“Seen any heron lately?” That was the question asked this morning and the answer came easy: “They’re everywhere!” A few minutes later it proved to be true for the asking kayaker as a Great Blue Heron flew overhead. Being Monday morning, there was a quiet stillness just not experienced on busy Sunday afternoons which made the sight even more awesome.
Manchaug Pond is a great place for birders and birding! Large birds are common on Manchaug Pond: eagles, osprey, cormorants, turkey vultures, and herons are commonly seen gliding overhead while boaters and fisherman busily traverse the 380 acre lake. Swans make a visit now and then and then there are the rare reports of such birds as the Great Egret or a loon. But the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodia) makes its home on Manchaug Pond, a common sight, presenting itself as the solitary hunter and fisher, standing on docks and boulders along the shore for long periods of time, and walking the beaches and yards in a slow, stiff gait.
How to recognize a Great Blue Heron? While other large birds are more elusive, the heron can be easily found poised on the shoreline rocks or docks for long periods of time motionless just waiting for you to take notice or for a fish to pass by. It’s head and beak are long and sender, its body feathers blue-gray, with white and black on the head and the S-shaped neck and black on the upper side of the blue-gray wing. In spring, adults are found with distinctive wispy feathers on the back of the head and breast. In flight, they are easily distinguished from other large birds by the long thin legs trailing behind.
Just west of the Manchaug Pond watershed on the main road to Oxford, is a large wetlands where the herons have their rookery – nesting and raising their young in colonies. Large, heavy stick nests are easily seen high in the tall trees. In spring both parents are seen protecting the nests, standing like sentinels. By summer the young are visible, stretching their wings, hopping down on the branches, and later making their way in flight to Manchaug Pond.
Visit the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to listen to the calls of heron, watch the video cam, and check out the frequently asked questions to learn more. And when visiting Manchaug Pond, bring a pair of binoculars or camera for your own sighting of the Great Blue Heron.