Post Tornado Heron ReNesting Has Chicks!

Well the big theme story in the blog this summer was the tornado ravaged great blue herons. Their rookery was blown away in May and some birds attempted to re-nest at Coon Rapids Dam and Marshall Terrace Park.  I headed out last week to Marshall Terrace to see if chicks were visible. I had heard from people boating on the river that the chicks are calling from the nest.

When I arrived at the park and walked to the river trail, I was sad to see that the nests built on the island right across from the park were all abandoned. However, I could clearly hear heron chick begging calls. Just north of the park is the Riverside Power Plant and there is another island in front of it that some herons were also using.  It's harder to see that island but if you take the stairs all the way down to the river and have binoculars or a scope, you can see some nests.

I scanned the trees with my scope and found quite a few young heron chicks and a few adults flying in to feed them! Yay!  Now if the adults can get them squared away on foraging and migration before all the water freezes up, they'll have as good a shot as any other young heron hatched this summer.  There's still time.  This makes me happier than the herons from wildlife rehab being released--the adults attempted a second nesting on their own and it worked!

I also noticed something very interesting about the island with the active heron nests.  It's hard to see in this photo, but there were campers on this island. So, of course, I digiscoped them.

Looks like they kayaked in and pitched a tent. Interesting because there's not really any place you can legally camp on the Mississippi River through the Twin Cities.  Can't say that I blame them for camping there, lovely spot in the urban Twin Cities landscape, but ew right below a heron rookery?  The stink from the droppings and the non stop heron begging would be enough to keep me away--regardless of the legality.  I'm fairly certain this island is owned by Xcel Energy.  It's interesting to note how relaxed some rules have become post 9/11.  The Head of Navigation is on one side of this island and a power plant for a major metro area is on the other. Usually, security is forces people away from those areas fairly quickly.  The campers were not the only visitors to the island.

A half dozen people on paddle boards landed on the island.  A couple of them noticed the little stinky fish smelling poop factory above them. They weren't there to camp, but to rest and grab a drink from their coolers.

And use the rope swing on the island.  The herons don't seem to mind and I'm sure people landed on their old island.  If you are going to nest in an urban landscape, you have to learn to deal with the humans, that's the way it is.  The nests are high enough that the humans wouldn't be a threat and if someone were foolish enough to climb up to a nest, they'd learn the hard way what a messy business it is getting face to face with a heron chick--they can vomit up fish when scared just like a pelican.  Nasty, nasty stuff.

All in all, it's just really great for me to see that herons are re-nesting and testing out new areas on the river.  I'll be curious to see what they do next year.