Having a friend point out a Great Horned Owl nesting site is truly a gift. When Jack told me about a local nest, I loaded my car with kids and adults and a good telescope and we were off. This birding trip is a “two-fer” jaw dropper for anyone. The owls are nesting in the middle of a busy and possibly the largest Heron rookery in Eastern Massachusetts.
No need to worry about making noise. We shambled around the back of an esker talking and hollering. We turned a bend and for some it was the first time seeing an active Heron rookery. Wow. Dead pines standing tall in a small lake all sporting one or two heron nests and each occupied by adult Great Blue Herons either sitting or standing and with their wispy breeding plumage waving in the wind.
My notes from Jack said the owls were in the sixth or seventh heron nest from the left and within 2 seconds I was on it. There was an adult lying low with her tufts standing incongruously against the horizontal twigs and there, next to the crouching adult was a nestling covered in white down, standing tall and wobbly and peering over the lip.
Everyone had turns at the scope, with some more junior members having to be lifted up to the eyepiece. Having taken a quick look, they were off to find anything they could satisfy their curiosity. This left the adults with plenty of time to scope the nest and check out the herons, the swallows and the blackbirds. Three flickers swooped by and landed in a variety of positions atop a dead pine (see Audubon print for a timeless depiction).
Parenting is a common bond in nature, with adults keeping a watchful on their surroundings and respecting each other’s distance and the young endangering themselves with reckless abandon and curiosity.
Lastly, the term “rookery” is really a misnomer. In Europe, a rookery is the mass nesting site of rooks, and a heronry is the same but for herons.