New bird sanctuary signs honor 42 years of history

Bird population alive and well in city, Audubon member says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s bird sanctuary history continues into the modern day with a large variety of birds living in and around the city, and some new signs celebrating a bird legacy. According to Auburn resident Deren Ross, member of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, The Auburn City Council declared Auburn to be a bird sanctuary in 1969. “Essentially what it says is we, the residents of Auburn, appreciate and recognize the beauty and wonder of all wild things,” Ross said. “It already has legal status attached to it, because most birds are already protected.” The first set of four signs declaring Auburn to be a bird sanctuary were stolen in 1969. Original members of the Audubon Society and Auburn residents, including Jim Booker, Ed Weiss, George Beland and Ray Favrot, installed the second set of signs in 1981, according to city documents. However, all but one of the four 30-year-old bird sanctuary signs that stood throughout the city have been taken down. An old sign remained posted on the hill near Lassila Funeral Chapel on Grass Valley Highway as of Thursday, and Ross said he and past Audubon president Heath Wakelee are working with a city councilman to replace the plaques. “We have been working with Councilman (Mike) Holmes,” Ross said. “He has been wanting to replace the signs, and we have been wanting to replace the signs.” Holmes said Thursday two of the new signs are now up – one on Auburn Ravine Road across from Ashford Park and one on Lincoln Way near Russell Road. He is also expecting to replace the signs on Grass Valley Highway near Gold Rush Subaru and on Auburn Folsom Road. According to Bernie Schroeder, director of the Auburn Public Works Department, the four signs cost about $50-$75 each, and were crafted by Public Works staff. The signs were paid for out of the city’s general fund. Ross said his last seasonal bird count resulted in favorable results for Auburn. “(The bird count) is about normal,” he said. “The foothill birds seem to be doing fairly well. They seem to be maintaining their populations. Where we see declines is generally down in the valley. The foothills and Auburn are doing well. We are seeing birds in Auburn that historically we have never (had here).” Ross said five years ago bald eagles started nesting at the American River below Auburn. Other unique birds include the peregrine falcon and the phainopepla, which appears in winter. “It’s a rare visitor,” Ross said. “It’s a black shiny fly catcher, and it eats mistletoe berries.” Auburn is also inhabited by the red-breasted sapsucker, a variety of hawks, songbirds and the hooded merganser. “It’s just a beautiful duck,” Ross said of the merganser. “You have to see it with a scope or binoculars to appreciate the beauty.” Connie Stevens, president of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, said there are several things residents can do to protect the bird population. “Probably the No. 1 thing, and it’s a little bit of an unpopular issue, is keep the cats inside,” Stevens said. “Resident birds learn where the cats are. It’s birds that are possibly tired and unfamiliar with a neighborhood or environment that are particularly vulnerable. Other things include marking windows, feeding the birds in a healthy manner, keeping things clean.” Christiane Raymond, the Audubon Society’s publication director, said she thinks it’s important to keep the bird population thriving. “Birds are very good indicators of the health of a community as far as the environment goes,” Raymond said. Keeping Auburn a haven for birds and having the bird sanctuary signs posted is important in maintaining one part of the city’s charm, Raymond said. “I remember those signs being up for a very long time,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to understand Auburn is so much more than this little touristy Gold Rush town. I like to think perhaps (the city being a bird sanctuary) would be a draw for birders visiting. I think it links the natural part of Auburn to the suburban aspect of it.” Reach Bridget Jones at