Sunday, January 31, 2010

Great Blue Heron, Guide To The Marsh

Photo: John Cossick/USFWS

When you walk or boat along Beaver Creek Marsh, you are likely to meet a great blue heron.  They are part time photographer’s model and full time fisherman.  Male and female birds are similar in appearance but males are generally bigger.  Great blue herons are common in wetlands throughout North America and Central America.  You are drawn to their beauty and size as they silently stalk prey in shallow waters or fly over the marsh.  They are primarily interested in small fish and will feed on shrimp, crab, insects, and small rodents, amphibians, reptiles and birds.  Their call is a harsh croak, either short or extended. 

Photo: Lee Karney/USFWS
Great blue herons nest in colonies constructed in trees near water.  Nests are bulky arrangements of sticks.  Colonies are easily disturbed by humans and locations should not be disclosed or approached.  Range Bayer has provided links to resources and a spirited discussion of the ethics and etiquette of wildlife viewing which helps illuminate different perspectives on viewing and disturbing wildlife.  Visiting the marsh may involve disturbing wildlife when moving closer to animals, and presents an opportunity to learn and think about the consequences of movement there.  Feeling the effects of presence near the marsh, we can begin to understand the importance of respect for all of the environments that we live in.  Then take home the knowledge that actions connect us with everything.
The great blue herons are excellent guides to the marsh.  They show how to respectfully move and silently observe what is happening.  They show where other small wildlife is present.  Great blue heron colonies and feeding in groups can act as information centers for communicating the best places to feed.  Great blue heron food tends to be ephemeral and birds attracted to groups rather than individual birds capture more food.  Sometimes they show impressive behavioral display, as in territoriality and mating.  After observing the great blue heron, we are awed and inspired by its majestic presence in the marsh.
Posted by michael

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