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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.

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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

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