Sunday, October 14, 2012

An exception to the rule: one White-faced Heron nesting by itself

I've read on the birdsinbackyard.net and other bird websites that both parents build the nest, incubate the eggs and raise the young. Well, in Tenterfield, that is not the case at all. What I have seen is when breeding season occurs, two adults come together more than likely just to mate. After a few days or a week they go their separate ways. One of the adult birds remains and does all the hard work of building the nest and sitting on the eggs all by itself.

You see, I have observed this behaviour quite closely over the last few weeks. I take note of how many White-faced Herons there generally are in the area, and that total adds to just one individual when it is here. This species is very noticable and is the biggest bird around in the immediate area of where I live. Its a bluish grey colour and it has a white face, hence it's name. And because there is only one individual ever sighted 99% of the time, seeing two of them together means its breeding season.

About a few weeks ago I saw a White-faced Heron checking out a gum tree over the Tenterfield Creek. Over the course of a few weeks I only ever saw just one White-faced Heron going to that tree, and a nest started being built in that tree. It was a really large nest being built but several times I could not identify the bird species coming from the nest. Every time I was near that section of the creek I took photos of the nest from two different angles. In about 3/4 of the photos I took I only saw the nest, nothing else. I actually avoid the area to give the bird some privacy, and also I scare off any Torresian Crows that are hanging around the tree or immediate area (as they steal eggs from nests even with birds sitting on them). There's about 15 Torresian Crows to one White-faced Heron. Sometimes, I feel, birds need a helping hand, especially in instances like this, to guarantee the offsprings' survival. Other people may feel differently about this than I do, and that's fine but if the Torresian Crows had their way they'd eat all the other bird species' eggs leaving no eggs to hatch at all.

Anyway, back to the photos I took. When I uploaded them to my computer and looked at them I discovered there was indeed a White-faced Heron sitting on the nest. Its true though that their nests are generally hanging over a water course, whether a creek, dam or lake and is high in a gum tree on an outer branch. When I first spotted the two White-faced Herons together but only recorded one on video feeding along by the creek, this was about the last time I saw two of these Herons here. There has only been one Heron in the area ever since that time.

On the 11th October 2012 we had very strong gusty winds and a very heavy downpour of rain. It would have been about an inch of rain we got over a 24 hour period. The next day was slightly a little bit better but the strong gusty winds remained but we had more drizzle than rain and the sun started to try peeking out through the odd thinned cloud. Yesterday was a perfect day: it was sunny, warm but not overly hot, and the breeze was gentle with not a cloud in sight.

The White-faced Heron's nest withstood the gale force winds and remained intact. The Heron itself, as far as I could tell, remained on the nest for 2 days straight (48 hours) protecting it's eggs from the rain until the rain and wind passed. Just before sunset on the second day I heard the White-faced Heron call out. Was the bird calling out to another bird or was it just relieved and singing with joy that the storm was ending? Only the bird itself can answer that question!

Below are some photos of the White-faced Heron's nest taken over the course of a week. Click to enlarge each photo.

The bird's back as it is about to
sit on it's nest.
You can just see it's beak and the
top of it's back.
Another view of the Heron on it's nest.
I think it has spotted me.
The nest looks empty but more side
twigs have been added.
Still on the nest.

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