by Judy Taylor-Atkinson and Jim Atkinson
July 13 was an exciting day for the observers of the Port Moody Great Blue Heron colony. But not as exciting as it was for the birds.
This was the day of lift-off for the majority of the 16 juveniles raised in the colony this year. After weeks of exercising their wings, and managing not to knock each other out of the nests while practicing, the juveniles started flying. Some went to higher branches in the same tree and some flew over to adjacent trees. Their confidence seemed to take hold and soon they were headed out to the inlet to start hunting for their own food. While the take-off flights were, generally, smooth the return flights back into the colony trees lacked finesse. There were some miscalculations with birds hanging onto flimsy branches and landing in the wrong sections, but they were all fine from what we could see.
After the disappointment of last year’s reproduction (only 5 fledglings survived, after the colony was abandoned in mid-June) this year was a huge improvement, albeit a nail biter. There were repeated eagle attacks, some nest abandonment and a nest that fell out of a tree. The nest that fell had 3 juveniles and 2 died from the fall. One juvenile stayed up in the tree and the parents kept feeding it even though there was no longer a nest.
Many of the newly flying juveniles are coming back to their nests in the evening, standing together as the dusk gathers.
We had a 300% increase from last year with the 16 successful fledglings. We are very happy with this outcome but, at the same time, we are sad to see them go.