Monday, April 15, 2013

Great Blue Heron Rookery Tour

Saturday I went out to a Great Blue Heron Rookery Tour sponsored by Middlebury Parks. They put their activities on InMiddlebury and have a Middlebury Parks Facebook page for information as well. We met at Riverbend park, talked about general characteristics of Great Blue Herons, and then traveled over to a nearby private residence. In August, they have the Riverfest each year, which is lots of fun and educational. I went last August and was able to see the heronry then; however, the trees were full of leaves and we didn't see as many of the birds. Tom Enright from Middlebury Parks led the group. Some of the Middlebury Parks board members were also around. Krista Daniels, from Elkhart County Parks, also mentioned a small heronry that people have noticed off CR 120 in Bristol. There are only around 3 nests there, but it may be more accessible for some to see. Be sure to keep your distance if checking them out.

Do you see the many white specks on the photo above? Yes, it was snowing and chilly. These are the die hards! Just in our short time at the park, the car accumulated a fair amount of fluff!

After parking, we walked back to the heronry, watching for cow patties along the way.

It was quite chilly, though the sun came out a few times and made a HUGE difference in how cold it felt. It also made for better lighting in pictures. :-)

I left my binoculars in my Swaggerwagon, but others shared and there was a spotting scope available as well. People were helpful and talked about what we saw and other characteristics of the Great Blue Heron and other birds while we were out. We also made connections, figured out who different people were, and talked of warmer weather activities, such as kayaking. Several tips were given and discussed.

While it's hard to tell in these pictures, we found at least 12 nests. From one view, they totally reminded me of one of the scenes from a Dr. Seuss book with all the big clumps of something in a tree, like the tuttle tuttle tree.

Moving to different angles just 50 feet away or so allowed us to see more nests and get a different perspective. Different perspectives can be good! There was a lot of GBH activity. They were flying, standing on the nests, and we even saw one that appeared to be laying eggs. We watched this deep nest for quite some time trying to identify it, and then figuring out what it was doing. The GBH is beautiful to watch. Here is general information; however, seeing the bird in person is quite an experience. They have a 6 1/2 foot wingspan yet only weigh 5 to 6 pounds. They land gently on the precariously perched pile of twigs called a nest.

There were several Indiana Master Naturalists there, including Monica Yoder, one of the steering committee members for the local IMN program. She helps out with the Middlebury Parks programs immensely!