A Reason To Visit Fergus Falls, MN

Just came back from a magical experience in Vergas, MN--more on that later, for now, I present Fergus Falls, MN.

And I don't just mean the giant otter statue in the park...at least I think it's an otter since it's in Otter Tail County. But to me, this looks like a weasel. Whatever it is, it's the animal statue in the city park off of State Hwy 59 in Fergus Falls. Anyway, it's not the reason I'm talking about to visit Fergus Falls.

Okay, and this isn't the reason I'm going to point out either, but I did get a kick out of the idea that a local church in Fergus Fall is bribing members to show up with the promise of free coffee and donuts.

This, my friends, is the reason to visit Fergus Falls. It's a little island in the city park. What could be so cool about that?

It's chock full of great egrets, they use it as a nesting rookery. I have never stopped at Fergus Falls--even though I pass quite a bit in my travels, but my buddy Carrol Henderson told me about the rookery in the city park that I stopped by today for lunch, gas, and to digiscope the nesting egrets.

The island is so close to the parking lot, that it's easy to get up close shots or just casual views of all the nesting great egrets. And in case you haven't noticed yet--take a look at those toes, hanging out over the side of the nest! Cute...in an extra terrestrial kind of way.

I loved watching the adult fly in. At first approach, they looked very dignified and heron-like with their necks tucked in, but in the final descent, their necks shot out, their long legs would splay, and they just looked out of control as they tried to land on a branch.

But, when the adults got to the nest, it was all business feeding the chicks and then just standing guard over them for awhile. The chicks actually made quite a bit of noise. It almost sounded like locusts trilling, with their monotonous buzzy, nasally begging calls. I tried to get a video with sound, but the wind was too high and interfered with the mic on the digital camera.

As I was digiscoping the great egrets, I noticed that I could hear some sounds behind me. It was a little different than the call the young egrets were making. I decided to go investigate.

A quick scan of the pine trees in the park revealed dozens of black-crowned night-heron nests. Perhaps the night-herons found the great egrets too noisy, or preferred to be along the shores of the park, as opposed to the islands, but any conifer in the park that was next to the lake had one, if not more black-crowned night-heron nests.

While I was at the city park in Fergus Falls, quite a few vehicles pulled up to watch the egret rookery. Many of them obviously hadn't noticed the night-heron nests---otherwise they wouldn't have parked directly underneath them like the car in the above photo. I love birds, and I know bird poop getting on cars is a fact of life, but when it comes to a bird the size of a night-heron, I would not want to tempt fate by parking directly beneath a couple of nests.

Scanning the ground directly beneath the nests revealed several night-heron egg shells and a few dead night-heron chicks (and poop). From my experience going out to heron and pelican rookeries for banding, I'm always amazed that any heron (or pelican) survives beyond hatching from the egg. Survival is tough--older siblings or other birds try to kill and eat you, if you fall from the nest too early your parents will ignore you and you will starve, all the nests are piled above each other, so birds are pooping all over each other--it's just a mess. But survive, they do...somehow.

So, if you find yourself in Fergus Falls, check out the city park for herons and egrets. It's an easy photo opportunity and one of the most easily accessible heron and egret rookeries I know of in Minnesota.