126. Wendy Paulson Highlights The Great Blue Heron, Barrington’s Official Town Bird

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Great Blue Heron

Editors Note: Wendy Paulson’s next Barrington bird hike is coming up on Friday, May 23rd. See below for the full schedule of upcoming spring bird hikes & walks.

Great Blue Heron, Barrington’s Official Town Bird

– by Wendy Paulson with Citizens for Conservation

I’m not sure how many towns have an official bird, but Barrington is one of them. In the mid-80s, the great blue heron became the village emblem and almost immediately its image graced banners that hung from town lampposts.

It was a good choice. At the time, great blue herons nested in substantial numbers in the trees on the island in Baker’s Lake. The birds were conspicuous above village homes and streets, especially in early morning and late afternoon as they made flights for food or twigs to replenish their nests.

Birds of Barrington with Wendy Paulson: The Great Blue Heron
Birds of Barrington with Wendy Paulson: The Great Blue Heron

Things have changed, though, as they regularly do in the natural world. The island trees succumbed to the impact of the nesters’ excrement and wooden nesting structures were built to replace them. Double-crested cormorants began to nest on the platforms, displacing the great blue herons – birds three times their size – on the highest levels. This year there may be only one or two pairs of great blues that have managed to squeeze one of their large, stick nests among all those of the cormorants.

Baker's Lake Rookery - Photographed by Diane Bodkin for Citizens for Conservation
Baker’s Lake Rookery – Photographed by Diane Bodkin for Citizens for Conservation

Even though the great blue heron has diminished as a nesting species in Baker’s Lake, it remains a common visitor to local ponds, lakes, and streams. Its considerable size – more than three feet from bill to end of its long legs – makes it easy to spot. That conspicuous size, along with its gray-blue plumage and habit of standing motionless as it waits for a fish or frog to nab with its long, pointed beak, make it easy to identify, too.

Birds of Barrington with Wendy Paulson: The Great Blue Heron
Birds of Barrington with Wendy Paulson: The Great Blue Heron

You are most apt to see a great blue heron near water, for instance at the ponds or stream at Flint Creek Savanna north of town. But it’s possible to see one in flight almost anywhere. It flies with rhythmic, graceful wingbeats and pulls its head back against its body with its long, sinuous neck in a compressed s-shape.

Mid-May is a great day to visit Baker’s Lake Savanna, both for spring wildflowers and to see newly hatched chicks in the nests on the island. It helps to have a telescope. Perhaps, among the many nests of double-crested cormorants and great egrets, you’ll spot the nest and young of a great blue heron, Barrington’s official town bird.

Next time you’re near Barrington’s Metra station, take a look at the top of the clocktower and you’ll spot a great blue heron weather vane crafted in copper by local artist, Don Murphy.

Artist Don Murphy's Great Blue Heron Weather Vane Atop Barrington's Metra Station Clocktower
Artist Don Murphy’s Great Blue Heron Weather Vane Atop Barrington’s Metra Station Clocktower

And if you’d like a closer look at the Birds of Barrington, Wendy Paulson leads an ongoing schedule of Barrington Area Spring Bird Walks & Hikes, Cosponsored by Audubon Chicago Region and Citizens for Conservation.  The walks are free and open to the public but RSVP’s are required and waterproof boots and binoculars are strongly recommended.  Here’s the list of upcoming hikes:

May 16, 7:30 a.m.
Baker’s Lake (parking lot on Highland Ave. south of Hillside Ave) Note: May 16 walk will be lead by Jenny Vogt

May 23, 7:30 a.m.
Penny Road South* (meet at Penny Road Pond parking lot, less than a mile west of Old Sutton/Penny Rd intersection)

May 30, 7:30 a.m.
Galloping Hill*(meet at Penny Road Pond parking lot, less than a mile west of Old Sutton/Penny Rd intersection)

June 16, 7:00 a.m.
Galloping Hill *(as above) (change from June 13)

June 15, 5:30 p.m
Longmeadow* (north side of Longmeadow Dr. off Bateman Rd)

*indicates a more strenuous hike

Please RSVP to: Rebeccah Sanders (847) 328-1250 ext. 12 or rsanders@audubon.org and let us know how best to contact you should that be necessary.  Before you head out, please be sure to check the Citizens for Conservation website for any last minute changes or cancellations.

About the Author

Wendy Paulson has lived in Barrington Hills since 1975, and has led bird walks in the area for many years. She re-established the Nature Lady program in District 220 and St. Anne’s in the late 70s, under the auspices of The Garden Club and Little Garden Club of Barrington.

Wendy Paulson
Wendy Paulson

Wendy developed the education program for Citizens for Conservation, initiated and edited its newsletter, and has been an active volunteer with CFC for over 30 years.

During interludes in New York City and Washington, DC, she taught classes about birds in the public schools and is helping to develop a similar program in Chicago public schools with Openlands.

She has a regular schedule of bird walks in the Barrington area sponsored by Citizens for Conservation and Audubon Chicago Region.

Wendy is chairman of The Bobolink Foundation, serves on the board or advisory committee of multiple conservation and bird-related organizations, both domestic and international, and is former chairman of IL and NY chapters of The Nature Conservancy.

She and her husband Hank have two grown children and are avid hikers, cyclists, and kayakers.

For more information about a cause close to Wendy’s heart here in Barrington, visit CitizensForConservation.org.

Wendy is also a regular contributor at 365Barrington.com sharing profiles of birds found in the Barrington area. CLICK HERE to read all of Wendy’s posts published in our Birds of Barrington series and watch for her next contribution which will be published early next month.

Do you have a question about birds you’ve seen in Barrington? Just enter you question in the comments box for this post and we’ll ask Wendy!

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