Thursday, July 17, 2014

A New Egret Colony

This posting is my way of letting our local birds see Douglas County's first great egret colony.  Hopefully others will be interested too. Our help in this little project is a great example of how one can be a 'citizen scientist' without being formally signed up.
Most of the nests are clustered together.

Unless one looks at recent information on where great egrets nest in Oregon it'll probably show locations east of the Cascades. Any coastal colonies are well down in California.  Fortunately birds don't read books.  Close to thirty years ago great egrets started nesting in Coos County along the Oregon Coast.  This year exciting news came to Matt Hunter, the organizer of our local web site on Douglas County birds,  Dan Karpa reported great egrets nesting with the double-crested cormorants on Bolon Island, just north of Reedsport, Oregon -- also along the Oregon Coast.  Matt let us know that the Fish and Wildlife Service would appreciate photographs verifying the egret nests.   

Most years taking photos of the colony would be an easy task:  just hike out on the Highway 101 bridge north of Reedsport and photograph.  But this year all pedestrian traffic is closed while they slowly work on bridge repairs.  We needed another way.  Dan kindly offered to take us out to the site in his boat, but before we connected with him we found a way to hike down to the river edge directly across from the colony.  Dan could have gotten us closer, but photograhing from shore probably worked better because we were shooting from solid ground. 
Adult and three nestlings.
The cormorant colony on Bolon Island is a striking sight.  Several years of nest have killed most of the trees currently being used by the birds.  At this time of year the bushes beneath these snags are well frosted with whitewash.  The cormorants stick out like little black dots all over the colony.  I didn't count but my very rough guess is at least 60 nests. 

And one tree has white dots instead of black.  At least seven, probably 8-10, egret nests are clustered together amongst the cormorant nests.  They are nesting lower that most of cormorants and visible from the bridge as one drives by.  Both the egret and the cormorant nestlings are quite large at this time of year.  Some might have fledged already.
A different angle of the main nest tree.  This view shows two nest on the upper left side.

Looking carefully at our photos we found three more nests over to the right.  Those adults might still be incubating.  I wish the site was a little closer so we could see the details better. 

This is the second nest tree.  We photographed it thinking there was one nest, but then found two more when we looked at our images.  These birds might still be incubating.
I did a little reading at Cornell's site.  Great egrets usually have from 1 to 6 nestlings.  It takes about 100 days from egg laying to fledgling.  For awhile young birds return to the nest for feeding.


  1. Oh you finally made it there. What a wonder view you had. It's a shame you couldn't go the normal way but these are great shots anyway. I didn't know they nested in colonies like this.

  2. This is very exciting, thanks for sharing.

  3. We just drove past there yesterday. Everything was so white and dead looking I assumed the cormorants were no longer nesting there. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I have seen this colony while crossing the bridge. Luckily my husband is driving or we would be in trouble! We enjoy these beautiful birds on the Haynes Inlet also. Thanks for the wonderful post.