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Annual Heron Nest Count

Increase in heron nests at March Point

by Skagit Valley Herald reporter Kimberly Cauvel

The 15.5 acres of protected great blue heron habitat on March Point is lush with ferns, moss and tall trees dotted with heron nests.

In recent years, the number of nests has increased throughout that area called the March Point Heronry.

The heronry is partially owned and partially held in conservation easements by the Skagit Land Trust. Land trust staff said they believe the increase in nests is due to herons moving into March Point as nesting habitat is lost in other areas.

An annual nest count the land trust has done at March Point since 2002 has documented as few as 258 nests and as many as 757 — the tally reached this year.

This year’s count was held Nov. 11.

Land trust Conservation Project Manager Jane Zillig said the number of nests has been increasing since at least 2014, when 486 were counted.

Throughout Skagit County, herons are often seen alone or in small groups on shorelines, in marshes and in trees. Zillig said the birds come together in large groups to settle in nests and raise young between February and August.

Land trust staff and volunteers enter the heronry during winter, when the birds are not using the nests, to count the number of nest and number of trees used for nesting.

Large trees in the heronry often hold many nests, becoming a sort of apartment complex for the birds, land trust conservation assistant Hannah Williams said while standing below a big-leaf maple with about two-dozen nests in it.

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