Monday, May 29, 2023

Green Heron nest


A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) stalks the marshy verges of a small pond. Its mate was nearby, and they had a nest in a thick section of a willow tree. I visited Leaves for Wildlife Native Plant Nursery in Delaware County (Ohio) yesterday and was pleased to learn from owner Patty Shipley that the herons had recently taken up residence. The pond is about an acre, and it's amazing the spike in biodiversity that even a small water feature stimulates. There is also nesting Wood Ducks, Prince Baskettails and other interesting dragonflies, multiple Red-winged Blackbird nests, and much more. And scads of interesting native plants are available at the nursery as a bonus.

PHOTO NOTES: Green Herons can be a bit spooky, but this one landed on the edge of the pond on the opposite side of my location. Good! I could stalk it and try to get closer. I was armed with my big rig (Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 and Canon R5) on a Gitzo tripod. After taking a few shots from an upright position to ensure I got something, I began to move in. When I got a fair bit closer, with no reaction from the bird, I lowered all of the tripod's legs. And began crouch-walking, looking for an opening in the shoreline plants. As luck would have it there was a perfectly sited opening near the heron and the sun was coming right over my shoulder. I essentially crawled/knee-shuffled to that gap, set the rig in place with the lens about 1-2 feet off the ground and then getting shots was child's play. I've said this before, but most critters are intimidated of bipeds. Humans, after all, are the most dangerous animals on earth. By just getting rid of your bipedal profile, it becomes much easier to approach subjects. And having the rig on or as near as possible to the level of the subject generally always creates a more pleasing composition.

After a bit, the Green Heron flew over to the Black Willow (Salix nigra) containing the nest and landed on a big limb at its base. Its mate was already over there; I had seen it fly into a large white pine near the willow. Both male and female assist more or less equally in the nesting process. Males apparently usually pick out the nest site and begin construction of the nest, then the female steps in and oversees the project. Both male and female take turns incubating the 3-5 eggs. I think these birds were still putting the finishing touches on the nest, and she had yet to lay eggs.

Classic Green Heron nest: rather ragtag assemblage of twigs forming what would appear to be a rather shaky platform and sited in the densest part of the host tree (or shrub). This was the best that I could do, photographically.

One semi-unusual feature of the nest is its height in the tree - about 25 feet high. I've seen my fair share of Green Heron nests over the years, and typically they are much lower, often barely off the water. And they do typically place the nests over water, and these birds built this one right over the pond's edge, albeit high above. Often the nests are far harder to see than this one. Sometimes all one can discern is the outline of a bulky mass, and it's identifiable as a Green Heron nest only by the birds' comings and goings.

Hopefully all goes well for this nest. It should be pretty easy to observe the progression of the chicks. Once this brood has fledged, the adults are likely to soon launch another brood. If you visit the nursery, I'm sure Patty will point the nest out if you are interested. It can be seen from a safe distance with binoculars, without stressing the birds. Take note, the nursery is only open on Thursdays or Saturdays at this point, although it might be possible to make special arrangements. GO HERE for details.


Jack and Brenda said...

That's a great find. I've photographed Green Heron in Florida, but like you said, they are skittish around here. I have a one acre pond and while I have a Green Heron or two visitor almost daily, I don't think their nest is on my property.
This is my first year of having tree swallows in a bluebird box near the pond. We put white feathers out for them to nest with and they took everything we offered. Saw the pair playing with a feather over the pond one day(before they had eggs in the nest), as they would drop the feather from about 30' and swoop and re-catch it on the way down.

Jim McCormac said...

Congrats on the tree swallows! That feather playing behavior is really interesting. And nothing like tree swallows to enliven a pond!