Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Herons, herons and more herons

"The Stanley Park Heronry is one of the more awe inspiring sights in the Park in the Spring and Summer seasons. A cluster of around twenty trees has become the largest nesting site for Great Blue Herons in the region, a sight that draws many bird watchers, naturalists and visitors to the park to observe the dozens of pairs and their squawking young. The Herons will nest until their young are able to fly, leaving Stanley Park and returning the next year. The Heronry is a unique experience as these reclusive and elegant birds are never usually spotted in large groups."  Read more: Heronry


The Great Blue Heron (GBH) is the largest of the North American herons.

"It has head-to-tail length of 97–137 cm (38–54 in), a wingspan of 167-201 cm (66-79 in) a height of 115–138 cm (45–54 in) and a weight of 2.1–3.3 kg (4.6–7.3 lb). Notable features include slaty flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; the neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front; the head is paler, with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; it also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangey at the start of the breeding season. Immature birds are duller in color, with a dull blackish-gray crown, and the flank pattern only weakly defined; they have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow." (Wikipedia)

The Pacific GBH's have been nesting on the edge of Stanley Park for several years very close to the built up part of downtown Vancouver. It is a magical sight with dozens of nests; the trees are immense deciduous trees. I will let the pictures tell their story.

The nesting site is adjacent to tennis courts, above is a view over those courts at some of the nests.

The herons are  watchful, sitting preening, mending nests and collecting sticks to repair nests.

I was very happy to have caught the above view of a young heron in a nest.

The heron nests are subject to predation by eagles and raccoons, both fond of heron eggs. The metal collars on the trees prevent or deter raccoons from climbing the nesting trees.

I have not been very successful at catching herons in flight, but here are a couple of pictures.

The Pacific GBH lives and feeds in this area year round. Apart from the mating and nesting season, they are solitary birds. Here are a selection of my heron sightings over the past year or so.

The Heron's neck and belly have beautiful feather patterns; the neck (shown in detail below) almost appeared to be braided grey, blue and burnt sienna colours.

Herons are often seen wading along shoreline of the ocean, ponds and lakes or in marshes; they stand motionless for long periods of time waiting for their prey to come in range and then strike very suddenly. They swallow their prey whole and can choke to death if the prey is too large.

I thought that they only ate fish, and that can be the primary part of their diet, but when fish are not abundant they also eat mice, frogs, lizards, snakes, flies, crabs, shrimp, crayfish and small mammals.

The blue heron has a harsh raspy croaky call, but they will shriek if they are disturbed or threatened. Follow this link for demonstration of heron calls.

I am fascinated by herons, they are magnificent birds.

This week I finished a watercolour painting of a Great Blue Heron which I named "Waiting Patiently":

The Travelling Wilburys "Handle with Care":

Thanks for stopping by, Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week...

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