Heronry in Transition: An Expansion, or a Re-location?
For the last ten years West Windsor bird watchers, and other residents, have been enjoying the spontaneous establishment of a heronry, or heron rookery, high in the trees off Meadow Road where it crosses Duck Pond Run. A man-made wetland, fed by the Duck Pond Run stream, was built off Meadow Road in 1999 to compensate for the destruction of wetlands when the Meadow Road overpass at Route 1 was built some years earlier. This new wetland was quickly colonized by many frogs, fish, turtles, and other water-loving creatures. It did not take long before great blue herons moved into the nearby trees to take advantage of the local bounty. As many as 30 large nests were built by these magnificent birds over a period of several years. The birds, which can stand as much as four feet tall, rebuild the nests year after year.
In 2011 The Friends of West Windsor Open Space (FOWWOS) assisted West Windsor Township in acquiring approximately 25 acres from the Jewish Community Center parcel (as it was known at the time) on Clarksville Road to help protect the heronry. The township dedicated the Great Blue Heron Preserve on this now-protected property in 2011.
The nesting area was hard hit by super storm Sandy, which destroyed a number of trees and nests used by the birds. But despite the storm, and despite noise generated by the Northeast Corridor railway line, large nearby construction projects, and major road work on the Clarksville Road/Meadow Road intersection, the heronry has prospered. Some of the herons have now located further up Duck Pond Run, establishing a new heronry along the heavily wooded stream corridor between Clarksville Road and North Post Road. There are now more than a dozen nests in the new location.
The picture below was taken from a preserved open space parcel that FOWWOS helped acquire in 2000. More than a dozen nests can be seen high in the tree line.
A plaque on the corner of the property recognizes the generosity of the Chou, Liao, and Lin families in facilitating the preservation of this 28 acre parcel off North Post Road. The herons presumably can’t read the plaque, but they clearly appreciate the preservation of this sensitive habitat which abuts the original “duck pond” after which the stream was named almost 200 years ago.