This is the 7th year I have been going to the Jones Falls to watch the spring time nesting of the herons as they repair old nests and build new ones. The position for watching these events is from the bridge on Wyman Park Drive across the street and a few hundred feet to the west of the Stieff Building. The bridge is about 25 feet above the water and provides a nearly straight, eye level view of most of the nests while looking south.
In the past there was one nest just below the bridge on the north side but it has not been used for three or so years now. Looking south one also sees that the branches have grown lusher which obscures much of the view that was accessible in the past. One can also use the walkway just east of the bridge and descend down into the park and below the nests. It is under a significant tree canopy so photographs tend to be difficult but it is easier to spot nests.
It has been my own personal tradition to go for my own viewing early on Saturday mornings and that continued this year. My first visit on April 1st revealed no herons but the observation was only for about 20 minutes and others who come more often and stay longer may belie what I say.
On April 8th I saw several herons who hovered around four nests remaining from the year before but on the next Saturday in the most central of the nests I spotted two eggs. The next weekend I found eight or more herons and some were sitting on their nests. In the central nest I saw that there were four eggs so either more were added or I simply could only see two previously. By April 29th I could see eleven eggs in four nests.
On May 6th I made the last venture to the bridge for several weeks and will be away most of May which is too bad as the eggs will be hatching in my absence. On this day all of the nests were covered with nurturing mothers. It was a cold, drizzly morning with a lot of wind so I did not loiter very long. I’ll be back in a few weeks for one visit and then away again.
Four eggs, one nest
I got back to the rookery on June 10th and found three nests that were certain and a likely 4th. On June 19th there was evidence of several hatchlings.
I did not attempt to count the number of newborn in the nests as there was too much leafy obfuscation. Suffice it to say there were many.
That was my last visit to the rookery. Most likely it was the last forever. I find myself on the west coast of the US rather than the east one where I have spent the last 36 years. During the last (almost) nine of them I have been chronicling the seasonal rookery with its many ups and downs. I will not know how things have transpired since June 19th unless someone else does the logging and I should happen to come across those writings.
My birding in the Chesapeake has come to a close. The experience has been wonderful, the region is rich with diversity. I’ll miss all of it but mostly Lake Roland, North Point, Point Lookout and of course the rookery near the Stieff Building. Hopefully the annual reproduction will be fruitful and that many of the eggs laid and hatched will be viable adults prepared in the future to return and render their own spawn. I will probably never know.