For our nature study outing last week, we met friends at a lake park we go to every couple months. It was an unseasonably hot day, so we set up amid some picnic tables in the shade and let the kids climb down to explore the water line.
As soon as they ran off, we were startled by a loud, hoarse bark coming from the tree directly above us. My friend noted that it sounded like a cross between a goose and a dog--and she was right. Such an odd sound to be coming from a tree! I called my big kids back and put them on the task of spotting the bird, which we were shortly able to do.
My son guessed right away: a black-crowned night heron. And sure enough, he was right. (I am constantly amazed by how much he picks up from our non-fiction library!) This was our first sighting of this strange-looking and strange-sounding fellow!
As we looked deeper into the branches, we noticed at least four nests in that same oak being tended by more herons. They're hard to spot in the photo, but I have circled them to make them a bit clearer.
Apparently herons like to nest and forage colonially--and that's definitely what we saw happening here. We also noticed a half dozen or more broken eggs on the ground and (skip ahead, sensitive readers!) several half-eaten juveniles. There was also quite a scurry of squirrel activity along the ground--the perpetrators?
I tried to get a photo of the herons, but none were worth sharing--their perches were at the tip top of the oak's tallest branches. But we did all draw them in our nature journals when we got home.
This is the same lake where we had our first sighting of a green heron a few months ago--a lucky spot for us, it seems!
On the way out, my kids were excited to take photos once again with "their trees." Both of the trees have really changed since the last time we saw them!