Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Secret places of wild Concord

Great Blue Heron Rookery

Trevor chats with our group as Peter checks on herons

The invitation was impossible to resist ― Tour the secret places of wild Concord, Massachusetts with my friend, naturalist and author Peter Alden and Manomet Bird Observatory Program Director Trevor Lloyd-Evans ― so I didn't.

On Saturday, June 26th, we spent the day visiting woods, meadows, swamps, ponds and other wild places, beginning at 9am and ending at 4pm. It was my kind of day, spent in the company of like minded nature lovers.

Peter and I visited this rookery last spring. The adults were still sitting on their nests and only a few young had hatched. Still, it was exciting for me, because I have a special fondness for Great Blue Herons and make weekly visits to a much smaller rookery near me throughout the spring and summer. Visiting this one in late June allowed us to view young at several stages of maturity ― soon to fledge, ready to fledge any day now and some still only a few weeks old.

This is a busy, raucous place. The young are very vocal as they keep a keen eye out for parents returning to the nest with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cak, cak, cak, cak, cak ― is the sound they make most often. But once they spot a parent returning with food, their cries become much louder and urgent, perhaps the loudest hoping to be fed first. Later, when the young are full and content, the sounds of bullfrogs, green frogs and red-winged blackbirds provide a lovely background chorus.

This habitat is ideal for Great Blue Herons ― a swamp created by
beavers doing what beavers do best. Stands of tall dead trees surrounded by water are perfect for the platform type nests that herons build and keep the young safe from predators.

Watching the parents coming and going and the young herons stretching their wings to develop the muscles they need to fly was a memorable experience. Seeing my first green heron was also thrilling.

I will share more about my tour of wild Concord in upcoming posts.

Peter Alden is a world-renowned naturalist, lecturer, ecotourism guide and author of 15 books on North American and African wildlife, including the "National Audubon Society's Regional Field Guide Series." He is considered to be an authority on birds― and larger mammals of the world and is often consulted by the media and the ecotourism industry for his expertise.

Trevor Lloyd-Evans is an ornithologist and avian conservation senior scientist. For more than three decades he has worked as a specialist in bird populations at the Manomet Center for Conservation Services. He is also an expert on invasive plants, migrant birds, bird banding programs and bird molting.

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