A Day at Holland Ponds

A couple weeks ago the first of the Great Blue Herons arrived back on their nests at the Holland Ponds rookery. I only found out about this large communal nesting site last spring, so I still get very excited about it. I had checked the eBird listings to remind me of when they got here last year, so I knew it was about time. And when Hiking Michigan announced that they were here on March 6, I jumped in my car and went over to take a look.

The area around the rookery is protected (well, at least by warning signs), so the view is from a distance and through the woods. But the thing is, these birds are like living sculptures, so even from a distance they make a striking sight. Like this:

Love is in the air!

Love is in the air!

Great BLue Herons on nests at rookery (5) (800x533)

Just a few of the nests in this large rookery

There were six birds on nests when I was there, and some of them were already exhibiting courtship behavior. I watched this pair doing some displays and beak touching, as well as some nest repairs. There are several dozen nests at this rookery, so it’ll be fun to watch as more birds arrive to fill them all up in the coming weeks.

American Coot

American Coot

This single American Coot has been hanging out with the Mallards at the pond for at least the past couple of months. The Mallard flock had been up to about 200 birds, but there were only about 50 there on this day. The lone Ring-necked Duck that had also been there was nowhere to be seen. I watched the Coot for a while to see how he interacted with the Mallards. On my past visits he always seemed to be alone among them, not really part of any little groups. But this time he was tagging along with a small group of Mallards as they swam around the pond. They didn’t seem to mind, as I didn’t witness any aggression toward him or from him. In fact, when he climbed up on this partly submerged branch, the two Mallards moved over to make room for him. But they quickly decided three was a crowd, and the male Mallard swam off, leaving his female to keep the Coot company for a bit.

Coot and female Mallard. Aren't their reflections nice in this pic?

Coot and female Mallard. Aren’t their reflections nice in this pic?

There was someone else making his presence known at the pond too. When I first heard his call I thought, “What’s that?!” It took me a couple minutes to suddenly realize I was hearing the distinctive rattle of a Belted Kingfisher. These birds like to sit on branches overhanging the water, giving them a great vantage point for multiple fishing forays. So they’re pretty easy to find once you hear them. I admit to lots of frustration trying to get a good photo of one though. I even tried hiding behind a bench for a few minutes, hoping this one would come closer. It didn’t help that someone came up and wanted to chat for several minutes right in the middle of this. I tried to get the curious guy to look at the bird through my binoculars, but he seemed to want to talk more than he wanted to see the birds. In the end I had to settle for a few heavily-cropped photos like this:

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Geese - synchronized honking (800x554)Goose tongue v2Geese with tongues hanging out (800x485)Geese agitated v3 (800x460)The most excitement of the afternoon involved the Canada Geese congregating on the frozen marsh near dusk. These very common geese are well known as noisy birds, and there’s almost always lots of honking to be heard at this location. I usually don’t spend much time looking at the geese, but there was so much commotion I decided to sit and watch for a while. One of the first interactions I saw was two geese attacking each other violently. The sounds of their wings hitting each other and the ice was loud, and it was accompanied by the squawking cheers and jeers of the rest of the gang. I didn’t get photos of that interaction, but I got lots of pictures of geese chasing each other around. (I’d suggest clicking on these pictures to see the larger versions — some of them are just begging for funny captions.)

My wet boots in puddle (800x533)

Appropriate footwear is important for late winter and early spring birding adventures

I’ve found that this year I’m starting to spend more time watching the birds interacting with each other rather than just counting them for my eBird reports and snapping a few photos as documentation. It gives a whole new dimension to my birding experience when I pay attention to how they go about their lives — where they live, what they eat, and what they do during the day. My world has become much more interesting lately. Ā I’m so grateful that I discovered the world of birds!

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5 Responses to A Day at Holland Ponds

  1. Christie says:

    Kim although your post was one year ago, I was excited to find it. I live on Lake Greenwood in South Carolina and just this spring I too noticed that I have a lone coot hanging around with my mallards and geese. I have never really known where all the coots go when spring arrives here, but I just know that by this time of year, April they seem to all disappear somewhere?

    I have feed the ducks and the geese at the edge of my yard for 7 years now. I make sure that I do not give them enough to make them dependent on what I am sharing with them. I want them to continue to forage on their own. My husband does not like for me to feed them as they kill the grass in the area they feed, but I cannot resist sharing a small amount of chicken scratch feed and wild bird seed with them. They share with each other, but as you mention in this blog the geese do have some disagreements with each other on occasion. Of course this time of year they are already paired and the male stands and watches over the female as she feeds. The mallards are not nearly as attentive to their mates and after the ducklings hatch the males are nowhere to be found around the females. The male geese however tend to their babies just like the mama.

    Soon I am sure I will be seeing the hatchlings from both the geese and the ducks. I am curious to see what happens to the lone coot when the babies begin to appear on the scene. This coot has ventured into the yard and has actually been eating along with the geese and the ducks. I also have crows, doves, blue jays and many varieties of sparrows that eat among them.

    Thanks for your blog site. I have saved it as a favorite. I don’t tweet and do not do face book. I have just never wanted to get involved with that. I have known so many that use face book for the wrong reasons.

    Christie

  2. Littlesundog says:

    We do have Canada Geese and we see a few Great Blue Herons at lakes and near the river here in Oklahoma. Mallards are common too. I am always amazed at all of the other varied birds you see that I have never heard of!! Your photos are excellent, Kim! I bet you could have come up with some funny captions for the Canada Geese photos. Hilarious!

    • Kim says:

      Hey Lori, d id you know that there were 365 species of birds seen in Oklahoma during 2012? That’s a lot of birds! Here’s a link to the list on eBird so you can see all the great birds in your state, as well as which months they’re around: *http://tinyurl.com/c26l7rs *. (I hope that link works for you.) You DO realize that my goal is to convert all my friends into birders, right? šŸ˜‰

      Kim

  3. Great post and pictures! I especially love the picture of the herons (love is in the air)!…and your shoes too. šŸ˜€

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