Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Business as usual at the heronry...and our Chipping Sparrows are back!!

Just about all the couples at the Great Blue Heron rookery are sitting on nests, and the activity seems to be increasing during the day. Some of the nests have been occupied for almost a month. The first day I saw any of the couples sitting on a nest was March 6, and it takes about a month for the eggs to hatch, so any day now…

Three of the six sycamore trees that support the colony 
of herons nesting in the rookery. The heronry looks 
almost empty here, but it's completely full. Little 
heads can be seen just above the rim of the nests.

Last week on the 26th they were sitting on nests…




Today on the 31st, again they are sitting on nests... But today there was a whole lotta shakin’ going on! The mama or the papa would get up, move around a little, play with the nest a little, or turn the eggs a little…then settle back in, which was neat to watch…sort of like “whack a mole” at the amusement park only    i  n     s  l  o  w     m  o  t  i  o  n     !

She or he's up, adjusting the nest or rotating the eggs...

...and down, keeping the eggs warm.

...and his or her neighbor is up, adjusting the nest or rotating the eggs...


...and down, keeping the eggs warm.

Beak Bit
Male and female herons take turns sitting on the eggs, but the Birds of North America Online site indicates that the males sit on the nests for about 10.4 hours each day and females only 3.5 hour each day. The female does most of the incubating at night. Adults usually spend about 54 minutes of each hour sitting on eggs, and they rotate the eggs about once every 2 hours. The females do most of the nest constructing, but the males bring in sticks for the nests.

Even though most of the birds have been sitting on eggs, males still continue to bring in sticks for the nests. It's almost a continuous stream of herons flying in with sticks.

Papa bringing another stick in for the nest...

While I was watching all the popping up and down of the herons, I suddenly heard the familiar buzzy trill of a small flock of Chipping Sparrows! Yeah! They are back. I watched and listened to them trill down the tree line. There were five of them, and they were, needless to say, exceptionally cute. I spent too much time watching them and not enough time trying to photograph them, but I did catch a Song Sparrow that was about 20 feet away.


...the Song Sparrow looking slightly ruffled...

No bluebird sightings today, however...

Note   If you're just tuning in to this blog, you might want to go to the first entry in this series to find out more about these herons.

17 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

"Whack a mole in slow motion"??? You are too funny!

Love that photo of Papa flying with a stick - very cool! Can't wait for hatchlings!

Kallen305 said...

I can't get over how close the nests are to one another!!! Love the picture with pops flying w/ a stick in its mouth. Great shots!

Roy said...

Looks like Spring is really getting rolling out your way! It is here, too. On my walk today, along with the incessant singing of the Cardinals, I also heard some Eastern Towhees singing away in Ballard Park (also known as Rufous-Sided Towhees), saw and heard my first Brown-Headed Cowbird, and heard Spring Peepers peeping in every swamp I walked by. Heh, heh! Definitely the busy season around here.

Heather said...

Wow, I can't believe how many nests there are! Our mama Phoebe seems to wiggle around a lot on her nest, too. Maybe the birds have a little ADD? Regarding that comment about spending too much time watching the Chipping Sparrow instead of photographing it... girl, get out of town. Slow down and enjoy the observation over the photography any day... the more you observe the birds and learn their habits, the better pictures (and sketches?) you'll get later. Just my 2-cents. I only speak out of my own struggles with "do I take the camera or leave it behind?". Both answers to that question have their own benefits, I suppose...

Nick S said...

Those Herons in the nests are just great. I've yet to see a Rookery .
Our Song Sparrows should be back real soon too. Lovely pics.

Kelly said...

Laure...watching them fly in with sticks is wonderful. They are amazing how they weave the sticks into their nests. Thanks!

Kallen...I know what you mean. It's like a crowded apartment complex! Thanks!

Roy...I've yet to hear the Rufous-sided Towhee in my yard. Hopefully I'll hear him in the woods soon. I love that "Drink your tea!" call of theirs. We've had plenty of the Brown-headed Cowbirds...

Heather...I do know that since I've been blogging the way I watch birds has changed. I should blog on that! I used to bring a field journal and a pencil and binocs...and Rick would carry the camera. Now I'm often by myself, and I'm always looking for the photograph. (I know if I leave the camera behind a Scarlet Tanager is going to land on a branch 3 feet from my face...and I'll have to say D'oh!)

Nick...thank you! I enjoy seeing the changes and visiting them on a regular basis.

Roy said...

Hi Kelly.
These images are very similar to our Rooks and how they build the colony of nests in a Rookery.
There is an old country saying over here that if the Rooks build their nests high in the trees then we will get a good summer, if lower we will get a bad summer. I have know idea if that is actually true and have never put the theory to the test.

Jayne said...

I spied a Heron rookery on my way to an appointment on Sunday and hope to get by there today or later in the week! Such neat facts about the Herons and how they nest. :c)

Stacey Huston said...

Great photos. what remains(only one nest) of the rookery here has been abandoned now. so it was wonderful to see these photos. I will have to go find another one that I can get close enough to without desturbing the birds to photograph.. thanks for all the wonderful info..

Uncommon Depth said...

I have never seen a heron rookery, but have always wanted to. So nice to see one through your pictures though.

Warren Baker said...

I see what you mean about our Herons looking like yous Kelly. I think yours are blue -er though.

Steve said...

You are lucky having the heronery so close, you've got some great photos. The Song Sparrow is superb, we don't get them here.

Shellmo said...

This is so exciting to see their herons with their nest activity! Especially the one of him carrying the stick - all lovely!

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
I'm happy you are giving us some news from the heron rookery. Everything seems to llok ok there and they look like very busy now!!! Full time job, I guess!! And the pictures are very nice too, which is cool too. Nice that some sparrow are back again, it looks like the spring is coming to you... Here it is still snowing!!! And I used to say that there was no snow in Iceland!

Anna said...

Wow we have great blue herons here, but I never seen a nests, especially nests like that. Thanks for sharing, your photos are excellent, I like the one carrying the twig. Anna :)

Kelly said...

Roy...cool, I like that saying! You will have to test it out. In the heronry, they reuse the nests, so there are always nest high up!

Jayne...I hope you get back to see it. Thank you!

Stacey...thank you!! You're right, they are very sensitive to disturbances and will abandon a site if humans get to close. Also, it's dangerous to get close to a heronry!!

Uncommon...thank you!

Warren...I think ours are blue-er too...

Steve...thanks...I know. We are so lucky to be able to watch this colony come to life every year. I anticipate it through the winter.

Shelly....it's so much fun watching the huge birds flying around with sticks in their bills!!

Chris...thank you! Soon there should be some babies. That will really be exciting, but the trade off is the leaves start to obscure the view. Hopefully we will have a few babies before it's all hidden to us. Rick just told me possible snow this weekend, so....spring may not be that close after all!!

Anna....thank you!!! I like him too. Watching them fly seems so special. They are huge and to see them balancing in the trees is amazing.

Susan W. said...

If only I could get as close! Mine is in the middle of a LAKE!