We had reports that the Great Blue Heron had been returning to the park’s rookery over the last couple of days. I went out to verify this morning (Sat. March 11) and can confirm that the “early birds” at least are back!
Right now most of the nests are still empty. You always get a few brave birds who arrive earlier than the rest to pick out the choice spots. Over the next week or so, the rest will fill up as well.
To give you a bit more info, here’s some background from last year’s post…. Last spring, they had returned on April 3rd.
To understand why the return of the heron is exciting to so many people, you’ll want to know a bit more about the Great Blue Heron. The heron is a BIG, LOUD, BUSY bird. A Great Blue Heron can stand up to 4′ 5″ feet tall and sports a wingspan that can reach 6 ½ feet! In the air, heron can fly nearly 25 mph! They are stealthy predators with scissor-like beaks that they use to stab frogs and snakes in shallow ponds and along the banks of bigger waters. The park’s rookery is made up of 50 to 100 nesting birds who fill the trees with bursts of noise and havoc. Some children might find the experience even a bit scary!
What’s unique here at Devil’s Lake, is that the heron built their rookery in a stand of pine trees surrounded by the group camp area with parking lot and restrooms. Because the birds selected this location, it is much easier for visitors to get up close and personal. Normally heron rookeries are better protected.
It is against the law to disturb a rookery, however visitors can get amazingly close right in the CCC parking lot [Printable Map] or by standing near the restrooms. A good rule-of-thumb is to simply stay out of the pines. You really don’t want to go in there anyway. Not only does it get filled with bird poop, but the favorite defense of the heron is to throw up on you. Imagine smelly, fish, snake & frog barf dropping down from the sky onto your head!!! And if that’s not enough, heron have also been known to use their beaks to pierce the skulls of invaders!!
Good Dog, Bad Owner
On a side note, I had a visitor while I was checking in on the heron rookery this morning. A nice friendly pup. Thing is, it was running free at the foot of the heron nesting area. The owner who was camping in the group camp didn’t feel it was necessary to follow the park’s leash rule. (They were sorry he was running around, but not enough to use their leash.) I won’t go into the potential conflicts between pets and wildlife here other than to say that sometimes rules are not meant to restrict, but protect.
One more thing, the campers had a Boy Scout troop equipment trailer. I couldn’t help think that this is probably not a great lesson for young scouts about respecting our wildlife or our state parks.