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In a busy corner of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, by a half-dozen tennis courts, dozens of great blue herons have set up shop once again, building their nests in towering trees.

It’s an unusual spot for a heron colony, with tennis players whacking balls and people walking and biking on nearby paths in the popular Vancouver, B.C., park. But the human activity doesn’t seem to bother the herons. This is the 13th year the herons have been nesting in the same spot in Stanley Park, their numbers growing steadily. Last year, 86 pairs of nesting herons were counted, with an estimated 169 fledglings.

It’s a dramatic natural sight in the heart of a big city, with the big birds — their wing span can exceed 6 feet — swooping in and out of the nests. It’s noisy, too, with a cacophony of calls as the hormone-raging males court the females.

The birds arrived in early March this year, and spring is the herons’ busy season for mating, laying eggs and rearing the young. However, some herons lingered until September last year.

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To see the herons, head to the southwest corner of Stanley Park where it fronts English Bay (just a block west of the popular Sylvia Hotel). Another nearby landmark is the park’s Fish House restaurant (

The Stanley Park Ecology Society ( helps watch over the birds. There are metal barriers on the tree trunks so raccoons can’t climb to the nests and feast on the eggs (or newborn birds). And an area beneath the trees is fenced off so humans can’t intrude or get nesting debris (and more) dumped on their heads.

Kristin Jackson:

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