Green herons find a relevant and reverent spot to roost

THOUGH A CHURCH could be called a sanctuary for a flock of birds as well as people, it’s hard to believe that a group of green herons had enough faith to build their nests at United Methodist Church on 19th Street in the resort area.

But they did.

At least three and maybe four nests with two or more chicks in each are in live oaks on the church grounds along the 18th Street side. canada goose sale That might feel like a serene spot on Sunday mornings, but the rest of the week, the area is a tourist hot spot.

Parishioner Sharon Griffin Hawver, who used to live at the beach but now lives in Norfolk, emailed me about the nests. She took me to visit the youngsters and get a bird’s eye view of their nests through windows in the church education room on the third floor.

The chicks were venturing out and walking around: teetering on branches, testing legs and flapping wings a bit. We watched, holding our breath in fear that one would fall, but they were sure footed enough to get back to their treetop abodes.

Rosalee Jewell, also a church member and a substitute teacher for the church’s Parents’ Day Out, has been watching the nests for several weeks. She said it was as if the church now had a 24 hour a day nursery.

“They are up so high that the branches would sometimes sway in the breeze,” Jewell said. “And mom would just hunker down on them.”

Green heron adults, our smallest herons, are dark with a green sheen that glimmers in the sun. Youngsters are speckled brown.

There is at least one more green heron nest in the area. When Robert Brown was bicycling, he came across a nest in a live oak in front of Giovanni’s restaurant in the 2000 block of Atlantic Avenue a hop, skip and a fly away from the church, but on an even busier street.

Many heron species have a penchant for historic nesting sites, and I imagine these birds are instinctively returning to their home turf, though it may have become unsuitable over the years. On the other hand, Virginia Beach’s live oaks still grow in the area, providing an old, familiar nest tree that feels like home.

In addition, Lake Holly is still there on Pacific Avenue, which probably has been and still is a traditional fishing ground for these birds.

According to the website All About Birds, the green heron is one of just a few birds that use tools. It will drop bait, whether a twig, breadcrumb or insect, on the water and wait to see if a fish is attracted. A video of a green heron fishing went around on YouTube a while back.

Google “Green Herons using my bread as fishing bait.”

I wonder how many other nests there are in the area that we don’t know about. One telltale clue is white wash on the sidewalk. That is evident even if the nest is not visible among a live oak’s dense leaves and branches.

Kelly Griggs in Suffolk’s Whaleyville section sent a cute photo of baby skunks that were born in her barn. See more in next week’s column.

See my blog for a photo from Steve Coari of diamondback terrapin eggs dug up at Pleasure House Point, most probably by a raccoon.

Pam Monahan in West Neck photographed a pair, no less, of beautiful red headed woodpeckers at her feeder. Jean Broughton sent a photo of a barred owl, one of a pair that is nesting in her Morgan’s Walke yard. See both photos in Thursday Beacon’s Close Encounters.

Marcia Pierce writes from Kings Grant that she has seen her first Japanese beetle of the season. She is setting out beetle traps, because last year the insects enjoyed dining on her climbing hydrangea and her roses.

Jan Eaton sent a photo of a click beetle that she found on a stump in her yard on Lake Smith. Check out these interesting beetles with two big eyespots on my blog, where I wrote about them a couple of weeks ago.

Anita King and children, Zachary and Natalie, sent a photo of a smiling dragonfly perched on their mailbox in Culver Woods.

Harold Winer in Kings Grant sent a photo of an empty birdhouse. “After two weeks of constant feeding by two doting parents, our little house wren chicks fledged this morning,” Winer wrote. And Vinny Pasquarelli also sent a photo of a house wren, “taking care of her new family and working herself tirelessly in my backyard in Western Branch, Chesapeake.”

Shawn Green sent a sweet photo of baby Carolina wrens nesting in a hanging basket on Lynn Shores Drive.

Wildlife rehabilitators Keith and Karen Roberts rescued a juvenile yellow crowned night heron at Pleasure House Point that was crippled by a clamshell that had closed around the bird’s foot. www.canadagoose2014.top/ The bird has a splint on its toe, thanks to the veterinarian at the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in hopes that the toe can be saved and not amputated.

Stuart McCausland sent a photo of what he thought was a wild dog and now with the help of the Internet, he thinks is a black coyote. He saw the animal at the city landfill, where he was photographing eagles. What do you think it is?

Harvey Seargeant snapped a photo of a fox parent eyeing the camera intently, as if to distract Seargeant while its pup took off and ran away. Seargeant also noticed a pile of feathers nearby, indicating a Canada goose was the fox dinner that day.

Ray Strangways in Southern Points photographed a redbelly turtle laying eggs in his yard on the bank of Wolfsnare Lake. Jenifer Freeman in Blackwater snapped a yellowbelly slider in her yard, probably intent on laying eggs too. Satoko Moore in Wesleyan Pines photographed a turtle, probably a redbelly, laying eggs in her Wesleyan Pines yard.