Monday, 22 July 2024

News

LAKEPORT – One of two men arrested earlier this week for burglarizing a medical marijuana dispensary outside of Lakeport's city limits has been linked to another in a string of burglaries that occurred in the city last month.


Reginald Bruce Mills, 21, and Brandon Scott Saulter, 19, both of Lakeport, were arrested Monday on charges of burglary, and possession of stolen property and burglary tools after breaking into Visions of Avatar, as Lake County News has reported.


On Thursday, Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department said the agency's continuing investigation into several burglaries that occurred around the city in December had yielded evidence that linked Mills to at least one of those crimes.


On Wednesday Lakeport Police officers conducted a parole search at Mills' Armstrong Street residence, where they found numerous pieces of jewelry that they suspected were stolen from The Healing Earth on Main Street on Dec. 24, Rasmussen said.


Rasmussen said seven of the items were positively identified by the business owner on Thursday.


He said Lakeport Police will seek criminal charges for additional counts of possession of stolen property and burglary against Mills, who remains in custody at the Lake County Jail.


Lakeport officers are continuing their investigation of all of the recent Lakeport burglaries, Rasmussen said. They're evaluating other evidence recovered during the investigations in an effort to identify additional suspects and solve other cases.


Several of those other burglaries involved smashed windows as the suspects broke in and stole petty cash and other items, police reported.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

COLUSA COUNTY – A portion of Highway 20 was shut down on Wednesday as a bomb squad was called in to deal with what turned out to be a fake bomb.


The facsimile device was found by a Caltrans crew picking up trash along Highway 20 east of Highway 16 shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to California Highway Patrol Officer John Waggoner of the Williams CHP office.


Waggoner said the 8-inch-long object – found a short way off the roadway inside the Colusa County line – was constructed of PVC pipe, was a few inches in diameter and had caps on each end.


He said Caltrans immediately notified CHP, which in turn contacted the Butte County Sheriff's Office's explosives unit.


Waggoner said the bomb squad arrived at around 1 p.m., at which time the CHP completely closed down the highway.


He said Caltrans shut down traffic at Williams and CHP officers from the Clear Lake office diverted Highway 20 traffic onto Highway 16.


The bomb squad used a robot to help deal with the device, which they hit with a type of cannon that blew one side of it off, Waggoner said.


“They were able to see inside and saw that it was nothing,” said Waggoner, noting there were no explosives inside and no electronic device.


CHP's Ukiah Dispatch reported that the highway reopened shortly after 2 p.m.


Waggoner said such bomb scares aren't common occurrences.


“When we come across something like this we will take every precaution and make sure that it isn't an explosive device,” Waggoner said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – On Monday a judge denied a motion to separate the trials of two men accused of a September homicide.


Judge Arthur Mann ruled that Melvin Dale Norton, 38, and Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, will stand trial for murder together. Jury selection in their trial is set to begin Jan. 12.


The men are charged with killing 25-year-old Shelby Uehling in the early morning hours of Sept. 22.


Edmonds is charged with murder with a special allegation of using a knife, while Norton faces charges of murder with a special allegation that he used a billy club, and assault with a deadly weapon with a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, according to court documents.


Uehling, who had recently moved to Lake County from the Bozeman area of Montana, had been seeing Edmonds' girlfriend – who temporarily had separated from Edmonds – which is alleged to have sparked the fatal confrontation.


The prosecution alleges that Norton found Uehling sleeping in his car in the Clearlake neighborhood, known as “the resorts,” where Edmonds and his girlfriend lived after the couple reconciled.


Norton is then alleged to have called Edmonds before grabbing a golf club and leaving to join Edmonds in going to Uehling's car. Uehling was found lying by the side of Old Highway 53 near the car, with his throat slit.


Stephen Carter, Norton's defense attorney, filed a motion late last month to separate Norton's trial from Edmonds', as Lake County News has reported.


Prosecutor Art Grothe – who had indicated to Lake County News that he planned to oppose the motion – filed a response to Carter's separation motion, but Judge Mann said he hadn't had a chance to read it before the hearing started Monday morning.


Mann, who said he intended to read through Grothe's motion after the hearing in order to issue the ruling Monday, asked Carter for any further arguments.


Carter cited a 1967 case, People vs. Massey, which set fourth four points to look at when considering a severance motion: if an incriminating confession from one of the defendants exists, if there is a prejudicial association, would confusion result from multiple counts and conflicting defense, and would a co-defendant give exonerating testimony.


“All four of these issues are present for Mr. Norton,” said Carter.


Carter said that Edmonds made incriminating statements during a phone call from jail – which law enforcement reportedly had recorded, according to court records – in which he admitted to causing Uehling's death, which he stated was done in self defense.


That's incredibly important in the case, said Carter, which charges Norton and Edmonds in going to Uehling's parked car and getting into a fight with him.


Carter added that he wasn't saying that Norton was completely innocent of everything, although the jury may find that to be the case.


He said his client has stated that he went up to talk with Uehling about being a problem for Edmonds' girlfriend and the situation unfolded.


Convenience of trying both men at the same time isn't a good reason for the joint trial, Carter said.


“We don't mean to bash Mr. Edmonds but simply to show that these two defendants are very differently situated,” Carter said.


Edmonds' involvement in the Renato Hughes case also is expected to come up in the prosecution, and Carter was concerned about the potential for prejudicial impacts on his client's case.


Hughes and two friends had allegedly broken into Edmonds' Clearlake Park home in December of 2005; as they fled Edmonds shot two of the men in the back and Hughes was prosecuted for their deaths under the provocative act law because he was allegedly taking part in a crime that could result in a lethal response. Hughes later was acquitted of the murder charges.


Carter also referenced a later situation in which Edmonds allegedly tried to get his then-girlfriend, Lori Tyler, to commit suicide with him.


While those two issues may be admissable in Edmonds' trial, Carter said they shouldn't be allowed to be presented during Norton's.


“Mr. Norton has nothing to do with any of those things,” Carter said, and to have him tried with Edmonds “puts Mr. Norton in a very bad position.”


Carter said he expected both men would testify in their trials and would be forthcoming. “But having their cases joined has a chilling effect on my client, Mr. Norton, to testify,” he said.


One central concern was that neither Norton or Edmonds have waived time, meaning their trial proceedings need to move forward in short order. Carter said the time waiver issue didn't need to affect the requested separation.


In arguing against separating the two prosecutions, Grothe told the court, “The factual scenario here is rather important.”


He said the two defendants are friends. A conflict arose between Edmonds and Uehling over Uehling's involvement with the woman. Subsequently, Norton allegedly saw Uehling sleeping in his car at around 1 a.m. Sept. 22, which prompted him to call Edmonds.


Grothe said Edmonds armed himself with a knife and an asp – or a billy club – and Norton took with him a golf club which later was found buried in the dash of Uehling's car.


He said he wouldn't characterize the two mens' statements as “entirely forthcoming,” but they're not necessarily inconsistent and therefore, “There is not a conflicting defense between the two.”


Citing the 2007 Tafoya case which went before the California Supreme Court, Grothe said severing a joint prosecution only is appropriate if it would be so grossly unfair that it would deprive a defendant of a fair trial.


He said he was introducing information about prior cases involving Edmonds, but he didn't plan to use them in the case in chief, and anticipated the trial court would “severely manage” how and when that information is used.


Grothe argued that Norton and Edmonds “jointly planned and executed” the crime, afterwards changing out of their bloodstained clothing at Norton's place.


Attorney Doug Rhoades, representing Edmonds, joined Grothe in opposing the motion. “I am not in favor of severance at this time,” Rhoades said.


Addressing Grothe's allegations that Uehling's death was jointly planned by Edmonds and Norton, Carter said, “That's not borne out by the evidence.”


Carter said the trial's timing and judicial economy “should not carry the day” when a person is facing life in prison.


Mann asked Carter about the impact of the potential severance due to the time waiver.


Carter said he'd considered it but didn't have a definite answer. He suggested, however, that it would be appropriate for Edmonds' trial to move forward and Norton's to follow, since he had made the severance motion.


Grothe maintained that they couldn't do two separate trials in a narrow time frame. Carter suggested his client would waive time in a limited aspect if the motion were granted.


Noting that the time waiver and the possibility that Edmonds would testify in Norton's trial both weren't certain, Grothe said, “I don't like to rely on either of those maybes.” He said he planned to offer Edmonds' statement in a recorded jail phone call in the trial as an admission.


After speaking with Norton – seated beside Edmonds in the back row of the jury box – Carter said Norton would waive time until after Edmonds' trial was completed.


At the end of the hearing, which lasted around 20 minutes, Mann said he would take the matter under consideration and issue his ruling by day's end, which he did. The ruling against the motion came out before 4 p.m.


“It likely will be a big issue on appeal should Mr. Norton be convicted of anything at trial,” Carter said late Monday.


Two more hearings currently are scheduled before the trial starts next week, including a settlement conference on Wednesday and a trial assignment hearing Friday, Carter said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – Vaccine to counter the H1Na influenza strain is becoming more plentiful and is now available to the general population in Lake County, local health officials reported this week.


Lake County Health Services expects local vaccinators to receive more than 10,000 doses of vaccine over the next couple of months, which should about double the amount of vaccine that has arrived in the county to date, according to county Health Officer Dr. Tait.


Tait said the expected doses will be sufficient to immunize approximately one in five Lake County residents. Children under 10 years of age require two doses of the vaccine.


Although additional supplies of vaccine may follow, details are still pending and most of the planned vaccination efforts for the 2009-10 influenza season are likely to be completed by March, she reported.


“The interest has waned a little bit but the need is still there,” Tait said of H1N1 vaccinations.


Although those people who are at increased risk for complications from influenza are still most strongly urged to get vaccinated, anyone over age 6 months of age can now receive the vaccine. This includes people over 65 years of age, who had previously been asked to delay vaccination in order to make scarce supplies available to most susceptible groups.


Lake County Health Services currently offers H1N1 vaccine at no cost on a walk-in basis at its location at 922 Bevins Court in Lakeport on Tuesdays between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. For those members of the public who cannot come at that time, scheduled appointments are available by calling 707-263-1090.


Tait reported that Public Health plans to schedule one or more mass vaccination clinics in January, starting at the south end of the lake. Information about specific dates and times will be advertised in the near future.


Many local doctors’ offices, clinics, and some local pharmacies also provide the vaccine. A small vaccine administration fee may be charged, but can be billed to health insurance companies.


Although the amount of influenza illness in the community appears to be declining, there are still good reasons to get vaccinated, according to local health officials.


The amount of influenza activity remains higher than usual for this time of year and the possibility of another wave of Pandemic 2009 (H1N1) in the months to come still exists. The vast majority of current influenza is attributable to the pandemic strain.


Tait said the community can also expect to see the H1N1 strain again as part of the annual seasonal influenza cycle.


She said certain individuals are at risk for severe illness from H1N1 influenza, including infants and young children, pregnant women and people of any age with chronic health conditions.


Updated information resources include the following:


– Revised fact sheet for people 65 and older to reflect the fact that supplies of the vaccine to protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus are increasing and many places have opened up vaccination to anyone who wants it. CDC is now encouraging those who have been patiently waiting to receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, including people 65 and older, to get vaccinated depending on local supply.

www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/65andolder.htm


– About 2009 H1N1 flu: Describes 2009 H1N1 flu and five steps to take if you get 2009 H1N1 flu or seasonal flu. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/abouth1n1.htm


– 2009 H1N1 flu may be more serious for some: Describes people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/risks.htm


– Know the symptoms of flu: Describes symptoms that people who have the flu often feel and how long people with the flu should stay at home. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/symptoms.htm


– Know the emergency warning signs: Describes "emergency warning signs" in adults and children that should signal anyone to seek medical care urgently. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/warningsigns.htm


– Flu germs are spread from person to person: Describes how the flu is spread and how to keep yourself and others healthy during flu season. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/germs.htm


– When to get medical help for fluid loss: Describes when to get help for fluid loss. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/fluidlosshelp.htm


– Information on how to treat dry cough. www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/treatdrycough.htm


– Treat other flu symptoms, such as sore throat, chills, aches, pains, congestion and stomach problems.

www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/treatsymptoms.htm


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WILLITS – A Willits man was arrested last Saturday for a number of charges in a domestic violence case in which he poured diesel fuel on his 27-year-old girlfriend.


Luke Wayne Jacobson, 25, was arrested for domestic violence, making terrorist threats, assault with a caustic chemical and violation of a court order, according to Lt. Ron Welch of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.


On Jan. 2 shortly before 3:30 p.m. Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a reported domestic violence incident on East Side Road in Willits, Welch said.


Initial reports indicated the the suspect, Jacobson, had left the area in a pickup. Welch said it also was reported that Jacobson had allegedly poured diesel fuel onto the victim and she was having difficulty breathing.


The victim stated that she and Jacobson had an argument that turned physical, whereupon the victim stated said that she was hit, slapped, choked and threatened with death, Welch reported.


The fight continued outside when Jacobson pushed the victim onto the ground, restrained her and then poured diesel fuel onto the side of her neck and hair. Welch said the altercation was stopped by witnesses and Jacobson left the scene. The victim was visibly shaken, however she declined any medical attention.


While at the scene, Jacobson allegedly called the victim on her cell phone and he could be overheard by a deputy saying that he was his way back to kill her, Welch said.


Shortly thereafter he was observed driving by. Welch said the deputies had to run about 50 yards to their patrol units that were on the outside of a locked gate and lost visual contact with Jacobson.


The direction in which Jacobson drove away led them to Canyon Road where a witness told deputies that he observed a brown pickup driving at a high rate of speed towards Tomki Road, according to Welch.


The deputies alerted deputies from the Ukiah office, who intersected Jacobson on the Redwood Valley side of Tomki Road. Welch said Jacobson was arrested without incident.


Jacobson was booked into the Mendocino County Jail, with bail set at $50,000, according to jail records.


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MIDDLETOWN – A local woman had to be extricated from her vehicle following a New Year's Day crash near Middletown.


Highway 29 was closed down for a time as rescue personnel cut Middletown resident Kathleen Gregory, 51, out of her vehicle, according to a California Highway Patrol report.


The crash occurred at 5 p.m. on Highway 29 near the Dry Creek Cutoff, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.


Kathleen Noble, 43, of Middletown was driving her Saturn Vue southbound on Highway 29, approaching Dry Creek Cutoff, as Gregory was heading eastbound on the cutoff in her 1989 Acura Legend, approaching the stop sign at Highway 29, Tanguay explained.


According to the collision report, Gregory did not stop at the posted stop sign and moved forward onto the highway directly in front of Noble, and Noble's Saturn hit the left side of Gregory's Acura.


Tanguay said Gregory had to be extricated from her vehicle and was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for her injuries.


Officer Mark Barnes is investigating the collision, according to the report.


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LAKEPORT – Two men were arrested this week after they allegedly burglarized a local medical marijuana dispensary.


Brandon Scott Saulter, 19, and Reginald Bruce Mills, 21, both of Lakeport, were arrested shortly before midnight on Monday, according to Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department.


They are alleged to have burglarized Visions of Avatar, a medical marijuana dispensary just outside the city limits, according to Rasmussen.


Lakeport Police Officer Jake Steely was on patrol that night and saw the two men in the 2700 block of S. Main near Rotten Robbie's gas station. Rasmussen said Steely made a consensual contact with the two and found them in possession of marijuana.


Rasmussen said Steely recognized Mills as being on parole for a burglary charge, and Saulter had a misdemeanor arrest warrant out for him.


While doing a parole search of Mills, Steely found not just marijuana but t-shirts from the store and other property alleged to have come from the establishment. Rasmussen said Saulter allegedly was carrying a bag containing marijuana, marijuana pipes, a scale and other paraphernalia.


Steely determined they had just burglarized the dispensary and arrested the men for possession of stolen property and burglary tools, said Rasmussen. The Lake County Sheriff's Office added a burglary charge.


After arresting the men, Steely contacted the sheriff's office, which sent deputies to investigate the burglary.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said one of the suspects allegedly told deputies that they went to the dispensary with the intent to burglarize it.


He said deputies found that a hole had been pried in the building's tin siding in order to enter it. Smoking pipes and rolling papers were taken, and the suspects allegedly found and pried open a lock box containing an unknown amount of marijuana.


Bauman said investigators still aren't sure of exactly what was taken. “We're still waiting for an itemized list of items stolen from the business owners.”


Both Saulter and Mills remained in the Lake County Jail on Wednesday, according to jail records.


Lakeport has been hit by a rash of commercial burglaries over the past month, including a theft of about 20 firearms from a commercial storage locker earlier this week, as Lake County News has reported.


Rasmussen said police are investigating whether Saulter and Mills might have had anything to do with those earlier burglaries. “We don't know at this point for sure,” he said.


Bauman said he's been checking with sheriff's office sergeants about burglaries in other parts of the county.


So far he's heard back from Sgt. Gary Hall, stationed in Lucerne, who is reporting a spike in residential burglaries in that area. However, he said he doesn't currently have statistics on the crimes.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

SONOMA COUNTY – On Monday a Sonoma County jury found a Windsor man guilty of five felony counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated stemming from a 2007 crash that killed a family.


The guilty verdicts in the trial of 28-year-old Ryan Odell Karr “send a clear message that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is inexcusable and predictably tragic,” said Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.


On Jan. 19, 2007, Karr was driving in commute-hour traffic at about 70 miles per hour on northbound Highway 101 at the Airport Boulevard overcrossing when he rearended a vehicle being driven by Edith Medina-Carlos, 23, according to Passalacqua's office.


Medina-Carlos’ vehicle immediately caught on fire and was subsequently engulfed in flames. Also traveling in Ms. Carlos’ vehicle and killed in the fiery accident was her son, Fernando Flores-Carlos, 7, and Windsor residents Maria Lopez Camacho, 54; Almadelia Mendera-Basurto, 16; and Carmina Solorio, 23, of Mexico.


Medina-Carlos and her other son, then 4-year-old Christian Flores Camacho, were pulled from the burning vehicle. The others burned to death in the vehicle. Medina-Carlos died the following day and Christian survived with serious burns, but later lost an arm, an ear and a leg.


Karr’s blood was taken at the scene of the collision and tested. It came back positive for cocaine and marijuana, Passalacqua said. Experts opined that Karr was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the collision. The jury also found that he was speeding.


Deputy District Attorney Victoria Shanahan was the assigned prosecutor on the case. She was assisted by District Attorney Investigator Greg Phillips.


California Highway Patrol Officer Ronald Cincera was the lead investigator in this case, assisted by other California Highway Patrol officers and Windsor Fire personnel.


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks woman suffered major injuries last week when she was hit by a car while crossing Highway 20.


Ronda Gullickson, 49, sustained major injuries to her legs and arms Dec. 29 after being hit while walking with her dog in a marked crosswalk west of Acorn Street near the Red and White Market, according to the California Highway Patrol.


With Gullickson was 24-year-old Jonathan Miraville, who was not reported to have been injured in the crash, which occurred shortly before 5:30 p.m., according to the CHP report.


Officer Steve Tanguay said Chris Cravalho, 53, of Clearlake was driving his 1997 Chevrolet Lumina westbound on Highway 20 when he struck Gullickson.


An ambulance from Northshore Fire Protection's Clearlake Oaks station transported Gullickson to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Tanguay said.


Gullickson's dog also was injured, and was transported home by her father, according to the CHP.


Tanguay said Officer Steve Curtis is investigating the collision.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LUCERNE – A homeowner and firefighters were able to stop a Wednesday afternoon fire before it did major damage to a Lucerne residence.


The fire, reported just after 2 p.m., occurred in a home on Rosemont Drive, according to Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Jamie Crabtree.


The cause, said Crabtree, appeared to be a malfunctioning water heater.


“The homeowner noticed something wrong, came out and actually got the gas turned off,” said Crabtree.


Using a garden hose, the homeowner was able to control the fire, but by then it already had gotten into the attic space. Crabtree said Northshore Fire crews got there and opened up the attic to extinguish the fire.


Eight firefighters and four engines responded, Crabtree said. It took firefighters just over an hour to get the fire out and mop up the scene.


Crabtree estimated damage at between $5,000 and $10,000.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – Detectives are investigating the shooting of a local man that occurred Monday evening in the unincorporated area of Lakeport.


Marshall Wisterman, 35, was the victim of the shooting, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Sheriff’s deputies responded to the shooting at the Lakeside Village Mobile Home Park in north Lakeport at around 8:30 p.m., with the Lakeport Police Department also responding to assist, according to Bauman.


Bauman said that when the first responders arrived at the scene, they found Wisterman lying in the hallway of his home with an apparent gunshot wound to his abdomen.


Wisterman was alive and as deputies secured the scene, rescue personnel from the Lakeport Fire Protection District responded in to treat his injuries and transport him to a waiting air ambulance, Bauman said.


Bauman said Wisterman ultimately was flown out of county for further treatment. Detectives with the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit were called out to the scene to assist with the investigation.


Preliminary information obtained at the scene revealed that an unidentified man had apparently come to Wisterman’s home and was allowed inside to talk to him, Bauman said.


The conversation between Wisterman and the visitor began to turn into an argument and when Wisterman took the man outside to get the confrontation away from his wife and children, a single gunshot was heard, according to Bauman.


Authorities believe the shooting occurred in or near one of the carports. Bauman said the suspect was gone on the deputies’ arrival and it is unclear at this point what the argument was about, or how Wisterman got back into his home after being shot.


Sheriff’s personnel processed the crime scene throughout the night and as of about 3:30 a.m. – when the scene was cleared – no suspect was in custody, Bauman said.


He said the shooting is pending further investigation and Wisterman’s condition is believed to be critical as of this release.

 

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Image
Herons are expert fishers and often are seen near the water. Courtesy photo.

 

 

 


 

A very special caller has been helping us out on the farm of late. The visits are usually in the early morning hours just before dawn and again at dusk. We see him most often at the little fish pond in the front yard, standing motionless and alone. Wary and alert, he waits for prey to come within range of his long sharp beak.


Standing about 4 feet tall, long-legged with dusky light feathers floating above the thicker gray-blue feathers of his back and neck, he will begin a slow, measured gait away from the pond. Moving at a snail's pace towards the nearest gopher hole he suddenly strikes with a speed so great you can barely see his head move forward, and then he is back in position again with a vole or gopher proudly displayed in his beak. Then whoosh down the gullet it goes. Ahhh, breakfast!


Sometimes called Big Cranky, Long John, or Poor Joe, and often called the blue crane (although related, herons are in a different taxonomic family than are cranes), the great blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons and one of the most widely distributed, breeding from southeastern Alaska to Nova Scotia and southward across the continent to Mexico and the West Indies.


Standing some 3 to 4½ feet tall and sporting a wingspan of nearly 6½ feet, great blues are a great joy to see in flight, often cruising at a speed of 20 to 30 miles an hour. As nature would never be without irony this beautiful bird, majestic in flight and displaying movements on the ground measured with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker, has a flight call that can only be described as a cranky honk, and when startled it produces a low pitched croak sounding much like grandpa waking from a deep sleep.


Great blues prefer to nest in colonies in very tall trees but will also nest by themselves in low shrubs. Typically their nests are flimsy, flat platforms of sticks about 18 inches across, but well-used older nests can be very bulky and measure 3 to 4 feet across. These older nests are generally repaired and used year after year, and may be lined with twigs, mosses, pine needles, reeds, and marsh grasses.


Generally, nesting occurs between March and May. The birds will lay three to seven eggs that are a pale blue-green to olive in color.


Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings; when newly hatched, the nestlings are fed by the parents regurgitating food into the mouths of the chicks (usually fish) and then later onto the nest floor.


The young will start taking sustained flights around the nesting grounds 60 days after hatching and will abandon the nest between 65 and 91 days after hatching.


Great blues typically live between 10 and 21 years.

 

 

 

Image
A great blue heron nabs a gopher. Photo by Rick Leche.
 

 

 


The great blue heron is protected by law and may not be kept in captivity without a permit. Adult great blues have few natural enemies. They are occasionally preyed upon or attacked by hawks or owls, but predation is not a limiting factor on their populations. The eggs and young can be heavily preyed upon in the nest by crows, ravens, hawks, owls, gulls and raccoons.


Historically populations of great blue herons were adversely affected by shooting and collecting of their plumage for fashion (for plumed women’s hats) and egg collecting, as well as by the extensive loss of wetland habitats in the U.S. within the last century.


Changing attitudes and the regulation of wetland losses in recent years have allowed great blue heron populations to recover and stabilize throughout much of the species’ range, though the potential for human-caused declines still exists.


As urban sprawl claims more of our beautiful landscape year after year, you can bet that wherever the interests of humans and wildlife collide the great blue heron is a good indicator of the environmental health of its region.


As one of many top-level predators, great blue herons cut a high profile within an ecosystem. These birds require wetland areas that are relatively disturbance-free for nesting, while feeding in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats throughout the year.


Environmental landscapes that support great blue herons clearly have many elements required to support a variety of other wildlife species.


Because they are waders and expert fishers the great blue heron is typically seen along coastlines, in marshes, or near the shores of ponds or streams. Their diet consists primarily of fish, but they also eat amphibians, reptiles, insects, crustaceans, and sometimes small mammals and birds.


They are often seen around rice fields, in open pastures (especially when wet), along creeks and in protected wetlands, or in my front yard eating the voles and gophers.

 

 

Debra Chase is the Executive Director of Tuleyome. She and her husband Dave reside on their farm in Colusa County. Tuleyome is a local nonprofit working to protect both our wild heritage and our agricultural heritage for future generations. Past Tuleyome Tales articles are available in the library section of their Web site, www.tuleyome.org .

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Farmers' Market at Library Park
3Aug
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
6Aug
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
10Aug
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
13Aug
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
17Aug
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
20Aug
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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