Monday, September 5, 2016

An Illustrated Life List: Great Blue Heron

A picture of the Great Blue Heron rookery on the Mississippi River, just before the May 2011 tornado that tore through parts of north Minneapolis hit it.
I wasn't there when it happened. We live on the other side of the river. I didn't know that the rookery had been hit until the next day when I witnessed a noisy flock of Great Blue Herons circling about as I was teaching a school group on a dock at Westwood Hills Nature Center. Great Blue Herons nest in groups, but they don't travel in groups. It was a surreal sight. I figured out pretty quickly what had happened.
Evidence of the tornado is still apparent in parts of north Minneapolis. To my eyes the lack of mature trees on certain blocks is striking. But my relationship to the affected neighborhoods is fairly superficial, mostly as I pass through bringing my kids to and from their school or friend's houses. I can really only imagine the long term impacts of those who live there.
The herons didn't return to the island, but set up a new rookery the following year on a different island just downstream from the original rookery site. I notice a juxtaposition here, in comparing how quickly the herons recovered and rebuilt versus us humans. We who have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, more advance technologies than herons who use their beaks and sticks
The herons didn't return to their island as too many of the big trees they nested in had been knocked down. But the following year they started a new rookery on a similar island just downstream from the first. I have to wonder how it is that we couldn't rebuild and recover as quickly as the herons did. We have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, and more advanced technologies. They have beaks, sticks, and instinct.