Construction Season: Blue Heron Edition

Perfect Shadow by Jiafan(John) Xu

Perfect Shadow by Jiafan(John) Xu

Jiafan definitely got the perfect shadow in this shot of a pair of herons building their nest. Head over to his Flickr for more shots of this industrious pair!

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Birds of Michigan: Osprey

Osprey Building a Nest

Osprey Building a Nest, photo by Rodney Campbell

All About Birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the internet’s best resource for bird information. Their entry for Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) says that osprey are one of the largest birds of prey in North America and one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica. More about osprey at Wikipedia and at Pandion haliaetus (Osprey) from the UM Animal Diversity web.

The Michigan DNR’s Osprey page begins:

The “fish hawk” is brown above and white below, and files with a distinct bend in its wing at the “wrist.” Their feet are equipped with spiny scales and long talons that give them a firm grip on slippery fish, their only prey. Ospreys usually select tall trees in marshes along streams, lakes or man made floodings. They will adapt to artificial nesting platforms. This “help” from humans, along with the restriction of certain harmful pesticides, has helped ospreys recover from the drastic population reductions seen in the 1950s and ’60s. The Nongame Wildlife Fund located 166 pairs in 1988, up from the 81 counted in 1975.

They ask for help in reporting osprey sightings in southern Michigan. Also check out Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan.

Rodney took this photo of an osprey building its nest in Milford.

MichiganOsprey.com is a great local resource and adds:

Like Bald Eagles, Ospreys often reuse old nests, adding new material to them each season. Ospreys prefer nests near water, especially in large trees, but will also nest on artificial platforms. Ospreys three years or older usually mate for life, and their spring courtship begins a five-month period when they raise their young.

View it background bigtacular and see more in his Birds slideshow.

Michigan in Pictures has lots more Michigan Bird photos!!

Home Improvement: Bald Eagle Edition

Nest Builder by Kevin Povenz

Nest Building, photo by Kevin Povenz

Kevin took this shot of a bald eagle building a nest in late December near the Grand River in Ottawa County. The State of Michigan’s page on bald eagles says (in part):

During Michigan winters, bald eagles are seen throughout the state (almost all counties), while they nest mainly in the Upper Peninsula (especially the western portion) and the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula. These eagles don’t really migrate, they just move south enough to stay ahead of the ice and congregate near open water. Immature birds may move further south.

When bald eagles reach maturity (at four to five years of age), they select a mate, with whom they probably mate for life. In captivity, they have been known to live to 50 years, but in the wild, they probably don’t reach much more than 20 years of age.

The beginning of the breeding season, from mid-February to mid-March, consists of the establishment of a territory, nest building and mating displays. The mating “cartwheel” display begins high in the air with the two birds darting and diving at each other, until they lock talons and drop in a spinning free fall, until the last possible moment when they separate. The nest is usually located in the tallest tree in the area, often a white pine or dead snag. They are usually made of sticks with a lining of grass and moss. Nests may be added to each year until they reach enormous sizes, up to ten feet in depth and 20 feet across.

Read on for more and have a look at this encouraging chart of the steadily rising number of eagle nests in Michigan. Also check out this page of bald eagle sightings in Michigan for ideas of where to look near you!

View it bigger on Flickr, get more pics of these eagles at his Grand River North Ravines tag and see more in his Birds of Prey slideshow.

More eagles on Michigan in Pictures!

Great Blue Heron Rookeries

Great Blue Heons adding sticks to their nest

Great Blue Herons adding sticks to their nest, photo by ellenm1

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory entry for Great Blue Heron Rookeries explains:

The great blue herons in Michigan are largely migratory, with almost all leaving the state during the winter months. Most leave by end of October and return in early to mid-March.

The great blue heron is mostly a colonial nester, occasionally they nest in single pairs. Colonies are typically found in lowland swamps, islands, upland hardwoods and forests adjacent to lakes, ponds and rivers. Nests are usually in trees and may be as high as 98 ft. (30 m) or more from the ground. The platform like nests are constructed out of medium-sized sticks and materials may be added throughout the nesting cycle. Nests are usually lined with finer twigs, leaves, grass, pine needles, moss, reeds, or dry gras. The same nests are refurbished and used year after year. Nest size varies; newer nests may be 1.5 ft. (0.5 m) in diameter with older nests reaching up to 4 ft (1.2 m) in diameter (Andrle 1988). Nests can also be used by Canada geese (Branta canadensis), house sparrows (Passer domesticus), and great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus)…

Most great blue herons return to southern Michigan heronries in mid-March although a few may remain through the winter if there are areas of open water. Courtship and nest building commences from early April in southern Michigan to early May in the extreme northern portions of the state. Both sexes are involved in the nest building process with males primarily gathering sticks from the ground, nearby trees, or ungarded nearby nests. Males pass sticks to females who then place them on the nests. Between 3 and 7 (usually 4) greenish blue eggs are laid in April and May in Michigan. Both sexes take a turn at incubation with females incubating mostly at night and males during the day. The incubation period lasts from 25-29 days. In Michigan hatching occurs in the first week of May in the south while parents are still incubating nests in the far northern part of the state. For the first 3-4 weeks post hatching, one parent remains on the nest with the young.

Check this photo out big as the sky and see more in Ellen’s Kensington Metropark slideshow.

More heronsbirds on Michigan in Pictures, and also check out this photo of a Heronry on Absolute Michigan.