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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sleeping With the Great Blue Herons

On Tuesday the temperatures soared to near 70F so I tossed my gear in my car and drove up to Devil's Lake State Park in Baraboo to do some hiking on the Ice Age Trail.  It was a freak warm-up, it's still not truly spring here yet.

You have to check in at the main park headquarters to camp and until this weekend the group camp is the only one open.  With only 9 spots you would think it would be full since it's spring break, but I lucked out and got a sprawling spot for only $15.00.  As I was setting up I kept hearing noises and at first thought a neighboring site had a dog but eventually I had to walk over and investigate.

I was camped across from a heronry!  The birds flew back and forth carrying sticks to build their nests and all evening long I heard their calls, their wings as they flew back and forth over my site, and clacking noises that I guessed must have been their bills.  Male Great Blue Herons collect much of the nest material, gathering sticks from the ground and nearby shrubs and trees, and from unguarded and abandoned nests, and presenting them to the female. She weaves a platform and a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, mangrove leaves, or small twigs. Nest building can take from 3 days up to 2 weeks; the finished nest can range from a simple platform measuring 20 inches across to more elaborate structures used over multiple years, reaching 4 feet across and nearly 3.5 feet deep. (information courtesy of All About Birds)

The noise was pretty consistent, so even though it carried on late into the night I didn't have any problem going to sleep.  No different than being serenaded by frogs, really.

Want an easy way to figure out if there are big birds nesting nearby?  Don't look up, just look down!

It got down in to the thirties overnight, but I was good and tired from hiking before dark.  Tales from the trail tomorrow!


  1. How lucky to have great blue heron nests right at your campsite! Very cool!

  2. Very neat that you plunked yourself down in the middle of a rookery!

  3. What a neat intro into spring! Some of those nest look rather precariously placed. Hope there isn't a big wind! But then I'm sure they know what they are doing:) Nice to see you out on the trail!

  4. Very cool. Did it smell like a rookery?