Betsy Yankowiak likes to refer to it as "bird drama," and this year's plot could be the most gripping yet at Eagle Marsh.
A flock of blue herons used to nest in a grove of trees on Republic Services' property just east of Eagle Marsh, said Yankowiak, the Little River Wetlands Project's director of preserves and programs. The nonprofit Little River Wetlands Project owns 716-acre Eagle Marsh, a wetlands nature preserve off Engle Road in southwest Fort Wayne.
In 2011, a pair of bald eagles built a nest right in the middle of the heron rookery, and the herons packed up and moved to new digs east of Smith Road, Yankowiak said.
The eagle pair returned to their nest every year from 2012 through 2015, Yankowiak said. In 2016, the eagles returned, but a pair of great horned owls chased them off the nest and then settled down there to raise two owlets.
The eagles built a new nest farther back in the woods, Yankowiak said. But when the owls moved into the eagles' nest, the blue herons moved back to old rookery all around it.
This year, the eagles set up housekeeping in their original nest, the owls seem to have left the neighborhood, and the herons stayed home in their original rookery.
"Now we have the herons and eagles nesting right next to each other," said Yankowiak, who believes the drama could unfold after the heron chicks hatch.
"The eagles are opportunistic," she said. "They mostly eat fish, but they will pick up any easy prey they can find."
That could include the baby herons.
While that would be a gruesome plot twist, it's all part of life in a nature preserve.
"You have to kind of let nature take its course and see what happens," Yankowiak said.
For more about Eagle Marsh, go to www.lrwp.org/page/eagle-marsh.