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A Hopeful Sign: Blue Herons Return To North Minneapolis

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(credit: CBS) Lauren Casey
Lauren Casey joined the WCCO-TV weather team in August 2011, a...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Almost a year after the tornado hit North Minneapolis, there’s one hopeful sign. The blue herons, whose population was devastated by the storm, have returned to an island in the Mississippi River.

Naturalists are glad the birds are back, since no one was sure if they would return.

“When the tornado came through, at the end of May, all of our nests were lost. There were seven young chicks that were able to be rescued and taken to the wildlife rehabilitation center, but other than that, the entire colony was lost,” said Kim Nowicki, an outdoor education supervisor.

The colony included about 60 nests, with two to three chicks per nest. It was a heart-breaking loss for park staff, visitors, and for the adult herons left behind.

“They spent days, just circling and it was a volume of herons, circling the same area over and over, just kind of looking for those nests,” said Nowicki.

Nowicki says that after a week, all of the herons were gone. Park staff feared that the river birds might never return, but a welcome sight flew in on a 6 foot wing span earlier this month, but not to the same exact location.

Now, the herons haven’t returned to the exact nesting site destroyed by the storm, but to a new location about a mile down-river.

“They’ve started re-nesting now on a little island across from Marshall Terrace Park, and there’s about 20 nests, they’re very active, carrying sticks, they’re doing all the behavior they should be doing,” said Nowicki.

The blue heron’s return benefits not only the view of wildlife-watchers, but the success of the river’s eco-system.

“They are a valuable predator in the eco-system. They eat a tremendous amount of things: Frogs, fish, snakes and all sorts of things, so their presence as an animal of part of the cycle is very important,” said Nowicki.

To celebrate the heron’s return, the North Mississippi Regional Park is hosting a “Heron Egg Hunt” Saturday. Kids can hunt for pretend heron eggs. For more information, click here.

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