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Heron there and everywhere



Published: Mon, July 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The nesting site is the third largest in the state, officials say.

By AMY HOUSLEY

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

AS WINTER TURNS TO SPRING EACH year, this Trumbull County community gets several hundred new residents, but they aren't your average neighbors. They are great blue herons, which come to nest at General Motors.

Greg Mischley, environmental manager at GM, said the big birds nest on about 40 acres. They fish in the storm-water ponds across the street or in Meander Reservoir along Interstate 76.

He said most of the birds come to the area in late winter or early spring, though some stay year-round. In early June, the nests are counted to give officials an idea of how many birds might be there, but an actual bird count is impossible.

Experienced counter

Carole Babyak of Warren has been a part of the annual count since it began in 1976. That year, there were 253 nests. She said the number has been around 300 every year since.

"It's an established colony," she said. The herons return year after year, often to the colony where they were raised.

This year, 375 nests in 88 trees have been counted, making it the third-largest nesting areas -- also called a rookery or heronry -- in the state. The two largest are in the Sandusky Bay area with one of them a heronry on Lake Erie's West Sister Island numbering in the 1,500-to-2,000-nest range. Ohio Division of Wildlife notes say there are heron breeding sites in 60 of Ohio's 88 counties.

Babyak said there are other local heron rookeries, such as one at Mosquito Lake. In Pennsylvania, just off state Route 18 near Conneaut, you'll find the Brucker Great Blue Heron Sanctuary, with more than 45 acres and 250 nests. It's the largest breeding colony in Pennsylvania, wildlife experts said.

Each nest usually consists of a male and female, with several chicks.

One risk for those trying to count is that the birds will throw sticks, fish bones and other items at them. The counters use binoculars to look up into the tree and umbrellas and raincoats to protect themselves.

Quiet and safe

Mischley said not a lot of people are aware of the birds and that's probably why they like to nest there. He also speculated that the birds feel protected and comfortable in the wooded area of old trees.

The area, which is also home to deer, beavers and Canada geese, is a protected area.

"We've left it alone for many, many years," said Mischley.

ahousley@vindy.com




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