Heron Colony

Around 2010 two dozen or more herons began nesting on the edge of Libby Hill trails.  Beaver activity on the section of Thayer brook has created a beaver pond that is over 4 feet deep in sections and hundreds of dead trees (snags) that act as excellent nesting locations for herons.  The department of Inland Fisheries is actively monitoring this colony and one of the herons has been GPS tracked for four years.  Named Cornelia, she migrates to the Bahamas every winter with many stops along the way.

Herons usually nest on off shore islands in Maine, so having an inland colony is a real gem for our wildlife lovers! This is one of the largest inland colonies currently in Maine.

Finding the colony and when to visit

The colony is actively occupied from early May until early July.  To see chicks heads above the nest, usually the June is the best month to go.

Park at the trail head across from the  GNG Middle School.  Take the Lynx (Blue) to Harold Libbey (Red) then Outback (Yellow) trails.  After crossing the brook in about 200 feet you come to an trail junction, go left for 1/2 mile until you see the open marsh and nests.  Work your way round the marsh off trail.  Total distance is about 3 miles, allow 2 hours or more for your trip.

heron colony

Map of route to heron colony

Link to Google Map

How to behave when visiting active nests

Please be aware that this is a delicate nesting site and disturbing herons can threaten their return. Please minimize taking dogs to this area and if you do please leash them (this is true for all trails). Also stay within in 25 feet of the Outback trail when viewing. You will benefit from having binoculars or a spotting scope since nests are several hundred feet away. Here is some additional info provided by staff at the Maine Inland Fisheries Department regarding heron nest visits.

“When nesting herons perceive a threat, they generally defend their nest with a steady escalation in alarm. At first, herons become alert and silent, but as a perceived threat continues to increase they vocalize, first with repetitive “chortle” or “cluck” calls, followed by loud prolonged squawks (depending on the level of perceived threat), or hopping off their nests or flushing from the nest site. They will often circle above the nest trees until the threat has ended. An unusual, loud, or rapid disturbance may cause herons to immediately flee rather than show a progression in alarm.

If the volunteer believes his/her presence is causing birds to leave their nests, alarm call, or flush from the site, they must leave and choose an alternative location for subsequent observations. Some colonies may be impossible to observe without causing disturbance; in such cases, these colonies will not be monitored by volunteers. It is not worth the risk of causing abandonment of a colony.”

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