The Clapper Rail is in real trouble: the western subspecies is down to about 3000 birds, all in San Francisco Bay. One of the few places you can see them — one of the few places they breed — is at MLK Jr Shoreline Park in Oakland, not far from the airport.
Ten years ago, the Port of Oakland was illegally dumping dredge material into the marsh. A bunch of environmental groups sued (including Golden Gate Audubon); the groups won, the dumping stopped, and a couple of million dollars were spent on restoration. In 2002 some Clapper Rails showed up and bred, and now this is a big breeding site for them. In what sure looks like “greenwashing,” the Port of Oakland recently printed a nice glossy magazine that has photos of the birds and brags about how great the marsh is…while at the same time, they approved construction of a 24-hour truck terminal right next to the marsh where the Clapper Rails nest. The terminal, which is being built by a spinoff of Roadway Express, will have bright lights on 40-foot-tall (!) poles all night long, and of course generate lots of noise from trucks idling and pulling in and out at all hours.
Lights disrupt birds’ sleep and feeding patterns, as you can well imagine; they also allow predators (both birds and land animals) to hunt at night, so the lights are one of the worst parts of the project. The developer is refusing to do anything to mitigate the problem, and the Port, which has jurisdiction, is refusing to make them do anything. What could they do? Put the lights on lower poles (like the ones at their existing terminal), aim the lights so they don’t shine onto the wetlands, and build a high wall to block the lights and the truck noise. Can you believe it, they won’t build a frickin’ wall and make some minor adjustments in the lights? To put it another way, can you believe they insist, absolutely by-god insist, that they must shine their lights onto marsh that doesn’t belong to them and that is critical habitat for endangered birds? And the Port agrees! This is just infuriating.