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Heron gathering a brief spectacle

Fri., March 5, 2010, 1:13 p.m.

Photographer’s timing was perfect at Pend Oreille River

A Spokesman-Review photographer brought a rare treat back to town for all to see this week.

While shooting another photo assignment on Wednesday, veteran photographer Colin Mulvany noticed the unusual sight of several dozen great blue herons perched on the old log boom pilings in the PDO River at Usk.

The stunning photo, published Thursday, captured at least 32 of the birds in one frame.

Wildlife biologists and Pend Oreille County birding enthusiasts confirmed that each year about this time, migrating herons gather in groups of more than 70 at this spot for roughly a week as they tidy up their nesting areas in two known rookeries along the PDO River.

Biologists had no firm data on where they winter, but they said it’s a long way off.

Similar congregations of herons can be found if your timing is right this time of year at places such as Pack River Delta along Lake Pend Oreille, where Terry Gray, an avid birder from Moscow, once counted more than 100 great blues.

At Usk, sharp-eyed viewers will notice there are no cormorant nests in the pilings the great blue herons were using for resting and roosting this week.

Cormorants build very weak nests from a few sticks and guano, explained Ray Entz, Kalispell Tribe wildlife biologist. Winter rains washed away the nests from last year.

Geese already are checking things out along the river.

Ospreys will be the next to arrive at the river and show interest in the pilings, usually in April.

But the cormorants will follow en masse and take over virtually every piling in that area for nesting, he said.

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