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Great Blue Heron Rookery — where these big, beautiful herons nest

By Gary Bogue
Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 6:57 am in Birds, Great blue herons, nesting.

Great blue heron by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

The other day someone wrote your column about seeing the many great blue herons together.

Have I got a treat for you!

A great blue heron rookery exists in the eucalyptus trees at EBMUD Watershed Headquarters in Orinda, Calif. I checked it out the past 2 years in the spring and it is amazing!

Great blue heron with stick for nest by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

The nests are huge and numerous. At least 30 last year. And when the chicks hatch, and during fledging, it is a very noisy place. Just amazing to watch the adults fly in and out with fish and the like for the babies. And a great blue heron learning to fly (or, crash through the branches) is a sight to behold.

I checked about a week ago to see if babies were about yet and they weren’t, but even so, could see adults in the nests high in the eucalyptus trees. Perhaps sitting on eggs?

Well worth you time to visit this local gem.
Lisa Libby Albert, cyberspace

Great blue heron by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

I’m familiar with this particular great blue heron nesting site. I first heard of it around 1970. Looks like when these birds like a place they REALLY like it. Almost 40 years, probably longer. Wow.

If anyone is interested in checking out this rookery, I suggest you contact the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Watershed headquarters and make sure it’s OK. If they say yes, bring your binoculars and keep your distance so you don’t disturb the birds.

Yes, they’re probably incubating their eggs right now, but they should be hatching soon.

The Bolinas Lagoon Preserve at Audubon Canyon Ranch in Marin County also supports a major heronry of great blue herons and great and snowy egrets. It is an amazing place to behold and if anyone wants to go crazy watching nesting great blues, great and snowy egrets … this is DEFINITELY the place to go!

You can find out more about it here, including maps and directions on how to get there:

Bolinas Lagoon Preserve is located just 30 miles north of San Francisco on Highway One, between Stinson Beach and Olema.

Have fun! /Gary

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3 Responses to “Great Blue Heron Rookery — where these big, beautiful herons nest”

  1. Paula M. Says:

    Another good place in the Bay Area to see great blue herons is at Golden Gate Park’s Stowe Lake in San Francisco.

    On most Saturdays in May and Saturdays/Sundays in June there are free guided tours of the herons’ habitat. They nest on an “island” in the lake, safe from humans and most predators, but their nest is very visible with binoculars if you know where to look (the tour guides help you spot them; it’s amazing how well such huge birds can blend in with the environment otherwise!), and you can more easily see them flying to and from their nest, of course.

    I went on the tour a few years ago, and highly recommend it.

    More info here:

    Also see an old interview on sfgate with the founder of the “Heron Explainer Project.”

  2. Paula M. Says:

    oops! I had the dates reversed in my post above; it’s actually SUNDAYS in May and several SATURDAYS in June. Also note that they provide telescopes at key locations (and I seem to recall they also provided some binoculars for the length of the tour, but folks could play it safe and bring their own if they have them):

    Info from calacademy site, on Heron Explainer Project tours:

    Great Blue Heron Tours at Stow Lake
    Every Sunday in May & Saturdays June 2, 9 & 16
    10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    Heron observation and explanation continues at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park thanks to Academy interns and Stow Lake Education Project Director Nancy DeStefanis, a heron expert. On Saturdays until the middle of June, visitors can peer through spotting scopes and gain insight into the lives of these majestic birds as they mate and hatch chicks on the island they have occupied since 1993. The Heron Explainers Project is cosponsored by the Academy of Sciences and the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Follow signs at the Stow Lake Boathouse to the Heron Explainers Project.

  3. Susan Teefy Says:

    Here’s another place to see these beautiful birds nesting, with a bonus: Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton. There is an island with a group of tall trees. In the trees are nests of great blue herons, plus great egrets and double cresated cormorants. They all seem to share this little island well, and since it’s an island, it keeps most predators away. While I was there, the local osprey perched on a nearby tree to eat her freshly caught fish.

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