Wildlife blog: Herons & Egrets
The days are gradually getting longer and whilst it might still feel quite wintry to us, some of our resident birds are already thinking about nesting. Blue tits and great tits are investigating nest boxes and you may have noted that robins, blackbirds and thrushes are in full voice again.
Among the earliest nesters of our birds are the heron family – or Ardeidea to give them their scientific name. Grey Herons are large, impressive birds which nest in tree-top colonies called heronries. They are building their nests now and may be sitting on eggs by the end of January. Locally, we have sizeable heronries at Willen Lake island and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve (which even has a Heronry Hide). In recent years a few pairs have also nested at Furzton Lake, Lodge Lake and Stony Stratford Nature Reserve but the heronry at Willen Lake is probably the easiest to view. Both male and female birds construct the nest – a large platform about 25-40m up in a tree. The young, unfeathered chicks are quite reptilian and it’s not difficult to believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs if you see them! The strange, cackling sound made by the young birds in the nest is also very distinctive and quite un-bird like.
Related to the herons are the egrets, of which two species are now found around our lakes and riverside parks. The Little Egret has nested among the herons at Willen island and Linford Lakes for the past 15-20 years and these delicate, pure white birds can now be seen regularly wading in our brooks and rivers. Their bright yellow feet are waved in the water to disturb fish which they quickly snap up. The Great White Egret however, does not yet breed locally but it is surely just a matter of time. Three of these elegant heron-sized birds have been roosting at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve in recent weeks and attract a lot of attention.
We love to see photos of what birds and wildlife you spot in Milton Keynes' parks - tag us on social media @theparkstrust to get keep in touch.