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    Info and guide to understanding this magnificent bird

Herons still Arriving

This has been a very different year for the Great Blue Heron Colony at Holland Ponds park. herons started arriving there in the 1st week of March, and have been trickling in ever since. Most years, towards the end of March there is a big surge of returning Herons that quickly fill up all the available nests at the heronry. then the stragglers will fill up the remaining nests and build new ones if needed.

The process has been very different this year. No real big surge of returning Herons. A small group real early in March and then little by little the rest of the existing nests have been filled by returning Herons.

The Great Blue Heron spends it’s winter months south of Michigan. Anywhere from the Carolinas to Florida and South America. Like Salmon, many of the returning Herons have either been here before nesting, or are the youngsters from a previous fledged nest.

This is just one reason why it is so important to protect and existing nesting site like this. It is a place the Herons remember and also where the hatched youngsters from a previous nesting season, will come back to each year, looking to nest in the safety of others in an existing Colony like Holland Ponds.

The herons act very different during this mating and nesting times. They are very skiddish and nervous birds during these months of raising their young. herons are always a bit of a nervous Bird. But this is exaggerated tremendously during nesting time.

It is interesting that they will tolerate what they know will not hurt them. In this case…..Ryan road traffic is something they have become accustomed to and ignore. So is the Gun shots heard from the Detroit Gun Range nearby. But bring in something new, or produce alot of movement and noise and they will abandon the nests. Even if there are young in the nests.

I have watched the entire Colony leave the nests because a group of Fisherman walked along the river’s edge behind the heronry, talking loudly. these Fisherman did not know the nests are ever there and could not see them during the summer when the trees in the rear nesting site are covered with leaves. Signage is needed on the south and east sides of the heronry to warn Fisherman of their approach to a delicate area of nesting Herons. We have mentioned this to Parks & Recreation in Shelby Twp. and hope that very soon something will be done to prevent further disturbances of this unique nesting site.

It takes care and nurturing for a place like this to exist and flourish. We would be happy to advice the Parks & recreation people of some of the things they could do to assist the growth of this very special place. Many people love to visit the park and watch the Herons grow and feed their youngsters through out the summer months. It would be a huge shame to have this 10 year growing Heron Colony, fail for simple reasons that could have been easily and inexpensively corrected.

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These are some recent pictures from Linda Urban, local nature photographer.

Latest Heron Report

3/30/13 and all is well at the Holland Ponds heronry. Most of the existing nests have mating pairs of herons on them. And many of the females are already sitting on the nests, indicating they are about to lay eggs or already have.

No new nests being built this year though. Puzzling. Maybe there will still be another migration of Herons to arrive yet, at the Heronry. Hopefully so.

I will have an actual nest count next week. We lost over  10 nests this last winter, due to two separate wind storms that took down two different nesting trees in the front Heronry. Great thing the Herons decided a few years back, to expand the heronry to the forest near the river and created the new rear nesting site. That site is a bit more secluded and plenty of room for expansion.

Get out to Holland Ponds, relax and enjoy the mating herons. It is such a wonderful way to enjoy such a beautiful Natural area for now. Enjoy it while we still have it.

Ashok Annual HERON HIKE

For the 7th year in a row, we will be returning to the largest Great Blue Heron nesting site in Southeastern Michigan, to witness the arrivals of the herons. Each year around the beginning of March, the Herons return from their Wintering grounds, to mate and rebuild their nests here at Holland Ponds.

Seven years ago, a longtime Hiking Michigan member, Ashok, suggested we start a Hike to show the importance of this very special and unique place in Shelby Twp. Michigan. And here we are some 7 years later, still meeting our friends at Holland Ponds as they produce another year of youngsters that will help this Heronry continue to grow, as it has for the 10 years it has existed.

We hope you will join us in a short walk to the viewing areas and watch as the returning Herons select mates, rebuild and claim nests, and get started on another season of reproducing still more Great Blue Herons.

GET A FLYER WITH DETAILS AND A MAP TO OUR MEETING PLACE HERE:

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The Park is small, so the Hiking will not be extensive. The focus is the Herons and their activities around the nesting sites. bring along a pair of binoculars and warm cloths. It can get chilly while you stand and watch these magnificent Birds.

We will do some roaming around the Park and we might see some Deer, White Egrets, Green Herons, Turtles & Frogs of all types, nesting Geese, Owls and Hawks. This Park is known as the Bird baby Factory because of the many different species that come here each year to nest and have their young. This is because of the habitats and natural environment there. A very delicate balance is in play at the Park. Nurturing is required by Shelby Twp. Parks & recreation if these many different species are to continue to flourish and survive.

There are many very experienced people the Parks department has available to consult with in keeping this special place the Gem it has been, for now and for future generations. We only hope that they understand their duties and responsibilities to such a unique place in Southeastern Michigan. Baseball diamonds and BIKE paths are plentiful in the area. But there is only ONE, largest Great Blue heron nesting site in Michigan. And that precious place is at Holland Ponds Park.

Come and join us for this annual celebration in HERONS, this Saturday, March 23rd, 12 Noon – 3pm. A colored Map and other goodies await all in attendance.

GET THE LATEST PARK MAP HERE:

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Delicate Heronry at Holland Ponds

We lost a major nesting tree in the front Heronry, to the high winds this last week of December. The tree had 6 longtime nests in it. 😦 It also appears there have been a few nests that individually got blown out of their perches. Just the two biggest trees remain. Some nests on smaller trees around these main trees.

This just shows how delicate the whole situation there, can be. It is great the Herons started the rear nesting area a few years ago. Those nests are in more concealed areas and have more protection from high winds. The main heronry now exists there in the rear nesting sites.

Wonder what the Herons will do in 2013. They will of course continue to build more nests in the many available trees in the rear nesting area. But I wonder if they will also build new nests in the smaller trees in the original front nesting site.

We will be watching closely come March or so, when the Herons return for the 2013 nesting season. Hopefully they will continue with there increased nest building each year prior, and make up for the lost nests. remember that another large tree was lost at the end of last years nesting season, taking 4 nests with it, and the total nesting sites for 2012 had increased from 2011. So these birds have shown that their Colony is here to stay.

Holland Ponds 2012 Heron Nesting report

So how did the Great Blue Herons do this year, 2012, at the Heronry, located at HOLLAND PONDS Park, in Macomb county, Shelby Twp.? This was their best EVER, to date! A total of 44 occupied nests where recorded in both the front and rear heronries. That surpasses 2011’s total of 39 nests, by 5.

Each nesting pair of Great Blue Herons where successful at hatching 2-4 chicks per nest. That unfortunately was not the number of Heron chicks to be fledged from each nest. As with any nesting season for the Herons, there would be the natural order of things ruling the outcome of the Heronry. Each nest does not fledge all hatched chicks. In many cases at least one chick per nest is lost as the weakest or sickly of the hatch. This chick will either not receive enough food, due to the competition amongst it’s siblings, or a chick will succumb to illness. This is the way for the strongest of hatchlings to fledge to adulthood.

Another loss to the Heronry was weather. This year in both the front and the rear heronries, a major branch on a nesting tree, and an entire nesting tree, fell to the ground, due to the high winds that move through the lowlands where the heronries are located. These two loses took 3 nests in the front heronry and another 3 nests in the rear heronry. That would have been 50 nests this year. It shows how delicate these Heron nesting sites can be. If not for the huge success rate, at new nest building there, these 6 lost nests would have been extremely critical to the Colonies growth. But due to the successful expansion of both heronries, even the loss of 6 nests resulted in a total net growth of the heronries as a whole, from 39 nests in 2011, to 44 active nests in 2012. Still a very successful season, and still the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in Southeastern Michigan.

We hope that Shelby Twp. will continue to cherish the fact that more Herons reproduce there at Holland Ponds, in Shelby Twp. then any other place in this corner of the state. We hope they continue take care of this rare place for future generations to learn and marvel at this unique setting, and that the majestic Great Blue Heron will continue to thrive in a Colony that has consistently grown in size for over 8 years now.

DOWNLOAD THE 2012 HERON NESTING REPORT HERE

DOWNLOAD A 3 PAGE STUDY OF GREAT BLUE HERONS IN MICHIGAN

6th annual Ashok HERON HIKE

In HIKING MICHIGAN tradition for some 6 years now, we will be doing our annual “Ashok HERON HIKE” dedicated to the Great Blue Herory at Holland Ponds Park. This is the largest Heronry in S.E.Michigan, and a place we have watched over for these last 6 years.

Come on out and do a special Hike just for the Herons and see and hear about their activities at the Colony nesting site, and learn about their possible future there at the Park.

The group will be meeting at the Holland Ponds parking area at 12pm. The Hike will run until 2pm, with options for more Park activities or further nature activities back at the Shadbush Nature Center.

You can download a Flyer with more details here:  ASHOK ANNUAL HERON HIKE

1st Annual Great Blue Heron FESTIVAL

Shelby Twp. Parks & Recreation, along with HIKING MICHIGAN will be presenting the very first Great Blue Heron Festival on Saturday, 5/12/12 at Holland Ponds Park and the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center. There will be a Shuttle Bus system set up, so if you wish to park your car at the Nature Center located at River Bends park, and then be bussed back and forth to Holland Ponds park and the Heronry and activities, then this is a choice for you.

There are plenty of activities scheduled for the day, starting at 9am. Naturalist Dan Farmer will be at the heronry as well as doing special Pond Dipping sessions and other activities. HIKING MICHIGAN leaders will be at the Heronry with Video equipment and large monitors for you to see the Herons very up close and personal. Hopefully we will have some hatched youngsters in the nests by Festival time.

After the main activities at Holland Ponds, there will be more taking place back at the Shadbush Nature Center, as well as a nice Campfire in the gathering place behind the Center. Hot tea and chocolate and treats will be on hand. Watch the video below for even more details for the days events.

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