The Anniversary Of The Great Blue Heron Rookery Destroyed By A Tornado

This has been an action packed week for me, it's the one year anniversary of the Minneapolis Tornado that ripped through a great blue heron rookery, destroying all the nests (and almost all the offspring) and displacing most of the adults. The herons ended up renesting, some at an older rookery at Coon Rapids Dam and then other establishing a new rookery downriver at the Head of Navigation on the Mississippi River, near Marshall Terrace Park. To our surprise and relief, some of the birds ended up fledging young last year.

And to my utter delight, they came back this year and nesting is again well under way. Tom Crann from All Things Considered asked if there was a way to go out and visit the rookery. The superintendent of my park (MNRRA) Paul Labovitz offered to drive the boat and try to safely land on the island. So off we went under the threat of rain and lots of wind to visit the new rookery. Above is Jayne Solinger, Tom Crann, Paul Labovitz, Jeffery Thompson and Brian Valentine. Tom was getting a photo of me getting a photo of him.  It was all very meta on Twitter.

This is a shot beneath the rookery from the boat, look at all those those nests.  Even though it was windy, if you took a moment, you could hear the chicks begging for food. Paul found a safe place to land the boat and we walked around on the island. I was able to count about 40 nests, most of which were active. I wasn't sure if some of the smaller ones were starters or leftover from last year. There's still plenty of room to grow on this island, so I'm sure we'll see more nests in years to come.

We had fun on the island and I even taught Tom how to digiscope with his iPhone and my Swarovski scope.

This is one of our iPhone scoped photos, we were sending them to Twitter, but Tom also added them to the story on the MPR site. Awesome. These young herons look like they are about to leave the nest. I think that mild March allowed the great blue herons an early start on nesting.

I couldn't help but notice how much poop was on the island. As I understand it, Xcel Energy owns the island and you're not supposed to land on it, but people do.  Last year I found some campers and a local tour operator landing under the rookery. I couldn't help but think this a foolish situation, fish reeking heron poop is no fun to have on your clothing...or to camp under--ew. While we were on the island, we felt some moisture and we thought it had started to rain...

Then I noticed that the speckles were white and realized that I just got the MPR crew covered in heron poo! Way to go, Ranger Sharon! I had to call and ask Swarovski what the best and safest method is for removing heron poop from my spotting scope body. Typically I just run it under the shower but I think this will need a little elbow grease...and quite possibly a toothbrush.

Thanks to the super windy conditions on our way back to shore, everybody got sprayed with Mississippi River water, so that did kind of help clean off the heron poop...though everybody had to go back to the studios a little wetter than expected.

The peregrine falcons who use the nest box flew around us on the island a few times.

You can see they are still using the island as their plucking perch. We found all sorts of bird parts from several blue jay wings, killdeer wings and catbird parts.

There was even a disembodied killdeer head!

Canada geese nest all over the island, but many of the nests were abandon. I wonder if people landing on the island or the constant barrage of heron poop was the cause.  I wasn't able to get a photo but there are also at least three spotted sandpiper nesting territories. You know, if it weren't for the heron poop factor and parent freak out factor, this island is a naturalist's dream and I would love, love, love to use it as an outdoor classroom.  So much to explore and every bit of it is a teachable moment.

So, here is the story from All Things Considered and Tom also found that Xcel has set up a heron cam, so you can watch from the safety (and less stinky) area of your desk.





Winter Surveys

I'm still doing some of my bird surveys. And up until this week I was having a cheery time in the field, but now it's so incredibly silent. I can't believe this is the same spot that was chock full of bobolinks not so long ago. It's so strange to suddenly have a spot that was so vibrant with sound from breeding birds then switch to crickets then to chips of secretive migrating sparrows and then to nothing.  It makes those hour long point counts feel like a long time. And though the landscape is beautiful, it's bleak and lonely...and not nearly as much fun to scramble under electric fences as the snow piles up.

We've even been able to squeeze in another aerial waterfowl survey this week. Half the Mississippi River is frozen and reminds me a bit of a lunar landscape.

It snowed lightly while we were flying and the ending result made it seem as though we were flying right through a holiday card.  I suggested the pilot attach a bright red nose to his plane and I'm not sure he found that nearly as funny as I did.

Swans fly like shimmering ghosts through the snow.  The numbers of swans has dropped on the Mississippi and I'm not entirely sure that a majority of them are tundras.  In early and mid November, I watched huge strings of swans fly over while I did my eagle surveys.  I could hear their calls well before I saw them and knew they were tundra swans heading to the staging area on the Mississippi.  Last week, I had smaller groups of swans using the exact same route, but listening to them, they were distinctly trumpeter swans.  It's hard to tell the 2 apart in a plane at 100 miles an hour.

They are easy enough to count and id on the open water...

But much harder on ice and snow.  This was as we were doing a high pass to see if there was enough open water to warrant a fly by.  At fist, I though there are a few swans but not many...then I noticed how many of the whiter spots were moving on the ice, there were still hundreds of swans to be counted.

Canada geese are in large numbers, the biggest numbers I've seen all season.  Considering all the waste corn in farm fields and all the places that have open water along the river, it's no surprise.

Here's part of a flock of bald eagles, there are at least 29 in this photo.  I saw some very interesting behavior that I've not seen bald eagles do this week.  Common mergansers are in huge numbers on Lake Pepin, but I was able to get a shot of them.  Where ever we had huge flocks of mergansers, we had sizable flocks of bald eagles hunting them.  It was crazy, we would have 10 bald eagles actively trying to nail a mergansers over open water.  One spot was so active and dicey with mergansers and eagles, our pilot skillfully dodged around the flock.  Our pilot doesn't like eagles to be directly over head because they can suddenly drop, through in a few thousand panicked ducks and barely freezing water and you have a dangerous situation.  It was cool to get a fleeting glimpse of the behavior.  Lake Pepin is so huge, it's not something easily viewed from shore.  I'd be curious how successful this technique is and if any bald eagles ever end up drowning after catching a merganser on water.  I know eagles are capable of swimming some distance to shore by paddling wings, but I don't think an eagle could make it from the center of Pepin.

Not as many ducks, but what a treat to get to view the bluffs in Minnesota and Wisconsin on either side of the Mississippi River.  This was our last flight for ducks.  I might do one ground survey next week, but that depends on if Pepin stays open.  To view our waterfowl numbers check here.  If this week's numbers aren't up yet, they will be up by Friday.




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.


Final two rescued herons released

Photo by Brian Peterson.

Hello all, NBB here.

The StarTribune has a story about the final two heron chicks that were rescued after a tornado destroyed their rookery on the Mississippi River. Sharon's been involved with this story as one of the first people to investigate the damage, to being part of the rescue team, to helping release the birds.

The Strib talks about the rehabilitation process for the birds:

The nine chicks had spent much of their three-month respite in a 20-yard-by-5-yard kennel, on property in Inver Grove Heights that belongs to Vance Grannis. Their kennel, originally built for rehabilitating swans, also held a pool stocked with fish, giving the birds a vital chance to practice hunting. They also could spread their wings and fly, though not far. The nine young were lucky. They came in healthy, if a bit stressed. The center's staff and volunteers worked hard to keep them that way until they were old enough to care for themselves.

Check out the Strib site for more on the release, and some great pictures of the birds.

Young Herons From Tornado Released!

If you've been following this blog this summer, you are aware of the tornado that hit Minneapolis in May and destroyed a heron rookery and the recovery and rebuilding.

I got a call from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center that last week and they planned to release 7 of the 9 great blue heron chicks recovered after the tornado last Monday.  They invited a couple of us from my park (the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area to be there) and I got to release one of the herons and my fellow Park Ranger Gordon took photos.

This was the great blue heron in my box.  The herons have come a long way from when they were first admitted to the WRC.  Videos on YouTube showed their progress--here's one of the chicks honing its fishing skills.

The birds were released at Cenaiko Lake at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park--a perfect spot since the lake is managed and stocked for trout fishing.  It's also not too far from the Coon Rapids Dam heron rookery, so they will be able to watch the local adults to see where they go to forage and learn from them.  Perhaps one of the adults renesting in the park is a parent of one of the released chicks?  There won't be any magical family reunion, if these are any of their chicks, too much time has passed for the adults to regard these chicks as anything other than a competitor for food and territory.

I took this shot with my phone.  My heron was one of two that hung out in the water for several minutes after release.  I'm sure some if it had to do with the confusion of a new situation for them but the day we released the herons was the first day of that nasty heatwave that ravaged the midwest last week--yuck.  I think they just wanted to cool off.

The heron from my box eventually flew to the edge of the lake where it was promptly bapped by some red-winged blackbirds who didn't take kindly to it being in their territory.  It then found an edge where it could gather its thoughts in peace and heat.  It started panting and I could understand why.  I was in my full on Park Ranger uniform and I have to tell you that the poly-wool blend the government makes us wear retains heat like nobody's business.  I was only out in the heat in under 30 minutes and I'm certain I lost 5 pounds in sweat.  My clothes were soaked through when I got to the car.  Eventually the heron flew to a shadier spot close to the water, ready to fish.

And so this is a happier ending to the Minneapolis tornado for the herons. Though many nests were lost, the herons rebuilt and a handful of chicks have been returned to the wild. These chicks have aa good of a chance as any raised completely in the wild and I hope that they will figure out the best fishing spots and have a chance to migrate south and return next year.

Here's some of the media coverage of the release from KARE 11 , MPR and KSTP. (Mom, you'll be interested in the first 2 links).

And I leave you with a funny video of the herons from the WRC not long before their release.  One of the chicks decides to take on a monster sunfish.  With that sort of can do spirit, I'm sure the will do fine:



Heron Rookery Visible From Marshall Terrace Park

When I last posted about the great blue herons renesting on the Mississippi River, I said that the rookery was not easily viewable from shore.  Tony Hertzel from the Minnesota Ornithologists Union sent a not mentioning Marshall Terrace Park.  I had driven by there and also viewed it from the river and it didn't look viewable. However, I drove back to the park and explored it.  There's a paved trail behind the baseball diamond that takes you to a stairway down to the river and gives you an eye level view of one of the islands on the rookery:

I didn't have my scope with me and took this with my point and shoot camera.  If you look in the bare branches, you can see one of the nests at the top.  This island also has a little colony of nesting spotted sandpipers, so if you go watch for these little shorebirds bobbing their butts along the shore of the island.

Maria Baca from the Star Tribune wrote a really nice follow up about the rookery and there's even a photo of a heron on a nest!

One note about this park.  They have some badass ground hogs:

I found a family of them living in a hole dug out of asphalt...I would give them a wide berth if you encounter them on the trail.

Heron Rookery Reloaded Post Tornado

Who knew this story would have such legs?!

As reported last month, the great blue heron rookery at North Mississippi Regional Park was completely obliterated by a tornado that went through north Minneapolis. I worked with some of my fellow National Park Rangers at MNRRA, the MN DNR and the Animal Humane Society to help gather what few live chicks and injured adults were remaining on the island.  We all pretty much guessed that it was late enough in the season that the herons would not rebuild.  All last week, I received several emails about herons building new nests in two different locations with my the boundaries of my National Park!

I organized a boat trip with my fellow park rangers, Carrol Henderson from the MN DNR, Bill Hudson and Brad Kopp from WCCO and Jim Williams from the Star Tribune to investigate.  I was excited, I was able to get our park's head honcho Superintendent Paul Labovitz to be my river chauffeur for the morning!  We passed the mangled rookery and even made a stop.

I was amazed at how few carcasses were left on the tornado ravaged island, we found very few compared to what was there a couple of days after the tornado.  I'm sure turkey vultures and crows took advantage of the food source and based on some of the damaged feathers found around the few remaining bones, some mammalian predators ate them too, possibly raccoon or fox.

One of the reports of the herons rebuilding centered on islands just off of the Riverside Power Plant north of downtown Minneapolis.  Even the power plant staff sent emails asking if they needed to do anything to help keep the herons safe--how cool is that?

There are two small islands here and we found about two dozen nests.  There could be more, but it's hard to count them among the leaves.  They rebuilt quickly.  Park Ranger Gordon (who took some of the photos in this post) looked at me and said, "You know, those birds were flying around with sticks when we went to the island two weeks ago.  I didn't think they would seriously re-nest."  I agreed.

More herons came in with sticks while we circled the islands.  I've observed herons adding sticks to nests with chicks during nesting season.  I figured that they look like flimsy nests to begin with and additions are regularly added.  When we saw the herons with sticks right after their nests were destroyed, I thought it was just an attempt, not serious nesting behavior--kind of like their hormones were telling them, "this is what you need to be doing now."  But we watched more than one bird fly in with sticks while we checked the new rookery.  I wondered if we would see any birds incubating.

Sure enough, herons were incubating on this island!  Wow!  I was not expecting that.  I'll be curious to see when the chicks fledge.  It should be a three month process, but if we have a warm fall, these birds just might be successful.

As we cruised under the trees on the boat, Paul asked, "What's that bird on the branch, it looks like a lump." Carrol, Gordon, Jim and I all about jumped out of our seats--it was an adult peregrine falcon perched below all of the heron nest.

There's a peregrine falcon nest box right on the Riverside Power Plant.  I thought our chances of seeing a peregrine falcon was very good, but I didn't expect one to be hanging out in the midst of a heron rookery.  Great blue herons are not one of the preferred foods of this falcon.  I don't think the herons see it as a serious threat.  I had to give our park's superintendent some serious props for locating the falcon while all the birders in the boat missed it.

The falcon eventually flew over to its nest box but wow, what a bonus to see a peregrine mixed in with herons!  This made me happy on so many levels--I love bird resiliency and I especially love when they do not read the same books and articles that I do and do their own thing.  I'm also excited because we planned some canoe trips to view the old rookery this summer and I thought those would be bummer trips with me saying, "Well, we used to have a rookery here, but..."

This new little rookery is on that paddle route, so we'll be able to take people by the old tornado damaged island and the new one.

The one big bummer about this new rookery is that it is not easily viewable from either shore of the Mississippi River.  Because of barge companies and power plant security, you can't view it like you could from North Mississippi Regional Park.  However, not all of the herons relocated to this rookery.  Some when to Coon Rapids Dam which is totally viewable from the eastern shore of the Mississippi River!


There's been a rookery there for years.  What's interesting is that staff told me last year that the number of birds using the rookery was shrinking, the speculation being that the herons were using the old North Mississippi Regional Park rookery.  But now, some have gone back to re-nest after the tornado.  Most of the nests were covered up, but there were quite a few on the outer edges where birds could be seen incubating.  If I really tried to focus my scope, I would make out nests deep in the leaves with chicks about five to six weeks old.  You could certainly hear older heron chicks calling.  A few years ago, I found a great horned owl nesting in this rookery, and no heron would nest next to it.  I think the owls may have partaken of some heron chicks and that may have contributed to some leaving this rookery.  Hopefully no owl will visit the nests on the outer edges of the this summer.  At the very least, the owl nesting season should be over at this point.

I did find a red-tailed hawk with two large chicks among the newer heron nests, another bonus raptor for the day!  Herons aren't high on the red-tail's preferred prey list, so I don't think it will be an issue for the herons.

So, all in all a very hopeful outcome to a devastating loss.  Bill and Brad did a very nice piece on the rookery, I was grateful they were interested in a follow up story.  The resiliency of birds never ceases to amaze me.  I'll post Jim's story when it comes up.







Update On Tornado Ravaged Herons #birding

Hey, here's a great video from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of some of the young great blue herons that were retrieved from the tornado damaged rookery at North Mississippi Regional Park.  They appear to be doing very well! [youtube][/youtube]

In other news, I have had multiple reports of herons rebuilding on 2 different areas on the river.  I'm working with my park and the MN DNR now to go out and try and get photos of it for next week.  One of the new spots is not easily visible from the shores of the Mississippi but if you are canoeing the area or taking a boat, you'll see it.  As a matter of fact, I was supposed to lead a birding trip to the rookery via voyageur canoe with Wilderness Inquiry on June 11 and wondered how we would improvise, but that trip is going to go right past the new rookery.  We should also see eagles, peregrines, orioles, and hear warblers, vireos and wrens.

If you have any spare cash, consider donating to the WRC and the great blue herons.  Fish eaters are expensive birds to take care of.


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


Minneapolis Heron Rookery Destroyed By Tornado

This was so not how I planned to spend my Monday.  Warning, not a pleasant post ahead. I returned from Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds yesterday and on my way home, Non Birding Bill called to warn me of a possible tornado in north Minneapolis--an area I would drive through on my way to our apartment, but far from our our building.  I mostly avoided the storm and drove through the tail end of it.  We checked Facebook and called friends to make sure people were accounted for and were relieved to find them alive.  This morning, I started my day off finishing errands and planning bird festival blog entries, some bike riding and our next podcast.  Then the emails started to come in asking what I new about the North Mississippi Regional Park Heron Rookery.

A quick check of the Minneapolis Police traffic plan confirmed my fear.  The tornado's path hit the park.  I called my boss from the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and said, "I know it's my day off, but do you mind if I put on my uniform and go check out the situation?"  If areas were blocked off, I knew I'd have a better chance of getting in and not be perceived as a looter if I had my official badge and uniform on.  He said to go for it.

Reports from friends in the area said that herons were circling non stop around the park.  As I was driving to the exit for North Mississippi Regional Park, I saw herons circling outside of the park fence (this photo was not taken as I was driving, it was taken at the park).  I also noticed trees down around the fence and tornado debris around the highway.  My stomach sank.  I made my way around the blocked exit, entered the visitor center for the park and the employees faces confirmed my fears.  They said the rookery was gone and they were devastated.

I've blogged about this rookery a lot.  I even took someone from MPR out to it.  We use it regularly for programs for my park and people who use the trails love to check it out in the summer.  It's a testament to birds adapting to an urban area.

This is what it looked like this morning.  There are no words.  Every single nest was gone, it looked like the tornado went right through the island.  Even the few trees that managed to stay up in the face of the tornado had lost nests.  Herons were circling the island, some looking for purchase, others flew in with sticks in a half-hearted attempt to rebuild.  Everything was gone.

Most of the walking trails around the park were downed.  There was some access on the biking trail but I had to do some climbing to get around.

There was at least one dead heron on the trail at North Miss, but how many more were under the trees?

When I arrived at a point on the bank of the Mississippi River where I could view the island that once hosted the rookery, I found an injured heron.  I was unprepared.  I've handled all sorts of birds with bird banding and with picking up injured raptors for The Raptor Center.  Herons are difficult and dangerous.  They don't know that you are trying to help them, all they know is that they try to eat the weak and injured when they find it.  They will fight with that spear like beak and that long neck gives them an advantage.  I know of one rehabber who lost an eye grabbing a heron and others who have been stabbed in various appendages.  I had no protective goggles or anything to put the heron in.  It was also close to the river.  I stayed and waited a moment assessing the situation:

The heron flew to a log on the river and compound fracture on its leg was evident.  Sigh.  I was really surprised at how few injured herons I could see.  These are long, lanky, slow moving birds.  The ones that were flying had a few feathers missing but otherwise appeared okay.  How did they survive the tornado?

Some herons perched in the remaining branches and they appeared to be okay. It's almost as if what happened hasn't clearly processed in their brains.  They know the nests should be there, they should either be brooding eggs and chicks or bringing in food, but the nests are gone and so they perched in the trees and waited.

A few more were down among the vegetation on the island.  As I was there taking photos, park visitors came by wanting to help and grieving over the lost rookery.  I advised all of them to wait for park personnel to get to the herons and warned them how dangerous they can be.  I sympathized with the park and staff.  However, while there some guys in a boat came by taking photos of the island and of us.

Then these guys in hipster hats got on the island and started heading towards the herons, no gloves, no protective eye wear, nothing.  I yelled to them to stay away and they seemed surprised someone could see them and backed off.  I appreciate that people want to help, but injured herons are incredibly dangerous.  My park is working on a solution to reach them right now.  The river is still high and again these are dangerous birds, we need planning and skills.

The big question people want to know is what will the herons do now?  Will they renest?  I don't think that they will, they have a brief time for nesting in Minnesota. Nest building can take about 3 days if they really work, but can take a week or more.  Incubation is about 27 days and the young fledge (fly and leave the nest) at about 54 - 57 days.  It takes a few weeks for young herons to become independent from the adults.  So, we're looking at about a three month process meaning the chicks would fledge in late August--that's a little late, especially since the rookery is gone.

I think these guys will get the summer off to feed themselves.  There may be a few young herons who might attempt a renesting at Coon Rapids Dam a few miles north on the river, but I think the season is scrapped for most of them.  On the upside, herons build flimsy nests and this is something they have evolved to handle natural disasters.  The heron population in the Twin Cities is very stable, they will handle this and restart next year.  At the same time, it's hard to see the devastation and it's incredibly hard to watch the injured.

I couldn't help but notice all the birds on the ground.  This American redstart practically walked through my legs.  Warbling vireos, orioles and other warblers were down low, feeding off of the insects tucked around the branches of the downed trees.  I couldn't help but wonder how something that weighs about as much as a dust bunny could survive a tornado?  Did they just roll under some shrubbery when the wind blew?

As I was about to leave, a park patron walked up carrying a bawling fawn.  He said it was found in the open on the trail alone and crying out (it kind of sounded like a goat).  I was working my way towards getting him to put the fawn back where he found it (fawns normally hide while the does are out feeding and it's not unusual to find one unattended) but he said that he found a dead doe near the fawn which didn't sound optimistic for the young deer.  I ended up taking it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

So, all in all this was a crap Monday.  I apologize that the podcast didn't happen today and it won't happen tomorrow.  I spent the day trying to coordinate an effort to get to the heron rookery island with people experienced with herons and to see if we can get the injured adults. Plus, I'm in a morose mood, I can't imagine the podcast being fun to listen to.

One final sad note about the Minneapolis tornado. There's a report that Rob MacIntyre of the Raptor Resource Project (the folks who bring us the Decorah Eagle Cam) died while helping his neighbors clear debris.

This tornado was sad on many levels.