One of my delights each spring is watching the great blue herons (Ardea herodias) at Baum Lake (Shasta County CA) build their nests or repair last year’s nests. This year the snow was so deep and temperatures so bitter that I did not get in to observe the herons until their courtship rituals and housekeeping duties were complete. I missed the “twig presentations” and nest building. I love to watch these large birds return to their rookery bearing twigs and branches, some of which are so large that it seems impossible that the herons can carry them, let alone fly to the treetops with them.
Already the ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) around Baum Lake are filled with great blue heron nests. The birds are sitting on their pale blue eggs. After an incubation period of about 28 days the chicks will hatch. The eyes of these down-covered babies are open at birth. From the ground it is difficult to see the youngsters until they are well into their 7 to 11 week nesting period. Eventually though the babies will peek over the top of their nests. Although I missed the early part of the great blue heron breeding season this year, I hope to watch the chicks mature and eventually learn to fly.
This great blue heron is tending to and sitting on its nest. More information on great blue heron nesting can be found in posts from last season, including this post.