Photography by J. Mita Studios

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heron Nests In Connecticut Marshland

I am lucky enough to live in an area of Connecticut that mimics the Maine landscape.  My roots go back to Maine.  Our family owned the entire county of Windham, until a great uncle gambled it away.  If only!!!! 
Here in my town we have marshes, rolling hills, wildlife galore, and we are actually classed in the same zone as southern Maine, zone 5B.  We have had moose sightings, bear sightings, and golden eagle sightings. 
One such place that is reminiscent of Maine is right off I-84, near exit 68.  I travel this every day and noticed a marsh that is seen from the highway.  This particular marsh catches the light beautifully any time of the day, and there have been times when I just wanted to stop my car right on the highway to photograph the marsh.  I have yet to do that.  It isn't the most sensible thing to do.
I noticed several large nests in the dead trees standing in the marsh water.  I decided to investigate and took myself to Crandall Park 2 in Tolland, CT. to follow one of the trails to where I thought the marsh could be seen.  I was right.  The trail is off to the left of the soccer field parking lot, and a sign with the directory of the trails marks the trailhead. 
As I followed the trail, I came to the place where I left it to get down to the marsh.  There is no trail that leads directly to the nesting area.  You have to get off the trail and walk through some rough, tree strewn terrain to get to the marsh, but it is worth it.

                             The Marsh View From the Trail

Once I found my way to the bank of the marsh I was delighted to see three nests, all with nesting Great Blue Herons.  My first shots were of the middle nest, which is actually the most visible and has nothing blocking the view.  I watched the nests for at least half an hour and learned a few things about the nesting habits of herons.

               The Middle nest.  You can see a feather
                  in the nest.  Perhap it is a tail

I don't know much about the social structure of herons, but I heard that they mate for life, and often times when one dies the other may commit a type of suicide.  I had a personal experience with this happening with one heron couple I tracked for a while in Somers, CT.

This setting is great to try out your wildlife photography, because the herons will not leave the nest.  They may move away from it and perch nearby, but they are not spooked as easily as other nesting birds.  Because they are a large subject, they lend themselves well to any level of photography one has. 

The heron left the nest to perch nearby.  Chances are there are newly hatched herons.

When I directed my attention to the far right nest, that heron did not leave the nest.  I have to believe there are eggs she is setting on.  I wish I could be above the nests to see inside.

                                         The Far Right nest

The last nest to the left is harder to get a good picture of because there are many branches that get in the view of the camera.  To the far left of the nest, the highway is right there.  However, the photos could be taken in the middle of nowhere because the highway is easily not included in any of the photos.

                                        This one flew away while I was
                                        taking the pictures.  She probably
                                        doesn't have anything in there yet.

A long shot of the middle nest and the far right
 nest with the beautiful grasses that grow there.

There are marvelous opportunities for photos at Crandall Park.  There are flower gardens, waterways, bridges, cattail ponds, trails, and wonderful wild specimens.  After a summer rain the park is full of many mushrooms and toadstools.  Right now you might even find a few lady slippers.  Just keep your eyes to the ground and see what there is to see.

To get to Crandall Park in Tolland CT. from Hartford follow I-84E to exit 68.  Off of exit take a left onto Rt. 195.  Follow up the hill and take your first left which is Cider Mill Ext.  At stop sign take a left (you have to) and follow Cider Mill to the park on the right.  There are a few parking lots you can choose to park in.  Many trails run through the park, as well as bike paths.   There is also a pavilion where you can picnic and there is a beach you can go to from June 25 through Aug. 25. 
Crandall Park 2 has a dirt drive that first leads to the Parks and Recreation building.  Just keep on driving and you will come to the soccer field where the marsh trail can be found.  This is a lovely place to visit very early in the morning when the herons are fishing and there is a mist on the pond.  Bring your coffee and your camera and enjoy the morning.

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