When a bird’s nest was recently discovered on an Aera work truck in Ventura there was only one thing to do – protect the nest.
Each spring, across all of Aera’s operations, protecting nesting birds is a top priority – even if that means taking oil out of production to do so – and following a careful set of procedures determines how the nest will be monitored.
“Crews and operations report them in and we add them to our log,” said Cari Long, an environmental specialist at Belridge.
Once nesting season is complete, efforts are made to reduce the potential for nests in active equipment through careful inspections and safeguards that ensure the birds are protected.
Under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, state and local laws all nesting birds are protected from being bothered, Long said.
“We record whether or not the well is on or off,” Long said. “Wells that are on can remain on. The bird built the nest in that state and so it can continue to operate. Wells that are off have to stay off so we do have oil down right now for nesting birds.”
At Belridge about 50 barrels of oil per day have been taken out of production, while another 40 barrels in Ventura are not being produced while the birds nest. The entire process is carefully overseen in the field, and in conjunction with biologists, who log the nest locations.
In Ventura, the work truck where the nesting bird set up is now off limits with a sign on it warning people to stay back from the nest.
Louise Lampara, an environmental advisor in Ventura, said about two to three vehicles are taken out of service due to nesting birds each year.
“We usually have one or two wells down in June every year because of nests in pumping units,” said Lampara, reiterating that pumping units don’t need to be taken out of production if the bird nests on it while it’s in operation.
Federal rules do allow private property owners to apply for a permit to remove the nest, but it’s an often lengthy process to obtain, and for a company committed to environmental stewardship protecting the nest sites is the right thing to do rather than removal.
“We will go to great lengths to protect a nest if momma bird sets up shop on a piece of equipment,” said Scott Corby, Aera’s senior vice president for environment, health and safety.
Through the years, Aera has had many types of birds nest among its operating units.
“We have the same issues as everyone with birds on the pumping units, especially ravens and crows,” said Bud Hensley, an environmental specialist.
San Ardo has the same issue with birds making a nest in the head of a pumping unit, especially those not in production, said San Ardo Process Supervisor Evan Morones.
“These communications are coordinated daily mostly by Dave Owens (an environmental specialist at Belridge) and our Belridge Dispatch and Rigs Dispatch,” Long explained. “They do an awesome job of keeping up on these and getting production up as soon as possible while still protecting the nests.”