the cormorants. Contributions came from the Cape Codders for Wildlife Protection, Orenda Wildlife Trust, Pegasus Foundation, International Wildlife Coalition and the Humane Society of the United States, Stone said.

    The money helped the town start the three-week program without delay. The police department will seek a transfer from the town's reserve fund to cover the project's cost, estimated at $2,900 per week. The cost covers $2,000 for fireworks and $900 for a supervising policeman. The growing number of double-crested cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus, is at historically high levels in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The birds feed mostly on fish and will fly as far as 25 miles from their roosts to find food. Catfish farmers in Louisiana and 14 other states got federal permits in 1998 to kill and scare away the cormorants that feast in catfish ponds. A major cormorant control program in Maine in the 1960s and 1970s to benefit Atlantic salmon restoration efforts was largely ineffective. This spring, three Lake Ontario fishing guides and seven others pleaded guilty to slaughtering as many as 2,000 federally protected cormorants last summer in eastern Lake Ontario. The estimated 7,500 nesting pairs on the lake's Little Galloo Island are blamed for declines in the lake's smallmouth bass. New York officials plan to reduce the colony to 1,500 nests in five years by killing adult birds and spraying eggs with oil to keep them from hatching. Fear of not flying

    Orleans blasts away at cormorants roosting at pond

    STAFF WRITER Cape Cod Times (5/5/99)
    ORLEANS - At 5:45 p.m. yesterday, about 50 cormorants were roosting for the night on the transmission lines over Cedar Pond in Orleans. At the first boom of a cannon, the flock of double-breasted cormorants scattered and fled. For the next two hours, until 7:50 p.m., no cormorants landed on the wires as a ring of five shotgun-toting volunteers fired shells that flashed and exploded near any birds that dared to surface in the pond off Route 6.
    Double Crested Cormorant
    Cormorants flew away from bird bombs fired over Cedar Pond in Orleans last night. Jake Berrick, 16, fires one of the bombs to frighten cormorants off the wires where they roost. (Staff photo by Ron Schloerb)

      Last night's fog magnified the explosions. The birds would fly in, one or two at a time, or collect in small groups, their necks sticking up like periscopes from the pond. At the sound of firing, they would dive under water. "They don't like the noise," said Orleans Police Chief William Stone, leading the town's attempt to harass the birds away from their annual summer roosting spot. "This is more effective than I thought. I thought they'd move around in a large flock."

      If needed, the town will continue its nightly barrage through Saturday, Stone said, but added, "If the birds stop coming on Friday, we'll stop then." Orleans is trying to discourage the birds from roosting over the pond this summer. For years the birds' droppings have sickened the pond and soured neighbors, who cope with white dust over trees and lawns. The town got a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to shoot a few cormorants but was convinced to first try to scare them away.

      The shooting will continue every other week to catch different waves of cormorants as they migrate into town from their wintering grounds in the South. Jake Berrick, 16, of Brewster, a Nauset Regional High School student, was among the volunteers who briefly ran out of ammunition - special shells called the "Scare Away System" - sold by Reed-Joseph International Co. of Greenville, Miss. The propane-fired cannon stopped booming after only an hour, requiring the two police officers, two neighbors and Berrick to cover more water with their shotguns. There was plenty of time between cormorants to watch kingfishers, a few muskrats, a blue heron, a goose, and a snapping turtle in the pond.