Llewellyn’s Grey Herons

And in the weedy moat the heron, fond
Of solitude, alighted.
The moping heron, motionless and stiff,
That on a stone, as silently and stilly,
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if
To guard the water-lily.

Thomas Hood
The Haunted House, 1844


Piscator Nbr 2, by John Dillwyn Llewelyn, Albumen print, June 1856

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Today’s Daily Prompt from WordPress challenged us with the topic of something we can’t get out of our heads. That’s a no-brainer for me, as I admitted my obsession with herons long ago in I Have A Heron Monkey on My Back. Back then I wrote

With nearly a decade spent observing them, and more than 100,000 photos of them under my belt, could one say I’m addicted? Perhaps I do have a “monkey on my back,” but all for a good cause.

This affinity for herons is not limited to present-day experiences: I get excited by the discovery of archival heron photographs, and feel a connection to the early photographers who may also have been captivated by herons. Case in point, the two grey heron photographs by Welsh photographer John Dillwyn Llewelyn shown here, courtesy of Getty Images.

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Heron by John Dillwyn Llewelyn, 1856

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The thought of someone observing herons going on 200 years ago moves me, and I imagine a man caring enough to photograph them then, just as I do today.

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You can learn more about John Dillwyn Llewellyn here:
From a Forgotten Box, a Ray of Light
Daguerreotypes Spur Book on John Dillwyn Llewelyn

Thanks to WordPress for the Daily Prompt: Can’t Get it Out of My Head.

Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the instructions on embedding Getty Images into blog posts.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Ancient prompt. (Compared to the Coliseum in Rome, this is not ancient. In terms of photographic technology, shots from the 1850′s are nearly ancient, coming just 30 years after the first reported nature photograph.)

Thanks to Cee for her Black & White Challenge: Big. (While the photos, themselves, are small, the heron is a very big bird. In addition, from a technical perspective, the exposure duration was big – Piscator Nbr 2 had an exposure of 20 minutes. I find it remarkable that the heron’s reflection in the water is so clear for such a long exposure.)

Thanks to Ese for her Weekly Shoot & Quote Photo Challenge: Wings. (I like how Ese frames her challenges with the pairing of a photo and a quote. In the case of Piscator Nbr 2, it was published in The Photographic Album of 1857 with an inscription that included the poem passage that I’ve placed at the start of this post. It is now in the collection of the George Eastman House.)

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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Grey Heron, John Dillwyn Llewelyn

On The Threshold of A Season

Great blue heron amongst water lilies in the cove. © Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron amongst water lilies in the cove.

Between the polar vortex and far-too-frequent snowstorms, I was not immune to bemoaning the interminable winter. As the cold became dangerous, I worried about the birds, big and small. The post titled “Music to My Ears, Polar Vortex be Damned” (please click here if you missed that post) resulted from days on end with no birds about. And as for the herons that winter-over here? I was too afraid to give voice to my fears for their survival this winter, lest my writings “make it so.” 

Inside this small studio space, during the long winter months, I’m able to observe the herons in a sort of perpetual summer while working through the thousands of photos taken the previous year. It is a treat and a respite to be able to gaze at lush greenery on the computer monitor mere feet from icicle-shrouded eaves, or when the cold winds howl and whistle through nineteenth-century window casings.

Last summer, I reflected in “Artists and Models“:

Are there any artists who don’t fall in love with their models, their muses?

I am enamored of them all, the great blue herons I’ve been observing for the past decade in the watershed here. Our winters can be harsh, so generally I’m not able to be out on the water from December until April. Once back on the lakes each spring, I survey the area, looking for each of the individuals in their usual territory of years past… Each year brings great relief and big smiles when I find the individuals I’ve been following over the years, and also some anxiety around the missing herons.

We have now gone ten full days without falling snow. Even though there are still icy mounds slowly melting at the end of the driveway, a magnolia has started to bud, and pre-dawn birdsong has called forth the morn the past three days.

And perhaps the best harbinger of Spring: my season pass for kayaking arrived in today’s mail from Charles River Canoe & Kayak.

The boathouse is open.

It is the threshold of a new season.

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Thanks to Paula for her wonderful Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge.

Thanks to Krista and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold.

Thanks to Ese for her Weekly Shoot & Quote Photo Challenge: Wings.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

Thanks to the kind folks at Charles River Canoe & Kayak for outstanding kayaking and canoeing. All of the Great Egret photos and many of the Great Blue Heron photos in the photo galleries of this blog were taken from the seat of a CRCK kayak. 2014 is my ninth year of boating from their boathouses. Charles River Canoe & Kayak aren’t just “outfitters”, they’re “community.” If you’re a paddler (or a wanna-be-paddler) in Eastern Massachusetts, check them out.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking

My Second Snowy Owl, Oh Joy! (Subtitled Mindfulness and a Photographer)

babsje:

And my second-ever snowy owl viewing? Yup, once again, there I was without my Canon. We won’t discuss the quality of the photos I got with my mobile (there definitely is a large white-faced blob on the high wires, really, trust me on that).

For marvellous snowy owl news out of Boston, read this: “100th Snowy Owl caught at Logan Airport freed into wild.” I love happy endings. Here’s the link:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/2014/03/17/snowy-owl-caught-logan-airport-freed-into-wild/TvZWK9webu7ONLAijTfHSN/story.html

Best, Babsje

Originally posted on Babsje Heron:

An abrupt flash of feathers in my peripheral vision, and there it was: my first ever Snowy Owl!

Oh joy! Oh joy!

And there I was without a camera.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Sorry, no Snowy Owl photo – will the late sun casting a golden glow on Walden Pond be ok instead?

Sometimes I have felt that surely I must be the only wildlife photographer in the northeastern US who has NOT been hot on the trail of snowy owls this year.

Snowy owls have descended into North America from the Arctic in such numbers it’s being characterized as the largest “irruption” in decades. It’s not just the birding community that’s become fascinated by the snowies – mainstream media like CNN, the NY Times, USA Today, and even the Wall Street Journal are covering the snowy owl stories, and earlier this year the Boston Globe reported on the 7,000 mile round-trip migration of…

View original 1,042 more words

“I’m just swimming au naturelle,” he lied smoothly.

In children’s fables, the crafty trolls lived in the shadowy worlds of tunnels beneath bridges.

My troll preferred the trail above the tunnel, where he walked back and forth above the parapet.

Buck nekkid.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron female taking off from nest, while her mate tends their eggs.

The great blue herons had laid their eggs about three weeks earlier, and I was eager to see if the adults were still on the nest, incubating them.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

To reach the island and the great blue herons’ nest, I would need to paddle inside this narrow tunnel, one of my favorite spots.

The nest was a couple of miles from the boathouse, usually a pleasant twenty-minute kayak trip due south. I would paddle the length of middle lake, under the stone bridge, past the softly flowing waterfall, and emerge at the top of south pond just as I had done hundreds of times before.

As I approached the tunnel, a flash of movement from the path above caught my eye. A shirtless man was moving first towards the bushes at the right, and then he reversed direction and walked eastwards weaving amongst the bushes.

His behavior up there seemed a bit odd, but I was anxious to get to the herons, and so slipped inside the tunnel and was on my way after one last glance up at him. Exiting the tunnel, I exchanged pleasantries with two other kayakers. It felt reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one around that day.

The next hour was enthralling – the adult herons did their “changing of the guard ritual,” with the male arriving to relieve the female, who had been sitting on the nest. Sometimes the hand-off is perfunctory: the incoming bird swoops in unceremoniously and simply takes over the nest, while its mate departs quickly. Other times, they engage in pair-bonding rituals, greeting each other with elaborate courtship and greeting displays. This day, they captivated me with their feathery displays, spending some time together at the nest before the female took off.

Satisfied with my visit with the herons, I headed back in for the day after an hour. Just past the waterfall, I encountered the same two women kayakers seen earlier in the day.

One paddled right up to me and asked, “Did you see the naked guy?”

Uh oh, not only was the “shirtless man” I had seen atop the tunnel parapet “shirtless,” he was also pantsless.

The two women headed on their way and I turned towards the tunnel, heading back to the boathouse.

There on the path above the bridge once again (or perhaps not once again, but rather “still”) was the man – buck naked – walking across the top of the tunnel.

And there I was with my camera stashed below decks. What a photo op that was and I missed it.

He followed the path as it curved along above the shore, and ducked behind some shrubs, but not before he saw me seeing him.

We stared at each other, me from my kayak yards away in the cove, he on the shore, wrapping a blue towel around his waist.

For many people, it might have been a funny situation, but I was frightened. On the one hand, rationally, I knew I was safe in my kayak (unless he was the sort inclined to have a weapon), but I felt frozen by fear. In the past, I had been on the receiving end of several incidents of “violence against women” at the hands of strangers (such as stalking, rape, arson), and so this stranger’s strange behavior brought back a deeply-ingrained panicky urge to get away from him.

There we were, looking at each other. I didn’t want to upset him, wanting to appear nonchalant lest I do something that would incite him to try to follow me home later.

I mean, what do you say to a naked man parading around, and so I blurted out an inanity about the lovely weather that day.

To which he lied, “I’m just swimming au naturelle.”

Deep breath.

I paddled on through the tunnel, and once in the cove, phoned the encounter in to the boathouse.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the boathouse half an hour later and was told they caught him. The state Environmental Police and town police converged on the trail and when they caught him, he was still walking around on the path naked.

I didn’t press charges and the police made sure he understood that the lake is not a “clothing optional” sort of place.

I love happy endings.

But ever since that day, I can’t slip inside that tunnel in my kayak without first scanning the nearby shore and bushes and the trail above the parapet, looking out for the naked guy.

One day this past summer, I saw him again, in the exact same spot, walking back and forth across the trail above the tunnel. I had to do a double-take because he looked naked once again, but when I got the binoculars focused, I could see what he was wearing: light tan/flesh-colored socks, light tan/flesh-colored shorts, and a light tan/flesh-colored shirt. Just an illusion of being nekkid. Lol.

I love funny endings.

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This week, Erica challenged us with the topic of the way our perspective changes as we age. I mentioned in the post above having first-hand experience of violent acts at the hands of strangers. There are subtle scars that can result from those sorts of situations, reactions and memories that would be triggered in most any woman survivor, coping strategies we adapt for protection. Having been stalked more than once, I no longer drive a car. (In one state where I lived, anyone could go to the motor vehicle registry and pay less than $5.00 to get the home address of any license plate number.)

So, I don’t drive BUT I do kayak. I have discovered as I have grown older the liberation of being on the water with the great blue herons. It is a floating meditation. I’ll write more about that one day.

Actually, I’ve been writing that in one way or another all along.

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Thanks to Paula for her Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks to Krista and WordPress for the Daily Prompt: Brilliant Disguise. (What a brilliant disguise, for the formerly-nekkid guy to wear flesh-colored clothing to give the appearance of being naked. How funny that was.)

Thanks to Josh R and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside.

Thanks to Erica and WordPress for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

And Then There Was One

“If I try to give the battery a jump start out here, their boat might explode.

And us along with it,” drawled the captain.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron fledgling alone in the nest minutes after his nestmate fledged for good.

Once more, I sat holding my breath in the kayak, moored in a natural-cover blind across the channel from the great blue herons’ nesting island.

Only the day before, the fledglings had practiced death-defying take-offs and landings, more than seventy feet above the island floor. The nest was so very high, and they were so very young and inexperienced. My heart was in my throat as I watched. The mother heron perched on a pine bough across the way, and it seemed that she, too, could barely stand to watch them risk all. (If you missed the earlier post, please click here to catch up.)

But that was the day before, when the weather was somewhat murky and the lake quiet.

This day, the weather was sunny and hot, and the lake buzzed with the sounds of boat motors, small and large, the clanking of paddleboat chains, and the occasional thwok of paddles against canoe frames.

Concerned for the fledglings, unsure about how ready they were for their maiden flights away from the island, I trained the binoculars up on the nest, then down along the channels in both directions, scanning for approaching boats.

I heard it before I saw it, the small runabout powered by what always sounded like a lawn mower engine. A woman reclined in the bow, wind riffling her blond hair, while two boys kept to the stern. The boy manning the tiller couldn’t have been much older than twelve, barely old enough to legally pilot a boat here, and my pulse quickened. I had seen the boys several times before, zipping around the lake as fast as their small boat could go. One day, I encountered them recklessly speeding down the cove, aiming directly at a heron fishing from a log. I’m sure they thought it great fun to scare away the heron. That time, I headed them off with my kayak before they got too close, and explained that the herons are federally protected, and they slunk off out of the cove. This day, I was anxious for the fledglings, concerned that the boys would land on the island below the nest and alarm the birds, but my worries were for naught: maybe the presence of the woman in the bow made them keep their rambunctiousness in check. They motored up the channel and under the bridge without incident.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Two great blue heron fledglings peering down at the disabled fishing boat beached on the island shore, at left. After the first heron has left the nest, the lone fledgling reacts.

With that danger gone, I was able to fire off more photos of the fledglings until I noticed a fishing boat creeping towards the island. Ominously, it floated closer and closer to the landing, rocking side-to-side on undulating waves lapping the shore.

“This cannot be good,” I said to myself as the boat beached beneath the nesting tree.

With my heart in my throat once again, I trained my binocs up at the two fledglings and then down at the two men in the boat, repeating “please leave please leave” wordlessly to myself over and over like a mantra.

But they didn’t.

The fledglings watched the men from their nest like hawks. Their alarm palpable, one heron raised his cap feathers and arched his wings in a threatening gesture.

My own alarm escalated when one of the men jumped out of the boat onto the island floor. I didn’t know if the herons were skillful enough to survive yet, and needed to get those men away from the island. I stashed the camera, and furiously paddled the kayak out across the channel, trying to get the men’s attention without my own presence further upsetting the fledglings.

Quietly, I slipped the kayak around from behind the island, hoping the herons hadn’t seen me, and pulled alongside their boat. I explained that they needed to leave the island right away because of the fledglings.

But the men didn’t reply. It took only a moment to realize the language barrier between us. I gestured up at the nest, mentioned the word “baby” and made flapping motions with arms. They gestured at their boat’s console and indicated that it wouldn’t start, a dead battery.

“This is not good at all,” I again thought to myself, alarmed for the herons, but then one of the men held up their jumper cables. Language barrier surmounted, we hatched a plan for me to paddle my kayak in search of another boat who could lend a hand.

It didn’t take long to find another fishing boat, and full of hope, I explained the situation.

“If I try to give the battery a jump start out here, their boat might explode. And us along with it,” drawled the captain.

Dejected, I started to turn the kayak away, when he said it.

“I can’t jump ‘em, but I can sure tow ‘em in.”

And so he did. He motored over to the disabled boat beached on the nesting island, and hooked up a tow line. When last I saw them, the two boats were moving slowly south, tethered by a stout rope. It was a remarkable gesture of kindness between total strangers.

And what of the herons?

I paddled the kayak back to the secluded hide across the channel and raised my binoculars once more.

The nest was empty.

Both fledglings were gone.

“But wait, over there, what is that atop the leaves?”

One of the fledglings had only flown fifteen feet from the nest, and while I watched, he flew back.

He stood on a small limb just above the nest and stared out over the water.

And stared.

And stared.

For a long time, he stared out, looking in different directions.

I’m sure he was looking for his nest mate.

Earlier, I wrote about this pair of fledglings:

I’m glad there are two, keeping each other company and entertained, while serving as practice partners. I imagine it would be very lonely to be only one, sitting alone in a high-up nest waiting to grow in feathers before fledging, expecting to fly.

And now there was only one.

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Thanks to Paula for her Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned. (Did the remaining heron feel abandoned? Alone? Confused? Anxious? What, and how much, emotion do birds feel, and how do we draw the line at anthropormorphizing?)

Thanks to Krista and WordPress for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes. (Three photos show the herons as the story unfolds.)

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

Workin’ It on Wordless Wednesday

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron working those leg and wing muscles.

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Thanks to Wordless Wednesday for the Wordless Wednesday challenge.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Work prompt.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

Last but not least, thanks once more to Michelle for her Weekly Pet Challenge.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

For That Fearlessness

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron on swimming float.

After feeding the birds that afternoon, I walked over to the shrubbery along the shore to look at the swimming float platform half-way across the cove.

My distance vision isn’t very good. I could tell there was a largish bird on the platform, but not whether it was a cormorant or a great blue heron from so far away. It was preening, stretching its neck up, bill down, and could have been either as far as I could tell.

I decided to call to it, and if it responded, that would tell me which.

Arrrh..

Arrrh..

And suddenly – before I could utter a third arrrh – there was a short clamoring of frawhnk… frawhnk… frawhnk… coming from my immediate left, not five feet away.

Obscured by the trees and bushes, a juvenile heron had been on a neighbor’s dock.

It heard my call, answered my call, and then flew directly towards the shore where I stood, right past me with less than two feet separating us, and landed on the dock to my right.

I walked over to the path by the dock, careful to not aproach too closely, and called again…

Arrrh..

Arrrh..

And the heron’s neck craned up full height, its right eye seeking me out, watching me, watching me.

I stood still for a long while, until the bird folded its neck back into that graceful curve and began foraging along the shore.

Goosebumps that the juvenile responded to my call, and came closer.

Juveniles are great in that way – fearless their first summer in the world.

I love them for that fearlessness.

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Thanks to Paula for her Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge. (Thursday, Tuesday, any day in the company of herons is a good day, the right day.)

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Work prompt. (It was hard work when crafting this post to not bemoan the bitterly cold weather, but one look at this photo brought warmth flooding back.)

Thanks to Ese for her Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge: Alive prompt. (What a great day, to be so alive.)

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

Triptychs – Good Things Come in Threes

Multiple Choice – A triptych is:

  • A travel planner map for road trips created by the American Automobile Association?
  • A work of art or photography comprised of three related sections or panels?
© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Can you hear someone singing that old chestnut, “I only have eyes for you, dear?”

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Great blue heron nestlings - first attempt at flying.

Around two months after the courtship display, above, the great blue heron nestlings try their wings.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Great blue heron nestlings - first attempt at flying.

Who was more surprised: the fledgling that actually flew or the nest-mate watching from below?

This week, Michelle W has challenged us to show “threes.” While the three panels in today’s post are “informal” triptychs and not “high art,” each offers a small vignette of a “day in the life” of great blue herons.

I was smitten watching the courtship displays in the top panel, and my heart was in my throat as the fledglings tried their wings seventy-plus feet above the island floor.

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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Fledglings, Heron Courtship Display

Three Days in May

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron late in the afternoon in our cove, as seen from a kayak.

One day in May.

That night, I went out on the back deck and called the cat for dinner.

It was late twilight, the world all in shades of grey, and still.

The orange Maine Coon didn’t come when called, but the great blue heron did.

The fast-fading light was an almost perfect camoflauge for his dark grey-blue plumage, but not for that vibrant orange bill, nor his pure white cap feathers.

He circled our cove end of the pond, then landed on the shore by my neighbor’s dock.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron on approach to the dock as twilight approached.

I grabbed the binocs and watched him weaving through the plants and foliage along the shore.

He worked his way across our back yard, passing behind large trees and small saplings, his long neck darting left, right, pointing arrowlike at the water just before striking out at dinner.

His colorings blended in so perfectly with the monochromatic twilight that my eyes were fooled many times.

Look, there he is! No, just a clump of leaves rustled by the wind.

Is that him? No, just the wavy reflection of some thin dock pilings floating on the water.

I watched for half an hour as he patrolled the curve of the shore, until he reached the stand of old pines and passed from view.

Day Two.

If I thin out the volunteer saplings, the view from the deck will be better.

If I thin out the volunteer treelings, maybe the heron’s hunting grounds will feel less secluded to him? He would feel more exposed? Less likely to linger on our shoreline?

I think I will leave the shore area overgrown for him, but trim back the second tier of the terrace, closest to the house.

Day Three.

I thinned weedy treelings by hand for an hour in the waning afternoon sun yesterday.

I started near the “first” birdfeeder – the most obscured one of the three. Lately, it had been left more than half full each day. I think that’s because its become inaccessible to approach in any reasonable flight pattern. Even the nuthatches that hop from tree to tree in short spurts of flight didn’t seem active at that feeder recently, and the mourning doves had no chance to gather and peck the ground beneath the feeder for spilled seeds. But that is all good – after all, was late May and the natural food sources are in bloom, so no one is going hungry.

After trimming back only a bit, it was clear there were other wonderful flowering plants lurking under the weedy canopy – small sweet wild Violets, Lady Slippers, Roses, Strawberries, Buttercups and more with names unknown.

Lady Slippers!

Roses!

None of them getting much – if any – sunlight at all.

So, that discovery made the act of taking down the treelings more palatable. Even still, though, I apologized to the trees before lopping them off.

Orange Cat helped with the pruning. He stood guard at the base of the oak, ever-ready to defend me from incoming squirrels or chipmunks and other ferocious critters that might bring danger.

I gathered the mounds of clipped trunks, the largest the circumference of my thumb, and carried them to the southeast side of the yard. In a couple of days, I planned to strip the excess leaves from the twigs and put them up to dry properly so they can be used to make baskets or screens.

And now, this morning, there’s a heron foraging along the shore straight ahead 50 feet.

I can hear his long slow fraaawwwwk fraaawwwwk like a baritone goose calling in slow motion.

Can I see him?

No.

Not even after an hour of thinning the greenery was the foliage anywhere near sparse enough to see that patch of water.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

There are worse things than settling for seeing a great blue heron overhead,
instead of through the trees that had overgrown the back yard.

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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

Next to my Gen-u-ine Louisville Slugger

Next to the Louisville Slugger and tripod propped against the wall in the corner of my studio stands a misshapen lenth of wood.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron.

In my favorite cove, there is, or rather was, a partly sunken deciduous tree. Because the cove is a narrow finger bordered by giant pines and tall leafy trees, during the golden hour, sunlight accentuated the arching branches the way a spot draws your eyes to a painting in a museum.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

An elusive great blue heron lurks in the shadows across from the golden branches.

At other times of the day, it offered shadowy refuge to the herons, like this:

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron perching in favorite spot in the cove.

Great blue herons are creatures of habit, and so I adjusted my kayak forays to follow their circuit around the lake. Eventually, I learned to predict which heron could be found where at what time of day.

The heron in the photo above staked out his territory in the cove, and I came to treasure his presence. He was the first heron I sought out in the spring and the last one I saw on closing day in the fall. Each year, my anticipation was palpable as I stroked deeper into the cove, looking for him on his favorite perch. For years, each autumn, he was the last heron I saw, the last heron I photographed that year, before closing down for the winter.

There were times that he ceded his territory to the youngsters when he was nesting deeper in the cove with his mate. Then, other herons would stake their own territorial claim to his branches.

In 2010, the heron in the top photo of this post adopted the branches for a fishing platform.

The following year, a different heron, seen in the next photo, took ownership of the limbs. In this photo, the heron is cleaning its bill after downing a fish, by rubbing it along the wood, one side of the bill alternating with the other, back and forth.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron cleaning bill.

And then one day it happened. I rounded the curve while kayaking into the cove and raised my binoculars just as I had one on hundreds of other days, scanning the far end for the great blue heron on the branch.

But there was no heron there.

Not only was there no heron there, there was no branch there.

Stunned, I paddled closer.

The water level was high due to a recent tropical storm, and so most of the deciduous tree was submerged, as it had been for a few weeks, but the top branch, the tallest branch was gone.

Broken off sharply just above water level, the branch floated forlornly near it’s stump.

© Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron about to fly over the stump of the broken-off branch.

Carefully, I retrieved the broken branch and balanced it awkwardly, strapped under the deck bungees of my kayak.

For the time being, it has pride of place in my studio, next to my Louisville Slugger baseball bat and tripod. I treasure it, and the memories it evokes.

At times, I can close my eyes and hear the great blue heron perched there, the silken rustle of feathers, the soft arrrrh….arrrrh….arrrrh greeting, calling me into the heron’s realm.

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Thanks to Krista Stevens and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure. (I treasure this branch, gripped by countless herons over the years.)

Thanks to Ese for her Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge: Empty prompt. (and now, the spot in the cove where the branch belonged is strangely, sadly empty.)

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Wood prompt.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron

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