Great Blue Heron
By Melissa Wynn
Standing motionless at the water’s edge, poised to strike the moment an unsuspecting fish or frog happens by, the Great Blue Heron seems like a work of art, perfectly sculpted by nature. Steely blue-gray plumage on the chest and back add to the stately appearance of these tall and majestic birds. The head, chest and wings are accented by lighter,fringy looking plumage, adding some fabulous feather fashion. While in flight the upper side of the wing is two-toned, pale on the forewing and darker toward the tips of the flight feathers. There is no mistaking a Blue Heron when they take to the air. They curl their long, sinuous neck into an “s” shape for superior aerodynamics and trail their long, thin legs behind,dangling them when they prepares to land.
Great Blue Herons commonly nest in trees and this summer a small group has chosen to raise their young in a towering pine in Clear Creek, just a few miles from Lake Almanor. Spotted daily by the locals, this group of wandering, wading birds enjoy fishing in the calm water and exploring the beautiful park.
Late in the Spring the males began gathering materials to build their nests from the ground, nearby shrubs,trees and abandoned or unprotected nests of the other birds. They presented each piece to the females who either rejected it or began weaving it into a platform style nest. Each female then added a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, and small twigs,making the perfect spot where she would soon lay 2-7 pale blue eggs. Nest building can take from 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the quality of the materials presented and experience of each mating pair.
Throughout the nesting season elaborate courtship and pair-bonding displays occur that are truly fascinating to watch.Each pair regularly performs a ritualized greeting when one returns to watch the nest, allowing the other to go hunt and feed. During this nest relief ceremony the birds fluff out their feathers, showing off for one another and clack their bill tips together in an interesting verbal exchange.
Come explore Clear Creek Park. Sit a spell and you too could spend the afternoon watching these amazing Blue Herons. Blue Heron chicks fledge in 4 to 6 weeks after hatching so these feathered families should be around for us to enjoy through early August. Join us and watch them grow!