Beautiful Great Blue Herons Pair Bonding at the Nest

Nest building was completed four weeks earlier and the great blue heron eggs were due to hatch any moment. The suspense was mounting daily – would this be the day? And then one day, the female swooped back to the nest bearing a small stick. How sweet, I thought to myself as I watched from the kayak hidden across the channel – a token of her affection for her mate, who was hunkered down on the eggs.

© Babsje (

Four weeks after mating, a great blue heron returns to the nest
and presents a stick to her mate, hunkered down atop eggs.

© Babsje (

Great blue herons pair bonding during nest building.

It was a touching, tender moment to behold. I had watched their courtship and nest building four weeks earlier, but there was something special about seeing her bring that twig back to the male in the nest.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, they only had eyes for each other while courting, but even once they got down to the business of incubating the eggs, their pair bonding efforts persisted, with lavish greeting displays when one returned to the nest, occasional preening of each other, and more. I had never seen them bring back little gifts like this twig, though. How sweet.

It was especially gratifying to see the progression of their nesting that summer. It was a brand new nest, one they built from scratch five weeks earlier.

The island had a long-standing nest used by pairs of herons over the years, shown at left and top right in the photo below circa 2008.

Unfortunately, the pair abandoned the nest during the summer of 2010 due to human encroachment. (I wrote about the dangers humans pose to great blue herons earlier, please click here.)

Then, sometime between October 2010 and May 2011, a bad storm felled the tree and nest. As you can see in the middle right photo below, that tree and nest have vanished entirely.

But look closely at the highlighted box at the bottom of that frame: one of the young great blue herons from the 2009 brood born on the island is perched on a limb. When first I came upon the island that spring and saw the nest gone, I was crushed, but then, I saw the heron through the binocs and felt stirrings of hope. He was there day after day for weeks at the beginning of the summer, and then later he moved northwards to a different cove.

But the following spring, on my first kayak outing to that section of the lake, there he was.

With a mate.

Building the nest you see at bottom right, below.

And those two shadowy sticklike figures in the nest? His chicks.

I love happy endings.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron nesting trees, clockwise from top left, 2008 through 2012.


Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks once again to Stewart Moncton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

Thanks to the kind folks at NaBloPoMo for the National Blog Posting Month challenge this November.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

(These photos were taken between June 2008 and July 2012.)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron

Posted on November 21, 2013, in ardea herodias, Birds, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, NaBloPoMo, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Thursday's Special, Wild Bird Wednesday and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Me too. Thank you for this tender, happy-ending post 🙂

  2. It is like one of Shakespeare’s plays and ends with a wedding. Lucky you to have been able to follow.

  3. Babs, you continue to amaze with your great posts. Love the explanations and the photos. We have a couple of nests that we like to keep watch on, too.

    • Hi Bob – Thanks for your kind words and encouragement! Its fun to watch the same nest from one year to the next, wondering which birds will pair up in any given season. Good luck with your nests there.

  4. What a wonderful heron saga!

    • Thanks, Deb, so glad you enjoyed this one. They have used that new nest for the past two years, and successfully raised 4 fledglings, 2 each year. It has been thrilling to observe.

  5. so there is only one nest on this island?

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