A Green Heron Saga

Posted: June 6, 2011 in ALL POSTS, Pictures
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I live in East Syracuse,  which is a village attached like a stunted conjoined twin to the northeast corner of Syracuse, New York.   My house is in the Park Hill,  which I will characterize as being a quiet and residential neighborhood.   However, less than a mile East of me is a sprawling mass of businesses that include: strip mulls, Walmart, Target, Best Buy,  health clubs and various office buildings — all non-residential property.   This mega-plex is in a low-lying area of the city built over what was previously all marshland and distributed through it in the lowest areas are year-round standing ponds — wetlands — complete with the variety of fauna and flora one would normally associate with a wetland.   The businesses in the complex are  connected by a series of winding roads on one of which I frequently ride my bike for exercise.  This road —  Towpath Road (see it at the bottom of the map above-right and satellite  blow-up below left) runs next to one of the wetland areas I mentioned.  It runs along  one whole edge of this long skinny pond separated from it by only a few feet and a standard metal barrier fence.

One day as I was riding that route, I scared up a crow-sized bird  from a tangled tree on the edge of the pond.   The tree it flew from obstructed my view of it, so I was unable to see the bird until it landed on the other side of the pond where it landed in some reeds of a kind that line all of these ponds and appeared to be watching me closely.  I could not visually identify the bird from that distance, but just happened to have my camera in my backpack and was able to get a couple of low-quality pictures with my 200 millimeter telephoto lens.   The reason for the low quality in the picture to the left is at the distance, which I estimate to be about fifty yards, it is tough to get a sharp picture without a tripod.    I only got two pictures on my first day and it wasn’t until I got home and viewed them on my computer,  that I realized it was a Green Heron.   The next day  –May 3rd, my 64th birthday in fact — I returned and using a  little stealth this time had hopes of getting better pictures.   I came by car, parking far from the road in the fitness club across the road from the pond adjacent to the tree from which the bird had originally flown.  Then, staying low I  slowly crept across the road toward the tree using the metal fence barrier to partially shield me.  Before I made it all the way to fence I got the big surprise of not one, but two of these birds flying from the tree and across the pond to light in the the very same reeds — also obscured by the tree so that I could not get a good areal photo of them.   I then climbed over that fence to have a closer look at the tree and found out why the birds were hanging out there.  Apparently they were starting a family as through a crotch in the tree, I was able to see their next, with two pale blue eggs in it.  My bird book — The National Audubon SocietyGuide to North American Birds — says that Green Heron’s nest in places such as these and usually return to the same area each year to breed after spending the winter somewhere in the Southern US.  The Audubon book says that they lay from three to six eggs, so I was wondering why just two.  Was wondering that is, until I returned the next day to find that mom had been busy — now there were four eggs.

The book says that incubation is about nineteen days and according to Wikipedia:

The clutch is usually 2-6 pale green eggs, which are laid in 2-day intervals (though the second egg may be laid up to 6 days later than the first) After the last egg has been laid, both parents incubate  for about 19–21 days until hatching, and feed the young birds.  The frequency of feedings decreases as the offspring near fledging. The young sometimes start to leave the nest at 16 days of age, but are not fully fledged and able to fend for themselves until 30–35 days old.

Over the week, I returned nearly every day I made many attempts at getting good close shots, but most of the ones I was able to get up close, you will see only afford a good view of part of one of the birds, as they were always peeking out from somewhere at me.  Anyway, here are the  rest of the picutres so far:


One unusual aspect of these birds is that they appear to be short-necked, but are not.  You will note that in most of these pictures the birds have their long necks concealed by holding their heads down close to their bodies.  Only in that first distance photo and one later distance shot did the birds display their extended necks for me.   Note in the two pictures below: the neck is extended as one of the birds prepares to land in the reeds across the pond and afterward as he or she stands there eyeballing me.

I checked in a few days later and there were five!

I had hoped to follow and continue to photograph the Green Heron family as the eggs hatched and the young birds developed, but sadly when I returned two days after seeing the five eggs, the nest was bare — no sign of the eggs.   I did some checking to see if possibly the pair had moved their eggs to a new location, but found in my research, that Heron’s cannot do this.

There was no sign in the nest of broken or smashed eggs, that would likely be there if a raccoon, a cat or some other mammalian or avian predator was the culprit.  With no mess at the nest, I theorize that it was either a snake — I saw one rather large water snake in the pond  or a snake of the two-legged variety.

I had planned to wait to post this until after the little ones were safely out of their nest, but no point of waiting now.

  1. […] PICTURES  In “Pictures“, which is not really a blog in my list, but a menu item at the top of my blog, I display some of the favorites from the pictures I have taken.   I display some pictures of my master in “My Cat: Wheatina Turdmonky“.  Lastly in this category, I chronicle the tragedy of  ”A Green Heron Saga” […]

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