I recently had occasion to stop by a marina I rarely visit: one less than two miles from my home. Stepping out of my car, I noticed a Black-crowned Night Heron patrolling the edge of a tree-dense circle in the midst of a parking area. My camera happened to be at hand, so I took advantage of the opportunity to catch a photo of a bird I rarely see in mid-day.
As I watched, the bird pulled a fallen twig out of the grass, and I realized it was engaged in stick-gathering.
Clearly aware of my presence, it gave me an appraising look, then flew up into one of the large live oaks in the midst of the parking lot.
The bird had been at work for some time; this certainly wasn’t its first stick. I watched as it tucked the new stick into its nest,
and then hopped to a nearby branch to admire its handiwork.
At that point, the sound of birds in the treetops — and the amount of droppings on the ground — made clear the existence of a true rookery. The trees were filled with nests, the squawking of hungry youngsters, and the occasional sight of a seemingly exhausted parent.
Trying to get a glimpse of birds high in leafy live oaks isn’t easy, but I was pleased with this image of two youngsters in a different nest.
Black-crowned Night Herons will nest among other birds, and these weren’t the only residents of the live oaks. Great Egret chicks were scattered among the herons: their nests fewer, but no less noisy.
Black-crowned Night Heron chicks leave the nest at about four weeks, and Great Egret chicks at four to six weeks. The size and behavior of these youngsters suggests they’re approaching that time; the number of birds still gathering sticks suggests there may be opportunities to see even younger birds developing in this urban rookery.