March 18, 2014, continued. Terri and I soon arrive at the heron rookery and find the great blues already setting up house and perched by their stick nests, all located at the tops of the tallest cypress or tupelo. As far as heron rookeries go, this is not a large one, and we count no more than a dozen nests.
Singleton Creek has several beaver dams on its lower reaches, and the dams have backed up enough water to keep the rookery slough flooded for most of the year. This is important because herons and egrets will abandon a nesting site that dries up during the breeding season. Nesting over water reduces nest predation by raccoons, rat snakes, and other predators. One predator that isn’t deterred by water is the American alligator, but I consider them more of an opportunistic or incidental predator. They wait on the sidelines for hapless young herons to lose their balance and fall in the water. To see a large 400-500 pound gator leap halfway out of the water and pull down a young heron is an awesome, and frightening, sight. And heron rookeries attract some very large alligators. Overall though, gators probably benefit a rookery by dining on raccoons and other predators foolish enough to swim after the eggs and heron chicks.
We leave the rookery and continue our paddle west through the beautiful, picturesque slough. It gets shallow at the western end, but water levels are high enough today (the USGS gauge at Trezevant’s Landing is reading nearly 80 feet) to make things easy. There is an old rock ford, basically a low dam, at the mouth of Big Lake that served the previous owners as a logging road for access to the south side of Running Lake, but it is a foot under water and easy to cross with our kayaks. We paddle as far as the back side of Little Lake before turning around and heading back. There is one great blue heron nest at the top of a tall cypress on the northern edge of Little Lake.