Thursday, February 27, 2020

The heronry is open for business!

On January first Matty and I decided to explore the woods beside our house and see what was there. The woods lead into a protected green space we had never hiked, so we were excited to check out a new area. While walking the banks of a winding creek in a gorge, we stumbled across a small heronry. Was it active? We didn't know. We'd have to wait until late January or early February when male herons returned to their heronries to stake their claim. Rick and I hiked there several times through January to see if anything was happening, but the nests remained empty, until finally, at the beginning of February we started noticing herons flying low over our house! They had to be headed to the heronry! Last summer when we moved in, Big Blue would fly over our house every morning and evening. We assumed he was flying to Lake Isabella or the Little Miami River. Little did we know a secret heronry was his real destination! On Sunday Rick and I set out to see if the heronry was was! We counted 19 herons. We avoided the creek because we didn't want to be under the heronry disturbing the birds (it's much further downstream and very hard to reach, not to mention dangerous!). Instead, we climbed up to a ridge that overlooks a small valley and the creek. The heronry is on the other side. We were really far away, but with a zoom lens and binocs, we could see the activity...

A male heron makes an early stake at a local heronry, his nuptial plumage visible in the fading light of evening.

We were there around 5:00 and the sun was sinking fast so silhouettes were all we could see, but that didn't matter.  It was so exciting knowing Great Blue Herons would be flying regularly over our house all spring and summer. 

A Great Blue Heron circles his nest preparing to land. Even the fading light
can't hide the lovely nuptial feathers silhouetted against the evening sky.

...settling in for the night.

Nuptial plumage...
Nuptial plumage or breeding plumage are the beautiful feathers birds sport on their head and neck during the mating season. Not all birds have nuptial plumage, but herons and egrets are famous for it. Click here for a link to a Little Blue Heron showing beautiful breeding plumage. (I photographed him on Pinckney Island in Hilton Head back in 2011).

At our previous house, we lived three miles from a huge Great Blue Heron heronry. Over the years I posted a lot about that heronry (starting in 2009). Click here for photos of that heronry in full swing!