Posted in Birds

Heronry in Delaware County

Last month in Delaware County, naturalist Kim Banks held a special program on great blue herons. Mated pairs of these herons nest very close to one another in what’s called a heronry. Participants then drove from Deer Haven Preserve (one of the county parks) to a nearby Liberty Township preserve known as Smith Preserve at Olentangy Falls. It turns out that there is a sizable heronry there. I returned just last week to see how things were developing.

The heron in the foreground is arranging sticks in its nest. Another heron hunkers down in the nest to the left.




Smith Preserve offers no trails or facilities. However, visitors to the preserve can view the heronry from the road. Because the nests are some distance from the road, it helps to bring binoculars or a scope. I took the photo below without using a telephoto lens. The heronry is actually visible in this photo, but at this distance the nests just look like dark spots at the tops of the trees on the right.

Sign announcing Smith Preserve at Olentangy Falls

Below I zoomed in on the heronry which once again looks like dark spots near the very top of the trees. There were more nests than fit in this photo, but the photo does give some idea of how closely the herons nest together.

The dark spots near the tree tops are heron nests.

There is no paved, parking lot. Visitors simply pull off and park parallel to the road.

Because the heron nests are some distance from the road, they are best viewed with binoculars or a spotting scope.

Zooming in further, I could see the nests in more detail. Some herons were easy to see because they stood on or near their nests. However the other nests that looked empty at first glance typically were occupied by a heron as well, except in this case the heron was hunkered down in its nest, possibly incubating eggs.

The nests are quite close to one another.
It’s easy to see the herons that are standing up, but often they are hunkered down in their nests and harder to see. In the nest to the rear there is at least one heron, possibly two.

If you stop and watch for a while, you’ll see herons flying in and out of the heronry.

Heron returning to its nest
Nearby herons watch it land.

If you are using a scope or binoculars, you’ll also be able to watch bonded pairs interacting.

The heron in the nest regards its mate.
The heron to the right is getting a stick for its nest.

Later on in the nesting season the babies will be large enough to see. At this point it is really interesting to watch the members of a family interacting. I took the photo below at the Pickerington Pond on May 8th during a previous year. This gives you some idea what you have to look forward to. 🙂

Heron parent with three babies
Additional information
  • TrekOhio: Heron Rookeries (Heronries) in Ohio — in this article I try to list heronries that the public can view at sites throughout the state.
  • TrekOhio: Birding Resources — Our collection of links to websites, articles, maps, and videos related to birding in Ohio. Points to information on birding hotspots, organizations, events, and more.




Location

Smith Preserve at Olentangy Falls is in Delaware County, on Taggart Rd., just south of the intersection of Hyatt Rd. and Taggart Rd. (GPS: 40.213053,-83.057835).

More on Delaware County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012 to 2017


5 thoughts on “Heronry in Delaware County

    1. Jenny, I have seen herons fishing pretty much throughout the day, including dusk. I don’t know if there is a best time for observing them, but perhaps someone else will answer who has more specific knowledge.

    2. They are active pretty much any time of day. You can almost always find some up and down the river and the nests are always packed with activity!

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