See the Great Blue Herons in Stanley Park

bird1Even if you’re not a birdwatcher, this is worth checking out.

Hundreds of Pacific great blue herons converged on Stanley Park this spring, for the 13th consecutive year.  The enormous wading birds, classified as at risk in B.C., have wingspans up to two metres and are easily identified by their bright blue head feathers and long beaks.

Right now, the herons are busy laying and hatching eggs in their nesting area, not far from Second Beach, near the Stanley Park tennis courts (behind 2099 Beach Ave., to be precise).  While sensitive areas are fenced off,  it’s still possible to see and hear the giant birds as they tend to their nests and get ready for young to arrive.

Bring a camera, as it’s rare to see so many herons up close.  Just watch out for unexpected surprises dropped from above.

The herons return to Stanley Park every year in February-March, when couples court and repair nests from previous years.  The birds have been nesting at their current location since 2001 and elsewhere in the park since 1929.  Normally shy creatures, these particular herons have grown relatively acclimated to people.

Photo credit: Remy Scalza | Flickr

Photo credit: Remy Scalza | Flickr

Once hatched, young herons leave their nests in May-June and begin their first clumsy flights.  By summer, they’re ready to join their parents in the hunt for frogs, fish and voles  along Lost Lagoon and surrounding bodies of water.

Last year, volunteers with the Stanley Park Ecology Society counted 86 pairs of herons.  The colony produced 169 fledglings, 69 more than in 2011 and 49 more than in 2010.  The herons’ ability to thrive in the face of human disturbance, not to mention natural predators like racoons, owls and bald eagles, has come as a surprise to bird specialists.

Bird lovers can even participate in the Adopt a Heron Nest program, which supports monitoring and study of Stanley Park’s great blue herons.

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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