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Great Blue Heron Rookery


Mel  A. Harder
Forester at Large Since 1973
Licensed in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts & Connecticut
Drawer N, East Hartland CT  06027-0831
phone/fax: (860)653-2444
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In 2001 I visited a rookery of great blue herons in Torrington CT.  I estimate about 50-60 nests.  My first observation of them was in March.  It was snowing hard.  About 100 birds were standing in trees, circling the rookery, coming in for a landing, or departing.  Looking up, watching them glide silently by,  pterodactyls came to mind.

The only thing silent about these birds is their glide.  Otherwise the rookery is a noisy place, with birds squaking loudly at each other most of the time.  As the weather warmed, you could smell the rookery as you approached it.  It smell just like a chicken farm.

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I took pictures in April of 2001.  I put these pictures on pages with explanatory text for viewing.  To view these pages, click on the thumbnails.

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During several of my observations, I saw hawks dive at the rookery from high above.  The first time, it surprised me because it happened so fast and unexpectedly.  All of a sudden this large dark shape came zooming down on top of a gliding heron, which averted the hit at the last moment by making a sideways swoop.  Then I looked up and saw several hawks gliding high above.  They were riding thermals along a ridge line, and I saw several other similar attacks.  None hit that I saw.  I could not identify the hawks.

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I went back later in the spring to see if I could observe hatchlings and/or activity related to hatchlings.  I could hear a steady a steady chorus of quiet cheeping which I took to be hatchlings.  However, as the leaves were now out on the trees the nests were in, visible observation was limited.  A walk under the rookery revealed a dozen or so broken eggs on the ground.

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The first few times I observed the birds, in March, the ground was covered with snow and ponds & lakes frozen over.  Great blue herons are wading birds that use their spearlike bill to hunt fish, amphibians, insects and small mammals.  They hunt in lakes, ponds, rivers & streams, marshes, meadows, pastures and fields.  With the local hunting areas covered with snow or frozen over, the birds from this rookery must fly to open water somewhere for hunting, maybe to the coast, about 38 miles as the crow flies.


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