Thursday, April 9, 2009

Black-crowned Night Heron

On my birthday recently, Carolyn and I went for a walk at Roberts Bird Sanctuary near Lake Harriet. This is a marvelous place, full of freshly emerging life and newly arrived species. I had heard there was a black-crowned night heron there, and when I looked in the place mentioned, found it easily. In this photo, it is the tiny blue-gray dot in the center of the image. Just for fun, I placed the lens of my new Sony Cybershot against the right eyepiece of my bins, and took the picture below.

The heron is completely out of focus, but my first try at combining optics and my new camera was still very fun.

When Carolyn and I first started canoeing together, we enjoyed going to the city's lakes - Cedar and Lake of the Isles especially. In those years, there was no Eurasian Water Milfoil problem. The water was clear and lovely. It was common to look down and see frogs and turtles commuting through the dark water alongside our canoe. We would often bring a picnic lunch and rest in some shady spot where trees provided cover, and watch people, birds and occasionally muskrat. Some of our favorite memories are of seeing the black-crowned night herons in the channel between Lake of the Isles and Cedar, and on the islands in Lake of the Isles. It was not unusual during the summer in the 1980's to see a dozen of the birds in the trees. It was also not unusual to find them in places like Minnehaha Park. So I was saddened to realize that the sighting of this sole bird at Roberts was truly a big deal. We have stopped canoeing the lakes, because the experience reminds us of what isn't there anymore and of what is. But I hadn't realized that the habitat had degraded to the point that the black-crowned night herons weren't spending summers on the islands any more. Perhaps this bird will find food and shelter and companionship at Roberts. Maybe we will go out canoeing and check on the islands again this summer. I've read that vigorous efforts are being made to remove invasive mulberry and buckthorn from the islands. Raspberry Island and Mike's Island have gotten sheared of the tenacious invaders and will look pretty bleak for a while, but with planting of native species, the islands will be an interesting place to watch recovery happen over the next years.

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