Normally solitary, I see Great Blues poised on the banks of saltmarsh, staring into the creek at a respectful distance from the next neighbor. Occasionally one lands by our pool, as statuesque as the artificial kind sold as pool decoration.
They can’t stay solo, of course, and are in pairs for the breeding season. Pairs congregate to make twiggy nests in the tops of trees called heronries or rookeries. Rooks are familiar birds in the British Isles and Europe, a relative of the carrion crow with a pointy white beak and mask. They remind me of pictures of medieval plague doctors. One of the first signs of spring is the cawing of rooks around the rookery, repairing old nests in tall beech trees.
For all their glamor, Great Blue Herons don’t have a beautiful voice, making a hoarse croak when disturbed at fishing. Uncommon in the past, they are doing well now. In 1964 only five colonies were known in the Coastal Plain of Virginia, rising to 203 and about 9,136 pairs according to a 2003 survey.