Loch Lomond NNR
Herons are early nesters so the herons at Loch Lomond NNR are already starting into their breeding season. The first eggs can be laid as early as the end of February but egg laying will peak over the next few weeks.
Being such big birds (they can have a wing span up to 6ft.) they build big nests in the more accessible tops of the canopies. The nests at Loch Lomond seem to vary a lot in size. This is probably because some nests are used many years in a row and each year have more twigs and sticks added to them. One nest looked absolutely enormous; nice and roomy for the birds as long as the tree can hold it up. The smaller ones may well be still under construction or just be only a year’s worth of twigs.
Heronries are often hidden away from people and disturbance and are usually at the top of trees so not many people get to see the way that the males and females get together at the beginning of the season.
Though males and females return to the colony area early in the season it is the males that stake a claim on the nest sites first. They then show off to any females nearby by standing on the nests, stretching their neck, pointing their bills to the sky and make loud, far reaching calls to draw in the females. If this isn’t enough to attract a female then lone, unsuccessful males will do a stretching display where they lower their body to the nest and then stretch upwards pointing to the sky, a bit like a yoga position. As a courtship display somehow this seems to be very much in keeping with this classy, elegant but rather staid looking bird.