George Block Column

Blue herons a wonder to witness up close

Blue herons, or ‘gronks,’ a wonder to witness up close

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My wife, Eileen, and I were walking the trail around the lake that lies on the border of Peters and North Strabane townships. It was a quiet day with few walkers, and we were startled by the loud “gronk” nearby.


From that day on, I have called the blue herons that hunted there, “gronks.”


For those who haven’t watched this large bird standing along the shoreline of some body of water or on a half-submerged log, it is probably the state’s largest native bird.


There might be another wading bird that is equal in size, but I haven’t seen in one on our end of the state. The California condor might be its equal, but this is not California.


I have watched as a heron worked a nearby shoreline catching fish at a faster rate than I could match, and I often wonder how many trout it gulps down along the shore of Canonsburg Lake. All I can say is more power to it.


After all, there is a good chance it has a family to feed in a nearby rookery.


Both parents take part in the job of feeding the young, which can be voracious as they scramble for a bite. In fact, things can become so hectic that visitors are advised to wear headgear to avoid the scraps that might shower the area under the nests.


I recently visited a local rookery along Chartiers Creek. Here, high in a grove of sycamores, were about 70 large nests made up of sticks and other debris.


Much like wild turkeys – another big bird – herons hunt in the morning and return to their nests as night falls. In flight, they fold their long neck back over their body, and its long beak makes a perfect fish stabber. With it, they do better than I do with a custom fishing rod.


• Archery season has been with us for a few weeks, and I haven’t seen any big bucks taken yet. Of course, the weather has been warm, and the deer haven’t entered the rut early.


I have seen signs of the pre-rut period. Just the other night, I watched two small bucks spar for more than 20 minutes.


Speaking of small bucks, I haven’t seen many good racks this fall. I saw quite a few last year. This year, that number has been two.


I spoke with a North Strabane police officer recently and he commented on the lack of big deer. Remember, police officers do a lot of night patrols, when deer are more active.


Things could change as the rut starts to dominate deer activity. In another week or so, the bucks will start to turn their attentions to seeking out a receptive doe.


The movement by these lovesick males will increase greatly, and they will be seen in open fields and crossing roads with swelled necks and eyes staring blankly.


With this increased movement, many of these trophy bucks will meet their demise not by the bow, but on the bumper or grill of a car. Deer collisions are high in the spring as deer are being chased away by birthing doe and again in the fall when the breeding season begins.


I can suggest that drivers be careful, but that goes for everyone. This is especially true in the evening hour.


The weather has cooled and the deer are getting ornery. It’s time for all of us who have waited to get our backsides out in the woods to get out and wait for the record book buck to come along.


It’s time to go out and get ’em.


As I suggested weeks ago, it’s time to dig the rifle out of mothballs and start shooting.


As the big-game hunting seasons get closer, the weather deteriorates and rifle ranges become crowded. Not only are you zeroing in your rifle, but out are also checking its mechanics.


If something is wrong, the problem might surface at the range instead of in the woods. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready.



George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.


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