FIELD TRIP: Holland Ponds Heronry - June 2011

I'd heard that there were large Great blue heron nesting sites in Michigan but I never seem to be there during the right season. Finally, in June, I was visiting and had time to drive the hour from my parents' house to see if we could spot any.

Hiking Michigan was really talking it up on their website and had posted a few videos on their YouTube page. They had led a hike in the area a few months earlier, so equipped with the map and description my parents and I headed out there. Here's where we were:

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We found the park easily which was lucky since it was getting bit late (around 6pm) and we wanted plenty of time to find the herons. We went through the gate at the back of the parking lot and while there weren't any signs, we soon ran into someone who told us how to reach the heron nesting site. He had seen many so we were hopeful. On both sides were marshy ponds and we could hear many frogs and even saw something that may have been a muskrat.

Possibly some sort of crescent butterfly
(Genus Phyciodes)
Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

We got to the first signs and turned left. We soon turned left again (following the signs) and came to an opening to the right that led into a stand of trees. Once inside we saw many signs like the one below but didn't see any herons yet (plenty of mosquitos though!).

Sign reads "WARNING: Wading Bird Nesting Area"

I knew they would be at the very top of tall, leafless trees and I didn't see any of those but there were viewing benches around which made me confident that they were nearby. I explored a bit and after a while I caught sight of one down in one of the ponds and when it flew off I tried to follow it back with my eyes to the nest but I lost track of it.

It was getting late and my parents thought it best to turn back. As we were leaving the tree-covered area we ran into a man and asked him if he could point us to the herons. He knew right where they were and told us where to go to see them, which luckily was really close by. Had to do some interesting trail making because parts of the trail were swamped from recent rains but we got there!

They were a bit farther away from the viewing area than I thought they'd be, but with my binoculars we could see them pretty well. Wouldn't want to get close enough to disturb them anyway. No good photos because my camera doesn't have a good zoom lens, but I'm really glad we went and persevered even when it looked like we might not find them.

Turns out there is a sign to the herony right to the south of the parking lot and if you go in at that entrance they are much closer.

The get a better look at them check out this video: