Have you had an opportunity to watch the Stanley Park Heron Cam? I must confess I have been captivated by this “birds-eye-view” of North America’s largest Pacific Great Blue Heron colony. Interest piqued by the webcam, I decided I wanted to learn more. Who better to explain the courtship and nesting behaviour of these prehistoric looking birds than the knowledgeable interpreters volunteering at the Stanley Park Nature House?
Sitting in the shadows of Vancouver’s skyscrapers, the Nature House is an unassuming little building located on the banks of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. Interpretive displays highlight the weird and wonderful facts about the plants and animals located in the park. During my recent visit, I spent considerable time wandering from display to display. Amazed by Mother Nature’s ability to adapt and coexist in such a large urban centre as Vancouver, I eagerly soaked up the information provided. Distracted by the exhibits, I forced myself to focus on the task at hand. Where are the herons? Volunteers eagerly pointed me in the right direction!
Perched high above the tennis courts, the colony is located near the Vancouver Park Board offices. I could hear strange, haunting squawks, as I drew closer to the nests. There was something almost “Seussical” to the appearance of the colony. I giggled to myself as it appeared that like Vancouverites, the herons have embraced higher density condo style living. Last year, there were 100 active nests and by my count I would assume we’re on track for similar numbers this year. During my visit, the birds were actively involved in nest building. The interpreters told me to watch the males flying back and forth bringing sticks to their mates. Apparently, the female decides if the stick is suitable and should it pass muster, she will carefully weave it into the fabric of their nest and send “hubby” out for more.
Last year, Vancouver welcomed 175 fledgling herons to the colony. We should meet the first chicks of 2016 in early April and I imagine the colony will be an extremely busy maternity ward! Keep your webcam tuned in! Action will intensify over the next few weeks, as parents work to feed and protect their young from eagles and racoons. From our Olympic Village beaver to the herons of Stanley Park it’s always a thrill to observe nature in our backyard.
Interested in the stewardship of Stanley Park? The friendly team at the Nature House have been connecting people to nature since 1988 and look forward to your visit. Drop in or register for a wide variety of nature programs offered by the Stanley Park Ecology Society and be sure to visit the Heron Colony on your way! It’s Vancouver’s own “pot of nature gold” at the end of the rainbow!