The Great Blue Heron Ardea Herodias, a wondrous marvel to behold, and yet did you know it is rated as “uncommon” albeit with a very large range. In the West Swale wetlands and Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area in Saskatoon, quite a remarkable phenomenon has occurred. Generally speaking one heron will not take habitat where there are other herons, and yet here there is the Great Blue Heron in the same West Swale wetlands as the Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax ) ~ the Black-Crowned Night-Heron is introduced in The Outlook for Wildlife.
Never was there a greater difference in herons as you observe them in the West Swale wetlands. the Great Blue Heron, tall and elegant has a height of 42 – 52 inches (105-130 cm) standing fully grown. So here is this heron on long legs with long long neck reaching 4 feet high. The Black Crowned Night Heron, is 23 – 28 inches (58-70) cm with short yellow-green legs, and not only is he smaller, but this heron also sets down hunched or hunkered down, as if to shorten his 2 foot stature.
But could there be a better locale than the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area for these two disparate herons? Both require woodlands, the trees for roosting in. The Great Blue Heron nests within the branches of trees, and yet if one was to see a Great Blue Heron, it would likely be when they are standing still, patiently fishing concealing themselves within the rushes, sedges and cattails of the marsh shorelines. This behavior is also seen in the Black-crowned Night-Heron who also nests and roosts in trees, and if one was to keep their eyes wide open at dusk, and set very quietly it may be possible to sight or perhaps even to hear a Black-crowned Night-heron flying out from the forest to forage at the water’s edge, as they feed nocturnally.
There is also known another species, the Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), however the range of this smaller heron 24 inches (60 cm) does not extend as far as central Saskatchewan.
Seeing a large bird in flight, and wondering if it is a crane or a heron, it is good to note that the heron will fly with its head tucked back, extending the chest forward. The cranes, such as the Sandhill Crane (Gus canadensis) with a similar size 40-48 inches (100-120 cm) will fly with its neck stretched out and elegant. The Whooping Crane (Grus americana) is also about the same size, 50 inches (125 cm) however there are not nearly as many of these amazing white birds to be seen, though they are bounding back from the brink of extinction. Watch carefully flight of Sandhill Cranes overhead, as a solitary endangered Whooping Crane may flock with the Sandhills. There are only around 200 Whooping Cranes left, however due to conservation efforts and public awareness of their plight, their numbers are slowly climbing.
The Sandhill Crane is also a long legged long necked grey bird, but differs from a Great Blue Heron as the Sandhill will have a bald red crown atop its head, and the Great Blue Heron will have a very dark to black coloured plume of feathers extending out at the back of his head rather like a backwards baseball cap. The Sandhill Cranes often frequent the fields and meadows in and around the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area seeking food in the autumn months during the migratory season.
What can you do for the “uncommon” Great Blue Heron and “endangered” Whooping Crane to protect and aid in conservation? How can you reduce the decline, and eliminate some of the threats posed for the Great Blue Heron and the Whooping Crane
? How can you celebrate the centennial of the migratory bird convention?
- First of all become a citizen scientist, and participate in a bird survey. Expand your knowledge on conservation efforts. Learn bird songs, and bird calls. Discover how to identify birds.
- Secondly, protect the habitat, find out how you can volunteer, support conservation groups and become involved.
- It is important, thirdly, to reduce hazards, become actively engaged marking your own house and business windows, stop using pesticides which eradicate the forage of the birds, and reduce pollution in the environment by participating in clean ups and calling Saskatchewan environment TIPPS line to report environment violations and polluters.
- Let others know about what you have learned about birds and their habitats and how to protect them. Share and expand the knowledge you have learned with others. Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (second Saturday in May), The United Nations General Assembly World Wildlife Day on March 3, National Tree Day September 21.
- Find local, provincial, federal and international agencies and associations who are native prairie stewards, those that conserve native prairie, those who may restore native prairie, green groups for wildlife and habitat management, environmental organisations who may seek to manage water, wetlands and riparian management.
- Make a personal commitment to maintain, conserve and restore a piece of native prairie.Determine what actions you can realistically make to achieve your goals, then monitor and evaluate your progress. As you establish your values as a wildlife habitat and native prairie steward, preserve and respect archeological and historical resources.
“Birds contribute to our pleasure and standard of living. But they are also sensitive indicators of the environment, a sort of “ecological litmus test.”~Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson p.432
“This , then, is the task: nothing less than reclaiming water as a commons for the Earth, and all people that must be wisely and sustainably shared and managed if we are to survive.” ~Maude Barlow. Barlow. Page 175
“Canadians Love Our Water Heritage. This may be true in our imaginations and in our literature. But is seems not to be in reality, for if we loved our great water heritage, we would take better care of it.” Maude Barlow. Barlow. Page 181.
“Canada – and we as citizens – must act now if we are to carve out a coherent set of rules governing our water resources. Our country is in urgent need of a national water policy and strategy to protects its water, ecologically and jurisdictionally. To be effective, this policy must be developed among all of the different levels of government ~ federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal.” Maude Barlow. Barlow. Page 206
“The rule of no realm is mine…But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task,…if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in the days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you now know? ~ J.R. R. Tolkein Barlow.Page x
“The science of forestry arose from the recognition of a universal need. It embodies the spirit of service to mankind in attempting to provide a means of supplying forever a necessity of life and, in addition, ministering to man’s aesthetic tastes and recreational interests. Besides, the spiritual side of human nature needs the refreshing inspiration which comes from trees and woodlands. If a nation saves its trees, the trees will save the nation. And nations as well as tribes may be brought together in this great movement, based on the ideal of beautifying the world by the cultivation of one of God’s loveliest creatures – the tree.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker.
Barlow, Maud. Blue Covenant. The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water. Is Canada’s Water for Sale? McClelland and Steward Ltd. Toronto, ON. 2007.ISBN 978-0-7710-1072-9
Moen, Jim. Managing Your Native Prairie Parcels Your Guide to Caring for Native Prairie in Saskatchewan. 1998. Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corporation. Regina, Sk ISBN 1-896 793-19-3.
Peterson, Roger Tory. Western Birds. 1990. Houghton Mifflin Company Massachusetts. ISBN 0-395-51749-4 ISBN 0-395-51424-X pbk.
Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. Chanticleer Press, Inc. New York. 2003. isbn 0-679-45121-8.