Herons prepare to take flight from Commodore Park

At Commodore Park (3330 W. Commodore Way) in Magnolia, you can currently see and hear great blue heron “teenagers” squawking and screeching in nests built high in alder trees.  When a parent flies to the nest with a fish or rodent, the sound of the juveniles’ screeching could be taped for a horror movie. Each heron wants all the food, wants it now, and will fight for it if necessary. But now is a great time to visit, because some of the young look as large as their parents, and are easy to see in the nests.

Juveniles are practicing flapping their wings, but other chicks are just hatching. This year herons are raising chicks in 57 nests. Approximately four eggs hatch in each nest, but approximately half die from eagle attacks, sibling rivalry, starvation, or falling out of the nest. In 2015, 111 juveniles fledged (flew away), a 76 percent success rate.  The Commodore Park heron-nesting season lasts from approximately late January through late July.

Heron Habitat Helpers (HHH), a local nonprofit, works to protect the herons and their habitat.  If you visit the park and stand underneath the colony trees, you’ll probably see one of three heron monitors who observes and collects heron data.  You might also see HHH members taking photographs. For those who attended the “Celebrate the Herons’ Birthday Party” on April 30, the HHH hopes you enjoyed the birthday cake and views of heron chicks through telescopes. 

HHH is sponsoring another heron viewing event at Commodore Park on June 25 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Enjoy watching the herons; next month they’ll begin fledging. The heron colony trees overhang the sidewalk along the estuary at the Ballard Locks.  Park at Commodore Park in Magnolia, or walk across the Ballard Locks from Ballard.  Say hello to the heron monitor – it might be me. 

To learn more about HHH or to express interest in volunteering, visit heronhelpers.org or go to its Facebook page, “Heron Habitat Helpers.”

DEBORAH JACOBSEN monitors the Commodore Park heron colony.