Great Blue Heron Springtime

All, Stories

BlueHeron_AmyPanfaloneI wait each springtime and anticipate their return to the rookery. As the days lengthen I question and wonder will they really come? Often I gaze toward the large vacant nests across Winton Lake. I ponder- which nests will be the home of new winged creatures? Will all of the nests be occupied with fluffy new life? Many curiosities fill my head. With so many things in life uncertain I find comfort in the rhythm and certainty of nature’s cycles.

I received word on March 8, 2015,  that the herons had returned. Knowing that gave me a sense of peace. How do they know when to return? People speculate the lengthening days, warmer temperatures, and unfrozen water all may beckon them back. It’s as if the springtime greening hillsides and sprigs of scented flowers trigger an innate time clock that alerts the herons to head north. No one is sure of the inner workings of this annual event. Yet even today as I looked out across the lake numerous long-legged blue-gray dinosaur-like birds stood on their nests. They seemed to defy reason perched so high up with nothing really to keep them safe from gusty spring winds and powerful rains.

Photo by R Hays Cummins

Photo by R Hays Cummins

Their silhouettes dapple the treetops tending to the turning of the eggs in their platform nests. Youngsters will emerge from their eggs in about 28 days. In short order they will be off the nest in about 60 days. Nature wastes no time preparing its own to be independent. The parents will take turns caring for the little ones until they are ready. Sometimes along the way nature is disrupted and the babies succumb to perils, a hungry raccoon or bald eagle, misdirected humans seeking to get too close, little ones tumbling from the tree-top nests can all cut short the life of these wetland dwellers.

And one may ask. How did they get there? Did someone introduce them to the lake? The answer is simple. Water, tall trees, food and solitude all make the ingredients for a Great Blue Heron Springtime at Winton Lake. Come by and marvel at this seasonal event and welcome the great blue herons back.

Susan Sumner, Naturalist