You won’t see any blue herons in these photos. The Great Blue Heron is wintering in Central and South America, basking in some heat, wading in mangrove swamps, nibbling shrimp and crabs.
However, each spring the majestic birds wing their way north, scattering throughout North America. They venture all the way to Alaska, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. (Am I correct, Ms. Flandrumhill from Nova Scotia?)
They even settle down in our fair Upper Peninsula, prepared to raise their young. They build nests in groups called a heronry (OK, you can call it a rookery, but a heronry is more specific.) They build a bulky stick nest and the female lays three to six pale blue eggs.
Many of us have glimpsed the heron nests beside the road…but until today, I had never ventured close. It took Nancy to push me out into the unknown woods today. I’m sometimes nervous about leaving the car parked along the road in the winter months…not her! She’s been visiting the nests before, and knew just where to snowshoe.
She lured me to the nests with promises of a Smoothie before departure. She owns one of those Smoothie-machines and whirred us up the most healthful delicious blend you can imagine. Then she placed a hard-boiled egg and some salted almonds on our plates and announced we had eaten enough protein for a good snowshoe.
We worked up quite a sweat snowshoeing to the rookery. I mean the heronry. (I didn’t know “heronry” was a word until Wikipedia announced it was a more specific term than rookery.) We chatted away about every topic under the sun. Mostly about the sun and sky and how beautiful it appeared today. After so many gray days the appearance of the sun can truly delight.
As you can see by closely examining the first heronry photo, there are many nests. Nancy counted twenty-two, I believe. Then I counted twenty. Then she counted twenty-one. Heron colonies usually contain between five and 500 nests.
The heron nests should never, ever, be visited during nesting season. All of us must stay away. Reproduction is negatively affected by human disturbance, particularly at the beginning of nesting. Therefore…visit the nests in the winter. Bring cameras, snowshoes, water and friends and enjoy the nests to your heart’s delight. Only in the winter.
To read all about the Great Blue Heron, click here. You can even glimpse a heron munching a common snapping turtle (looks like a rather small snapping turtle to me.)
We didn’t trip on our snowshoes too many times. We wandered across a swamp, visited a beaver den (possibly not occupied) , admired oh-so-many interesting trees and natural wonders. I have probably 50 photos you might enjoy seeing. However, to upload all 50 photos would delete all my space on WordPress and probably crash or freeze your computer and you would not be pleased.
Look at that blue sky! Look at that tree! Who said a visit to a heronry isn’t the most wonderful way to spend a February afternoon?
If you’re going to photograph the tops of trees in snowshoes, I suggest you bring a friend. It’s helpful to have a friend pull you up. Otherwise, it can be quite a challenge…
Hope you enjoyed the tour of the heron nests! (I know I promised you an exciting walk Up the Road for today’s blog…but the opportunity to visit the heronry usurped former plans. Another day we’ll walk up our road together. I have something to show you.)