Photo by Ingrid Taylar
Residents can help find out where herons are renesting by spotting where they are taking twigs and other materials.

Herons seek refuge in Commodore Park from eagle devastation

Due to eagles devastating their eggs, all 90 heron roosts in the Kiwanis Ravine have been completely abandoned.

“Eagles are opportunists,” said Heron Habitat Helpers (HHH) monitor Pam Cahn, who has been witnessing the heron displacement since February. “It’s available, you got an egg on a nest, they can see it as they fly over.”

Now, you can see the herons nesting in Commodore Park, on the Magnolia side of the Ballard Locks. It’s a rare opportunity to see herons -- birds that usually try to stay hidden -- up close and personal. Whereas there were six heron nests two weeks ago, there are now 40. As you sit in the park, you can see herons frantically rebuilding nests in an attempt to lay another clutch of eggs before its too late.

“There is just a frenzy of nest building here,” Cahn marveled as she watched the herons flying every which way.

This year, many of the herons will be having a late season as young won’t hatch until August. Usually, but not necessarily, a great majority of eggs will hatch much sooner.

While eagle-heron interactions such as this are normal, they have been on the rise since 2007 as a result of an eagle population bounceback due to cleanup efforts. “It’s a success story,” Cahn said.

In other words, it’s good news for eagles, a species which in the past has had trouble maintaining a healthy population. But bad news for herons, for obvious reasons.

Heron

A heron sits on its new nest in Commodore Park, on the Magnolia side of the Ballard Locks. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman

It wasn’t until this year that herons have not been able to adapt and resist the eagle predation. What’s more, according to Cahn, it appears that it could be the doing of a single, immature brown-headed eagle who has been coming back week after week to ravage the eggs. At least, sightings point to the same kind of immature eagle, which nixes off the possibility of a nearby mature couple as culprits.

HHH, a group of volunteers who have been mainly working with the birds in the Kiwanis Ravine until the latest incident, is asking residents to help find the remaining herons. So far, only about 40 are accounted for, which means there are about 50 more who have gone elsewhere.

“It would be great to figure out where these herons are renesting,” Cahn said. “… The community has this opportunity to figure out what the herons are going to do next.”

She said the best time to figure it out is when the nests are in the process of being built. People can help by spotting where, approximately, herons are carrying twigs and other nest building materials. People can send any nesting information they observe to info@heronhelpers.org.

Herons can nest in a wide variety of trees, but Cahn said conifers, which offer more cover, might prove to be more alluring to herons. She also noted the possibility of Discovery Park, but said herons for some reason have not nested there in decades.

Of the herons’ displacement, HHH volunteer Sue Gillepsie said, “It’s sad, but it’s not sad. It’s just the way nature works, and we’re really glad they’re renesting.”

Cahn was also optimistic.

“I think it’s amazing that these birds are living so close to an urban environment.”

If you take any photos, be sure to send them our way at zachb@robinsonnews.com

Heron

A heron feeds near the Ballard Locks. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman

Zachariah Bryan can be reached at zachb@robinsonnews.com

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