Where’s the Herons, Cardinals, and oh yeah, the Kingfishers?

I was a little apprehensive as I made my way over to the Wetlands Overlook on Tuesday morning. I missed two days of observation due to the weekend off (Sunday & Monday). A lot can happen in the lives of nestlings in two days.

A quick scan with my binoculars (bins) lessened my anxiety. The four nestlings, although they looked different (they were growing feathers through their fluffy down), were all there and looked healthy.

On to the other nest, the first nest (NS1). As I peered through the bald cypress trees and into the willow that held the nest, it was empty! There was no sign of the three nestlings that had been there just a few days before. Had a Barred Owl plundered the nest? a hawk? a raccoon? The nest looked to be in good shape, as far as herons’ nests go, no sign of a struggle.

Green Herons nestlings have a reputation for wandering around their nest tree, climbing all over the branches, it’s well documented. I had to get a new angle. I walked around the corner for a different perspective. I searched every branch on the tree, the mud and grass of the island that the nest tree is root in, the adjacent trees, but no luck.

The main trunk and branches of the willow in which the nest had been constructed (7/30/13).

Finally, I saw movement next to the main trunk. Something gray had moved. I pulled up me bins for a closer look. Sure enough, it was one of the nestlings, taller and more gangly than when I had last seen it, but alive and well.

There next to the trunk stands one of the three nestlings (enlarged from above).

But where were the other herons, this heron’s siblings? I walked up to the next landing of the Boardwalk for yet another angle, more distant but with a better view of the other side of the tree. After a brief search I found two herons standing right next to each other. Did the heron that I had seen a minute ago move around to this side of the tree or were these┬ábirds the other two herons, accounting for a total of three? Can’t say for sure but I’ll be checking in with them to try and get a head count. I think, though, that all three are present and doing fine.

One sad note. The cardinal’s nest that I had posted about on Monday (it was written on Saturday, 7/27) is now empty. There’s no way that these birds had fledged, their eyes weren’t even open the last time I saw them. The nestlings either fell out of the nest (it was built with a definite tilt to one side) or something climbed the tree and removed them (it was open from above, easily seen from above or below).

An empty nest is all that remains of the cardinal’s nest (7/30/13).

It’s not always fair winds and following seas for the creatures in the wild. We’ve seen plenty of nesting successes this season but certainly many failures as well. The kingfishers that had been nesting down along Ellerbe Creek earlier in the season have apparently failed in their attempt to increase the kingfisher population.

I typically see immature kingfishers getting their fishings lessons from the adults here in our Wetlands sometime in June, not so this year. We’ve had quite a bit of rain, heavy rain, this spring and summer. One such downpour nearly put the level of Ellerbe Creek over the road it passes under next to the Museum. The kingfishers nest in burrows dug into the bank of Ellerbe Creek just fifty yards or so downstream from the road. The water may have been high enough to flood the nest. I don’t know for sure if this happened, but I haven’t seen any kingfishers, other than the adults, flying around our Wetlands.

Let’s hope the herons fair better than the cardinals and kingfishers.

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