Assaultsand have dented the stubborn bacteria front along notoriously nasty Poche Beach, but now local agencies are calling in air support to deliver a final blow.
Officials believe a few fierce glares from imported falcons will be enough to temporarily drive away local bird colonies, allowing scientists to test the hypothesis that the birds are a major cause of persistently high bacteria levels at the beach.
Jorge Herrera, his four Glendora-based falcons and a hawk set up along the beach, splitting morning and afternoon shifts to chase off the thousands of gulls and other birds now identified as a major source of pollution.
Herrera, who has been out with his birds for the last week, said the contract would last for a month. This is a trial run to make sure the birds are, in fact, the last source of bacteria in the water. County scientists test the water in the surf each morning to study the results of the predator birds' efforts, Herrera said.
Herrera won't fly the birds for fear that they could be chased off by natural birds of prey that pass through the area and because seagulls, though not endangered, are still protected as migratory birds. His hawk and falcons wouldn't think twice to make a meal of them, Herrera said.
Instead, Herrera tethers them to perches to glare menacingly at the gulls around the stagnant pond near the entrance. The gulls give them a wide berth. The hawk, Herrera tethers to a high perch, which he holds aloft and carries up and down the beach. Gulls and other birds scatter before the sight.
So far, results have shown a rise in bacteria levels to the north of the beach and a drop in the Poche Beach area; ostensibly confirming the theory that are to blame for the unhealthy bacteria levels, he said. The levels remain high despite a multi-million dollar storm water purification system that cleans drainage into the ocean.
County and city officials said they hope the combination of efforts can help clean up Poche for good. has consistently ranked Poche as among the top ten nastiest beaches in California, judging by bacteria levels.