Friday, August 22, 2014
Immediately upon leaving the chipmunk-rendering hawklet in its oak at North Bend, we paddled silently farther. I saw a very small heron contemplating the water from a short stub. A halo of down and streaked neck and underparts, along with the pallid green legs and feet, revealed it to be a freshly fledged juvenile green heron. Eureka! These little herons need all the new recruits they can get.
As we paddled nearer, David spotted more young herons clambering in a large shrub. And danged if there wasn't a green heron nest right there! It's the small mass of twigs at upper center.
All told there were fIvE! and they had just left the nest. FiVe!!!! Babies!!!!
Being young and curious, they tolerated my drifting silently closer. Oh you are perfection, you newly minted heronling.
Herons are very good at still.
I did not want to spook them, so I backpaddled before they became nervous. I didn't know how good their flying skills might be, and I thought their parents would appreciate finding them in the home shrub rather than floundering in the shallows.
Sure enough, a bit farther on, we found an adult fishing hard, having five inexperienced mouths to feed. Compare and contrast its smooth maroon neck and gorgeous greenbronze upperparts, the reduced streaking beneath, the bright orange-yellow legs, to the juvenile's coloration.
A note: Any heron found in fresh, down-sprinkled juvenile plumage at the end of July in Ohio has to be a green heron. All the other herons breed very early in spring, but the greens wait. This probably has to do with food sources. Are they waiting for the big dragonfly hatch? (I see them catching lots of dragonflies). For peak frog abundance? Minnow spawn? Who can say? But when birds breed late in a season, the first square I go to for the reason is the abundant food source. Goldfinches and indigo buntings wait for weed seeds to ripen. Cedar waxwings wait for wild cherries, blackberries, poke. Late breeders, all.
What a blessing, to have found this little family. On a subsequent visit, they were still around, fishing and squawking in the same general area. I've been visiting North Bend since 2009, and this is the first time I've seen more than one green heron at once. I'm so delighted to see this family launch, and hope they'll inhabit the lake for years to come.
Hughes River, whose north fork was dammed to create North Bend's twisty turny lake, you continue to delight, instruct, and soothe, as a good river does. Thank you.