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March's Point Heron Colony

Live Heron Cam
This camera is active when there are herons in the colonly and active on the nests. By early March 2016, adults were occupying nests. We expect all first year birds to have fledged by early July. Scroll down to find more information about this colony. The live video stream below does not work in all browsers. If you do not see live video, try another browser and if it still doesn't work for you, email Alex.



The heron colony on March's Point is believed to be the largest nesting area for Great Blue Herons in all of Western North America. Herons have nested at this site on Padilla Bay since the late 1970s. In 1984, just 42 nests were counted at this site, with a steady increase ever since. In 2006 Skagit Land Trust estimated over 700 active nests in the area! Now we think there are about 600 but we are not able to count them all because many are on private land.

Skagit Land Trust owns the land which supports part of the heronry and has developed conservation agreements with neighboring landowners and the City of Anacortes to further protect the habitat and nesting birds. The site also hosts an active bald eagle nest. Remarkably this robust nesting sanctuary sits in the midst of the City of Anacortes' Industrial Area. Due to the sensitivity of the nesting site, direct access to the heronry is not permitted.

March's Point is located near three productive estuary bays; Fidalgo, Padilla and Similk. These and the farm fields of the Samish and Skagit river deltas, provide herons with areas to hunt for fish, frogs and small mammals. The proximity of so much rich foraging habitat makes it ideal for finding enough food to satisfy hungry, young chicks.  

In 2015 we were able to see 15 nests with this camera, remotely maneuvering the camera. We started monitoring on March 28, so we missed the early egg laying.  The first hatchlings were observed on April 16 and the last first clutch hatchlings on May 10. The average date of the first clutch hatching observations was April 27. The incubation time for Herons is about 27 days, so the average egg laying date was March 31.

We saw (or inferred) a total of 58 eggs laid in the first clutches in these 15 nests. We saw 45 hatchlings in the first clutches and believe that between 25 and 27 Herons fledged from these 15 nests. Most fledglings left at the start of July, but the last three Herons that hatched on May 10 were still near their nest on July 8. Six of the nests failed to fledge any birds. One of these six nests was destroyed and the other five nests had attempts for second clutches. A total of 20 second clutch (and third clutch) eggs were laid, and four hatchlings were observed from second clutches, but all failed to produce any fledglings. Second clutches were laid as early as May 11 and as late as June 18. There was an additional nest outside our 15 nest sample set that we noticed have a late clutch that also failed.

Volunteer Opportunities

1. Skagit Land Trust conducts surveys of the nests every year after the leaves fall from the trees and before the herons return in the early spring. Volunteers systematically count the nests on the portions of the heronry owned by the Trust and cooperating neighbors. They record information about the nest trees and mark the trees with tags so their use can be traced year after year. For more information visit Skagit Land Trust.

2. Volunteers are needed at Padilla Bay Reserve to observe the live video images from the heron colony, capture video images of herons at all different stages of development and explain the project to visitors. If interested, please contact the Reserve.

Information about herons

Link to Seattle Audubon Society page about great blue herons.

Great blue heron - Ardea herodias (ARE-dee-ah her-ODE-ih-as) breed all across Washington State except at high elevations in the Cascades. They usually gather in colonies around late February to early March to build nests and find mates. Sometimes the population at a colony has been known to grow, decline or even disappear.

Nests tend to be high in trees, sometimes many nests in one tree. They may be a flimsy collection of sticks 18 inches across or older nests, used year after year, may be bulky and up to 3 or 4 feet across. There are usually three to seven eggs per nest.

Eggs incubate in 25 to 29 days. Both parents sit on the eggs, turning them about every two hours with their bill. Both parents also help feed the young by regurgitating food such as fish into the mouths of the young.

Young birds begin to take flight about 60 days after hatching and abandon the nest after 64 to 90 days.

The oldest wild bird (banded) is believed to be 23 years though most only live to be about 15 years. The most difficult time for great blue heron survival is the first year. As many as 69% die before their first birthday. Dangers include cold, starvation and running into objects such as cars, tree limbs and power lines. Be very careful of approaching a wounded great blue heron. The beak will strike quickly with tremenous force.

Other live nature video cameras

WildWatchCams - various animals, including herons, in Washington State

View Nesting Birds - everything from penguins to sparrows