The red tailed hawk perched less than 20 feet from the adult great blue heron and stared at the nest, thinking no doubt about tasty eggs for dinner.
When I observed the great blue herons building their nest back in May, the other tall, dead tree on the island was a roosting place for many cormorants, and about 10 feet below the herons’ nest-in-progress, on a different tree, the cormorants had a nest with nestlings about to fledge. This is in keeping with heron-cormorant lore: they are known to nest in the same colonies, with herons generally building nests at higher levels than cormorants, although cormorants do sometimes perch even higher up.
The first day I watched the nest building, the adult male heron would occasionally make territorial postures towards the cormorants below, and once, when an incoming cormorant dared to land on a branch too close, the heron literally barked and chased off the cormorant. It was a different frawhnk sounding, definitely a “bark” from the heron.
The second day, the herons were close to done with the building – not nearly so much back-and-forth across the channel to gather sticks and twigs – and the cormorants were doing their usual thing, hanging out in the tree, occasionally spreading their wings to cool off, and feeding the nestlings.
The following weekend, however, the herons’ nest was complete, an adult sitting on the eggs, and not a cormorant in sight. The cormorant nestlings had fledged, the nest was empty, and no cormorants were to be seen anywhere on the island, or in the waters near it. Swans and cygnets, yes, geese, yes, ducks, yes. Cormorants, no.
It was the same scene for the next four weeks. Herons taking turns sitting on their eggs, but not a trace of any cormorants.
Flash forward to June 29th, the day I first discovered that at least one heron egg had hatched.
An adult heron was not sitting on the eggs, but rather standing on the nest, and I could see a fuzzy chick, and heard a new sound coming from the nest: chih chih chih … chih chih chih … chih chih chih. Big smiles.
And one other interesting thing: the cormorants were back.
And the cormorants stayed there, standing sentinel over the heron nestlings from nearby branches, across from and above the nest.
Over the weeks while the cormorants were gone and the herons were sitting on the eggs, there were other birds seen perching on trees near the nest, including a blue jay and a red tailed hawk. The hawk perched less than 20 feet from the adult heron and stared, thinking no doubt about tasty eggs for dinner. The blue jay did his job and pestered the hawk, until the hawk soared off elsewhere.
But once the heron eggs hatched, it seemed that the cormorants took up the charge of protecting the heron chicks from predators.
I like how that works.
Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands at WordPress for the inspiration of this Weekly Photo Challenge.
This took place May thru July, 2012)
© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)