If you haven't visited the blue heron rookery on Lake Norman, now is the time.
The island is a beehive of activity since the chicks have hatched and are maturing. The active parents take turns hunting for baby food 24 hours a day.
When they aren't foraging, they gather materials (mostly sticks and branches) to enlarge or repair their gigantic nests. At times so many blue herons circle the island that the air space resembles a busy airport.
Blue Heron Island is the smaller of the two islands between Markers D4 and D6 in Reed Creek. The island is off limits during nesting season (do not beach your boat or walk on the island), but you can easily view the birds from a boat with binoculars.
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The nesting season begins in spring and continues until summer, when the chicks are old enough to fend for themselves. What makes Blue Heron Island so interesting is that the birds colonize in the tall pines, each with multiple nests. A closer look shows each nest holds several chicks, all hungry and chirping loudly between feedings.
The more you watch, the more you will be fascinated at how the young recognize the parents as they glide back to the nest with a mouthful of food.
It is quite a sight to watch birds that weigh up to seven pounds make deft landings between the branches of lofty pine trees.
Blue herons are expert at fishing, but they also eat snakes and small ground animals. They wade patiently and then stand in place until their quarry is close enough to snare with a quick thrust of their blade-like beaks.
An adult stands upwards of 41/2 feet tall, and its neck is very skinny - so thin, in fact, that if a fish gets sideways, the bird can choke to death.
The neck of a juvenile bird is smaller yet, which makes choking a major reason for the species' high mortality rate.
The shallows surrounding Blue Heron Island are covered with rocks and stumps. Do not venture too close.
The best pictures are taken with a telephoto lens and with the sun at your back.
Binoculars are recommended. Everyone in the party should bring a pair.
Listen for the chirping chicks that sound the return of a parent with food.
A free fishing seminar, "Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Bass," will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, off Exit 36 of I-77.
Bring the family, including the kids, to this free event.
I will cover everything from fishing with cane poles, hooks and bobbers to using live and cut baits. I'll also give suggestions for places to fish.
Call 704-658-0822 for more information.
Lake Norman fishing has been good to very good for bass, perch and cats. Stripers are suspended in water to 50 feet on river and creek points. Live baits are best, but schools of fish can be coaxed into biting vertically fished jigging spoons. Bream and small channel catfish are in shallow coves and can be caught on red wigglers.
The lake level is about 2 feet below full pond. The water surface temperature is in the 70s and 80s.