Friday, August 9, 2013

Osprey attacks great blue heron: GET OFF MY NEST!

The initial blow knocks the heron upside down
All photos by Jane Purslow except for photo of heron being released

On August lst a great blue heron at Kensington Metropark made a near fatal mistake and landed on the osprey nesting platform on Kent Lake. Mistaking the hapless heron for a threatening predator, the resident ospreys mounted a fierce defense of their nest and attacked without hesitation toppling the heron in the water. What is so amazing is this incident was witnessed by birders armed with cameras.  Birders often gather on shore with telephoto lens to watch the osprey raise their young and witnessed and recorded this dramatic encounter between two native and protected predatory bird species. The heron was quickly out of the contest. A call for help went out to nearby Heavner Canoe rental to attempt to rescue the great blue heron floundering in the water. I am grateful Huron-Clinton Metroparks shared Jane Purslow's amazing photos with me. Thank you!
Not  a happy heron.

Note osprey swooping in for another attack!

Nick Rudofski of Heavener Canoe and osprey watcher Lou Waldock paddled a canoe to the  injured bird and took it shore for transport to the Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Clinic, where waiting staff  attended to a gash on the head and treated it for shock. The bird recuperated for a week at Howell Nature Center before being deemed healthy enough to be released back at Kensingon on August 9th.  
Photo courtesy of Kensington Metropark

Staff from Kensington Metropark and the Howell Nature Center released the bird from the public boardwalk on Wildwing Lake at Kensington Metropark, not far as the heron flies from where the attack occurred. The heron quickly flew off, rested briefly on the water and then returned to the nearby rookery. “We are grateful for our osprey watchers, as well as Heavener Canoe and Howell Nature Center, who all pitched in to help this beautiful bird return to Kensington,” said Kimberly Jarvis, Huron-Clinton Metroparks western district park superintendent.  ( And I will add that I bet this heron will never try to land on an osprey nesting platform again, especially an osprey that is a ninja warrior!)
Located along the Huron and Clinton Rivers, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks provide a natural oasis from urban and suburban life as well as year-round recreational activities and events. The Metroparks consist of 13 beautiful parks covering nearly 25,000 acres, ten spectacular public golf courses and two marinas on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, respectively. The parks also offer scenic nature trails, breathtaking beaches, educational activities and exciting winter sports.  A vehicle entry permit is required to enter any Metropark and is only $25 annually for regular admission, $15 annually for seniors, or $5 daily. General information can be found at or by calling 1-800-47-PARKS. 
 The Howell Nature Center's Wildlife Rehabilitation program celebrated 30 years in service to injured and orphaned animals in 2012. It is the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind in Michigan, and is recognized across the country for its specialization in raptors, or birds of prey. The Nature Center cares for 2,300 injured and orphaned animals every year, with the bulk of those intakes coming in May, June and July.


Blogger Lori Vachon said...

WOW! Amazing photo of this happening!

August 10, 2013 at 10:10 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad to know that the nest is safe and that the heron was rescued and released!

August 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, great work by everybody involved here! How wonderful that the heron was quickly taken for medical treatment. I love this story, thanks.

August 10, 2013 at 12:46 PM 
Blogger Desertdarlene said...

This looks like a juvenile heron who may not have known better.

A lot of people don't know that herons really are predators and will often eat a hapless chick, eggs, or other small animal that they can swallow. I've seen them just about eat anything they can kill and swallow. They don't just eat fish. So, I think the heron could have been a real threat to any osprey babies in the nest.

August 10, 2013 at 11:20 PM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. And Darlene, you are quite correct, great blue herons are voracious predators. I've seen them take red-winged blackbirds and snakes and of course frogs of all sorts. As for these osprey, the osprey babies were no longer babies -fledged- but I am sure the adult osprey that zoomed in knew the fact: predator on their nest! No good guys, no bad guys in the confrontation; just nature's way!

August 11, 2013 at 7:27 AM 
Blogger Nickname unavailable said...

Cool pictures. Not totally comfortable with the human intervention though; although I suppose the public would be upset if nothing was done.

August 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM 
Blogger j~lo the artist said...

ah the circle of life in the wild,,,amazing shots! Thanks for sharing

August 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything was looking great until humans intervened. Natural selection was in force until the canoe brigade stuck its head and hands into what would otherwise be a natural mistake and a natural process. Of course the public would have been upset if nothing was done but the laws of nature were broken here and charges should be leveled against the guilty parties.

August 11, 2013 at 4:46 PM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

To anonymous above, You may have noted I did not play the osprey as the bad guy. Fully agree it being natural selection and if there was not interference that 'saved' the heron, the heron would have most likely ended up as snapping turtle food. But I also fully understand the intervention 'need' in a busy public park. I could make an emergency department analogy: When a person is brought in with a heroin overdose, if nothing was done the person would mostly likely die; natural selection would go against the heroin user. But public pressure and the obligation to do the correct thing --the expected thing --is to intervene and administer Narcan to counteract the drug and save a life. (I suspect the great blue heron learned a lesson and will not return to the osprey nest. I also think the heroin user does not learn and takes the drug again and will sooner or later do a final overdose.) Thanks for your comments!

August 11, 2013 at 6:29 PM 
Blogger Jimmy Wade said...

Let os prey that nobody has a heron overdose.

August 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The laws of nature were broken?

Since when are humans not part of "the laws of nature"?
I never realized that we briefly came out of a different dimension with different physics to save a heron.

August 14, 2013 at 4:16 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous - If this was the last Heron in existence would you still be insisting that the "laws of nature" should allow this bird to become turtle food and therefore allowing the extinction of yet another species? Homo Sapiens have destroyed enough on this planet lets start to right the wrongs and do all we can to help. I hope you never need the help of humans in a situation where "natural selection" would take your life.

August 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the human intervention...considering so many herons die needlessly from other means often created by humans.

August 20, 2013 at 9:19 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant reply!

August 20, 2013 at 9:22 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were not the laws of nature broken when the Osprey platform was put in place? The humans did the correct thing in both instances. We are trying to right a wrong with the recovery of the Osprey. And we righted another wrong considering that somewhere that day a healthy Great Blue Heron was hit by a car, or drowned after getting tangled in fishing line.

August 20, 2013 at 9:26 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful story with a happy ending. Thank you!

September 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Osprey and Herons compete for food (fish) and this may result in the Osprey's not having enough food b/c the Heron was rescued, now resulting in the Osprey starving. The actions of saving the heron throws off the web. The heron would have been a good meal for turtles and other scavengers.
Love the first Photo....Great timing!

September 17, 2013 at 12:32 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous(9/17), your comment is perhaps a bit superficial. It's unlikely that these two predators are competing for the same exact same resource. Indeed, they both eat fish, but Osprey feed on average over open water, whereas herons are on average shallow water feeders. So, there was no web disruption here by saving the heron.

But I have to disagree with Jon Schechter about the heron learning from the incident. Assuming the ability to "learn a lesson," is a bit much, especially for a naturalist. There's no sense in engaging someone who hasn't thought much about the complexities of selection subsequently drawing an analogy that's moving, but doesn't work. The point of the story is that we've evolved big brains and complex emotions, including the ability to empathize. Sure, we're also destroying things at an alarming rate with all of those other things that come along with human evolution, but at the end of the day, we empathize. That should be good enough.

September 18, 2013 at 11:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The neat thing about the food web is that it all connects if you look hard enough. Larger fish feed off smaller fish near shore. Less smaller fish in shallow water increases limiting factor for larger fish. Resulting in population decline, thus increasing limiting factor for Osprey, resulting in starvation, disease, and eventually death . This is assuming max carrying capacity is reached for climax community.

September 19, 2013 at 10:03 PM 
Anonymous NiceSave said...

Great story and to anonymous, give it a rest. People intervene in destroying habitat and animals all of the time. The fact the heron's life was saved is a good thing.

September 28, 2013 at 12:26 AM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

to NiceSave (AND MANY OTHERS) Thanks for your comment (s) Appreciated!! It was mean to be a light and lively blog with some very luck photos of a witnessed event between two species. The human intervention was the lesser story and not be unexpected in a busy public park. This one incident will not change the dynamics between herons and osprey--plenty of feed for all, but it did show the quick response when one species "thought" another threatened it's young.

September 28, 2013 at 4:59 PM 

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