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Fishing with Capt. Gus: Blue Heron Island a hot spot during nesting season

The first stop on any bird nesting tour has to be Blue Heron Island, the smaller of two tree covered islands between Markers D4 and D6 in the Reed/Davidson Creek arm of lower Lake Norman.
In the spring, this island becomes a rookery for dozens of blue herons. During the nesting season, the male and female take turns hunting, repairing the nest, tending the eggs and rearing the chicks.
Blue Heron Island is off limits during spring and summer months, but you can observe birds from a boat.
Anne Silver, a Denver resident, took a sightseeing tour with some neighbors recently. She was intrigued with the large bluish-gray adult blue herons that would leave the nest empty handed and then return with nesting materials or food.
The blue heronís primary diet is fish, but occasionally it will eat small snakes and rodents. Most times, a heron will stalk its prey in shallow water. It is also smart enough to know that an opened bait tank or koi in a fish pond are easy pickings. Many an angler has gone to the dock before daylight to find an overstuffed heron and no bait in the tank. Once a heron finds live bait in a tank, it will return day after day until you secure the lid to prevent his long bill from flipping it open.
An osprey is another large bird that is easy to observe during the nesting season. This raptor, often mistaken for a southern bald eagle, has a snowy white belly and a crowned white head and tail. Eagles are considerably larger.
Ospreys make their nests on poles, channel and shoal markers, duck blinds and other manmade platforms. Much like the blue heron, ospreys constantly gather nesting materials and search for food. Instead of stalking small minnows, this bird of prey snatches larger fish from the waterís surface either on the fly or by diving when the fish are deep. Watch the sky above an ospreyís nest. It will circle above the nest just before crashing into the water for a meal.
Once an osprey snares its prey, it will carefully turn it to face forward for better aerodynamics on the flight back to the nest.
Dozens of osprey nests dot Lake Norman. One of the most popular ones is atop the abandoned water intake at the entrance to Davidson Creek near Channel Marker T2. A much smaller nest sits atop the shoal marker between Markers T2 and T4. If you want to see a nest built on top of a duck blind, youíll find one on the first island to your left at the entrance from the river channel to Mountain Creek.
If youíre bird watching, donít frighten or intimidate birds by getting too close. View nesting birds with binoculars or with the view finder of a cameraís zoom lens.
The water level is 1.8 feet below full. Water surface temperature is in the mid-70s to low 80s.
Upcoming events
Night Boating and Anchoring on Lake Norman: Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, Thursday, 6-9 p.m. Registration $25. For more information or to register, call Capt. Scot Spivey, 704-587-0325, or visit www.Imservice.org.
Night Fishing for Lake Norman Stripers, Bass and Catfish: Free seminar conducted by Mac Byrum and Capt. Gus Gustafson, Gander Mountain, Thursday, June 19, 6:30 p.m. Call 704 658-0822 for more information.
Visit www.fishingwithgus.com or call Gus Gustafson at 704-489-0763, or e-mail him at Gus@LakeNorman.com.

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