Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Blue Herons - Adapting For Survival

Ask any child why birds fly south for the winter and if it's not answered with the old joke, "It's too far to walk!" followed by a chorus of giggles, the likely second choice - favored by many adults as well - is that it's too cold. Look at your bird feeder as flurries fall and you know in a flap of a feather that answer doesn't hold true.  Birds are generally well insulated with under layers of downy feathers and moisture shielding flight feathers. But when the food source is gone the birds must depart too.  Hummingbirds seek out nectar, swallows consume mosquitoes and vultures want fresh – unfrozen - carrion. Those bird species and many others departed a month ago. The seed eaters (chickadees, sparrows) and meat hunters (owls, woodpeckers) tend to stay put. And that brings us to the great blue heron.  These colony nesting majestic slate-gray wading birds with six-foot wing spans, hunters of fish and frogs, should have departed to warmer waters. Most did. But not all. Great blue are highly adaptable and more than a few stay in northern climates all winter, finding waters that don't freeze and/or switching to a diet of small land mammals such as voles. On a recent excursion to the Drayton Plains Nature Center I came upon a solitary great blue heron as still as a statue at the edge of a slowly flowing channel of the Clinton River.  With its reflection shimmering in the chilly waters it waited for movement of a small fish. And if  a fresh fish fillet did not come to be, a patient stalk on shore for a meaty meadow vole was most likely in store  With fingers numbing I snapped a few pictures and left this prehistoric looking bird to perfect its adapting for survival techniques. For me: home to hot coffee. My way of adapting to a chilly morning with winter at the door.


Anonymous NatureGuy said...

Hey Jonathan,

I like your blog alot. I'm interested in nature, but I've recently began exploring my outdoor surroundings. You've given some picturesque & helpful info. Keep doing what your'e doing.

December 4, 2009 at 7:34 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I love your articles. We've hiked 4 of your suggestions and my husband has done more( while I'm at work).

We plan on going out on New Year's Day too.

Thanks so much for helping us explore nature close to home.

December 31, 2009 at 11:15 AM 
Anonymous Jill Jagodzinski said...

We live a bit south of you in Temperance MI and have a Great Blue Heron as a periodic visitor in our backyard creek, even in the winter as you noted. Today he spent most of the day 2/5/2010) here catching decent size fish throughout the day (that was fun to watch) and enabling us to get quite a few pictures. They are such a big, beautiful majestic sight, especially when they show up in your backyard!

February 5, 2010 at 12:50 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a blue heronrie in the grounds of the Chrysler Center in Auburn Hills. At least, I think they're blue herons. I'll have to take another look when they come back this spring.

On Squirrel Road, just south of University Drive, the city of Auburn Hills has a parking area for their baseball fields. This parking area is just north of Cross Creek Parkway. About a 1/2 mile south of Cross Creek Parkway, there is an opening in the trees and shrubs where you can see part of the test track at the Chrysler Center. Inside the perimeter of the test track is a lake/pond that has a lot of dead trees, and there are at least a dozen large nests in those trees. There's a little spot in the chain link fence that encloses the Chrysler property where you can get a good look at those trees with the nests. But you can't park there, you have to park at the parking area for the A.H. baseball fields and walk south on Squirrel until you get to the spot at the fence where you can see the nests. The fence is far enough away from the pond that I don't think it would disturb the nesting birds, but if you have a good telephoto lens, you could get some great pictures there.

February 18, 2010 at 8:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the input on the rookery on Crysler Center grounds. Do keep me updated! Would love to go out in the spring if they are there.
You may use for direct contact.

February 22, 2010 at 9:32 AM 
Blogger Vicky Morse said...

We still have our Heron here at the lake. 11/20/2014. The lake has not froze as yet, but it is very cold. We have seen what may be the same Heron for the past 5 years and it has never stayed for a winter. Just wondering if something could be wrong.

November 20, 2014 at 11:59 AM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

Vicky . I do wonder how you stumbled into a blog post from 4 years ago ( the newspaper no longer runs my column or blog :() but many herons loiter well into winter as long as they can find a food source and for some that is meadow voles on shore.

November 21, 2014 at 7:52 AM 

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