Great blue herons flock together in Wolf River bottomland
Posted: Friday, March 9, 2012 3:00 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — Not far from the billboards and hurly-burly of traffic on Interstate 40, Martha Waldron stands shin-deep in water that’s as dark as mahogany, brushing away cockleburs as she keeps her gaze fixed skyward.
That’s when she sees it: a great blue heron, silent and elegant, swooping down from cypress trees toward a nest.
The bird is one of about 18 that have established a sizable nesting area in this seasonally flooded bottomland area south of the Wolf River. Waldron, former curator of the Memphis chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and one of the area’s leading birders, thinks she knows why they’ve come.
“The great blue herons will come in here and stand and fish …,” says Waldron, pointing to the acres of swamp water rich with crustaceans and small fish.
“They’ve got everything they need right here.”
Right here, oddly enough, is within Memphis city limits — just inside the I-40 and I-240 loop, actually — in the broad forested area between Jackson and Covington Pike. Waldron and fellow birders Mac and Susan McWhirter say there are at least 13 nests at the site.
Although great blue herons have large rookeries in such places as the Shelby Forest area, this appears to be the first one within Memphis city limits, Waldron said.
It’s a sight indicating that while people continue to move out of the city, perhaps wildlife species are moving back in.
“This is a great deal for Memphis because it’s the first one we’ve ever had,” Waldron said.
Published in The Messenger 3.9.12