Great Blue Heron Chicks At Oxtongue Lake Rookery

Great Blue Heron Chicks At Oxtongue Lake Rookery

Great Blue Herons and baby , Oxtongue lake, Ontario

On a visit to Oxtongue Lake, in Ontario, Bob and I made a point of revisiting the now familiar Great Blue Heron rookery because we knew the Great Blue Herons had made their return to the nests earlier this spring.  What a delight to see so many young herons once we got our binoculars and camera lenses focused on the nests.

the beetle lake trail, oxtongue lake

When hiking, the heronry or rookery is located about 45 minutes from Algonquin Outfitter’s Road, off to the side of a marked trail.

oxtongue lake, trail

The day happened to be very overcast, and being early in the summer season, we were pestered with swarms of mosquitoes.  Due to unusually heavy amounts of rain, the vegetation was flourishing, which actually hindered our progress because the long grasses tugged at our hiking boots.

rain drops on swamp water, oxtongue lake, ontario

The water of the pond that is home to the herons’ nests was very high compared to other summers, and undoubtedly would be a better food source for the herons than normal.  Any amphibians, reptiles, and birds, or any small mammals that might come to the water to drink, would be potential prey for the herons.

toadstool fungus, oxtongue lake, ontario

It is a wet world around the edge of the swamp with mosses and colourful fungi brightening the forest floor.

Great Blue Heron stands in nest, Oxtongue lake, Ontario

The rookery was very busy when we stepped from the cover of the forest to the edge of the pond.  Within minutes, it became evident that each of the three nests was occupied by 3 or 4 herons.

Jean, Great Blue Heron rookery, oxtongue lake

I had to wear a bug net over my head because the mosquitoes were so thick they could almost carry me away.  In fact, when hiking through the forest, long pants were a necessity, long-sleeved jacket a must, and it even served me well to wear gloves on my hands despite the season.  Those were removed so I could properly operate the camera.

Great Blue Herons with baby , Oxtongue lake, Ontario

How exciting to see that the adult herons had successfully hatched so many chicks.

Great Blue Heron looks towards camera , Oxtongue lake, Ontario

One adult kept vigil over each aerie while the curious and naive chicks looked out over the swamp.

five Great Blue Herons in nest, oxtongue lake rookery, ontario

When I caught sight of movement in the second nest, I quickly turned my lens toward it, and immediately  saw 4 herons having a stretch.  I imagine there, under the cool, grey sky, the young would be quite comfortable all nestled together.   Their slim bodies must fit very snugly into the massive nest when the whole family beds down for the night, though.

Cedar Waxwing, sits atop tree, oxtongue lake heron rookery, ontario

When peering through the camera at the herons, a blur crossed in front of my lens at close quarters.

Cedar Waxwing, back and tail, oxtongue lake heron rookery, ontario

I was able to locate the landing spot of a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) not far from where Bob and I stood.  The telltale yellow band across the end of its tail and bright red wax-like droplets on the ends of the secondary flight feathers of the wings made for definite identification of this beautiful bird.

Cedar Waxwing, looks to camera, oxtongue lake heron rookery, ontario

The Cedar Waxwing is attired in soft harmonious colours, and its silky plumage seemingly never has a feather out of place.  Its cinnamon brown head and neck combined with the rakish black mask gives the bird a regal flair with a slightly haughty attitude.

Cedar Waxwing, takes flight in a flash of color, oxtongue lake heron rookery, ontario

The Cedar Waxwing didn’t stay put for long, perhaps summoned by its mate in a nearby tree, and as it took flight, I got a good look at its pale yellow belly and whitish tail coverts.

great blue herons in nest, oxtongue lake rookery

When I turned my attention back to nest #2, one young heron was standing precariously on the sticks of the rim.  I would imagine it wouldn’t be long before the chicks would fledge and venture on short forays around the swamp.

Great Blue Herons, Oxtongue lake, Ontario

With rain moving in, Bob and I retreated to the trail and made haste towards home all the while surrounded by a cloud of buzzing mosquitoes.  Thank goodness for bug nets and bug spray!

Great Blue Heron, Oxtongue lake, Ontario

The following morning, beneath a clear, blue sky, one of the adult herons paid a visit to my dad’s beach back at Oxtongue Lake.  I am confident that it is one of the herons from the rookery in search of better prospects in the food department.  Judging by the minnows jumping around the island of brush at water’s edge, the heron would have no problem gorging itself in preparation to regurgitate for the hungry chicks.  They would require a lot of food to nourish their growing bodies.

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  • WOW! What marvellous photos of the herons, and video too. They are so beautiful. We have many around our farm, as we have a creek, pond and river on our property, plus a migratory bird sanctuary across the road.

    The waxwing photos are gorgeous too. I love those birds!

    • Thanks for your comments, Natalie. I would imagine that your location provides endless opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing. You are very fortunate.