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We Have Moved!

The HERON Blog has moved and will no longer be posting to this website. Don’t worry, we’ve moved all the old content to the new site as well.  Please update your bookmarks to: http://www.maine.gov/wordpress/ifwheron/

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Great blue herons started arriving back in Maine over two weeks ago.  The first report I received was of two birds seen near a breeding colony in Brunswick on Monday, March 12th.  Despite these early arrivals, most of the state’s birds don’t initiate nesting until mid-April, and some as late as mid-May.  In New York, it appears the great blue heron nesting season begins a bit earlier.  A live webcam on a nesting pair of great blue herons at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology just documented that the female laid her first egg last night!       

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Hear About Herons

Great blue heron. Photo by Ron Logan.

The great blue heron is often touted as one of the most widespread and adaptable birds in North America.  Here in Maine they are certainly widespread, but recent data has suggested a decline in their breeding population especially along the coast.  Concerns over a population decline prompted the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct a comprehensive survey of breeding colonies in 2009, and to begin a statewide adopt-a-colony program called the Heron Observation Network.  Join me at one of the following locations to learn more about Maine’s largest colonial wading bird…

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A radiograph of a common loon showing a lead sinker (the brightest white object) in its gizzard. Photo courtesy of Avian Haven.

 

One of my not-so-glamorous duties as a wildlife biologist in our agency’s Bird Group is to collect dead loons and send them to the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic to be necropsied (a necropsy is an autopsy of a wild animal).  Dr. Mark Pokras and his students determine the cause of death as part of an ongoing study, and then let me know so I can inform the concerned citizen who originally notified me or a coworker of the dead loon.  I just finished cataloguing, bagging, and freezing 2 loon chicks and 5 adults.  With the help of Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation facility in Freedom, we were able to get radiographs of a few adults – 2 individuals showed obvious lead sinkers in their gizzards.  These were both adults, most likely breeding adults, that were otherwise healthy.  A sad twist of fate presented them a lead sinker instead of an ordinary stone to add to the numerous stones already in their gizzard used for grinding food.  It doesn’t take much lead to cause lead poisoning, and death is only a few days away. 

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