Friday, May 9, 2014

Baby herons draw a crowd to the activities at Padilla Bay

By Krista Kenner, communications manager, Bellingham

Kids of all ages can attend special classes and/or watch an educational video in the theater before exploring the shoreline of the bay.

This week, baby blue herons have been abuzz over here at the Department of Ecology. Baby animals, inherently squeal-worthy, are even better when you combine them with a live web cam to watch their every move —so it has definitely kept people talking this week.

The heron population is located in Skagit County near the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve, which is managed by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Ecology research is conducted at Padilla Bay to monitor plant and animal populations (especially eelgrass), evaluate sources of pollution, protect water quality—and to understand the bay's relationship to greater Puget Sound.

Herons have nested at this site on Padilla Bay since the late 1970s. Today it's believed to be the largest nesting area for Great Blue Herons in all of Western North America, with recent estimates ranging from 600-700 nests.

The Padilla Bay babies began hatching about two weeks ago. Thanks to a partnership with Skagit Land Trust, which owns most of the land that the herons nest on, we're able to watch the fuzzy creatures grow and develop over the next six to eight weeks.

Connecting people to estuaries

The live heron cam is one of many exhibits available to visitors of the Breazeale Interpretive Center, an educational facility located at the Reserve. A popular class outing or weekend family activity, the center provides a place where people can learn about estuaries and watersheds, both important to the health of Puget Sound. The center offers educational exhibits, fish tanks, and interactive learning experiences such as games, art and more.

"We're helping people make the connection between their actions and the health of the estuaries and beyond," said Glen "Alex" Alexander, educational coordinator at the Padilla Bay Reserve. In the video, he gives an example of how kids can learn something and carry it on, making an impact on a larger scale.

The Breazeale Interpretive Center at the Padilla Bay Reserve is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 10am-5pm except on official State holidays. For more information visit

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