Heron Rookery Visit

Here's a follow up to yesterday's story about the Minneapolis tornado that destroyed the great blue heron rookery at North Mississippi Regional Park. Thanks to a lot of phone calls, my park the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, CO Todd from MN DNR and some vet techs with heron experience from the Animal Humane Society, we made it out to the heron rookery.  I was so excited that as we were making phone calls to coordinate this, people were willing to loan boats and equipment, especially since money is tight when it comes to government funded employees.

This is Nicole and fellow Park Ranger Gordon holding birds we recovered.  I was especially excited to have along Laura and Nicole from AHS, they had heron grabbing experience, which made a huge difference.  Apart from minor scratches from vegetation, no human was injured.

A group who knew enough about herons to avoid adults retrieved 7 live heron chicks last night.  We recovered 2 more chicks and 3 adults this morning.  Most were taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, MN (apart from 2 who had injuries so severe, they were euthanized right away). If you have any spare cash, please donate it to the WRC--even if it's only $5.  This is their busy time of year and getting an unexpected drop of 9 baby herons who need lots of fish to get the adult weight of 7 pounds is expensive.  Any extra spare change you have is greatly appreciated by those folks.

We couldn't save them all, most of the chicks were dead, but we did what we could and helped those we could reach.  If you figure conservatively that there were 180 nests (though I suspect there were over 200), with each nest holding 2-3 chicks and every single nest came down, we lost over 300 healthy chicks.  We found maybe 50 dead chicks on this island, but from the way the trees fell, I'm sure most of them ended up in the river.  We found very few dead and injured adults.  I think the herons saw the tornado and took off for safer skies, leaving the chicks behind.  The few who stayed were the ones who were killed or injured.  So, sadly we lost almost an entire generation fro the summer from this one rookery, but most adults survived to breed again next year and there are several rookeries for them to use around the Twin Cities.  Herons build flimsy nests and have evolved to deal with natural disaster.  It is a sad day for the park to loose this colony, but we know in the long run, they will survive and continue to breed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to the media.  I'll post links as they show up on the web.  Also, Ranger Gordon uploaded photos from today on our park's Facebook Page.  Check them out!

Star Tribune story by Jim Williams

Star Tribune story by Maria Elena Baca

WCCO's coverage of the heron rookery

MPR coverage of the heron rookery

KSTP coverage of the heron rookery

Pioneer Press coverage of the heron rookery

National Park Traveler coverage of the loss of our rookery

WRC coverage of the heron rookery