Artists and Models – Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour

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. Inventorying the herons once the brooding of eggs has started is a challenge – while there is one active nest visible by kayak, and another two that I’ve suspected based on observation of flight paths and satellite photos, the two main rookeries are three to four miles distant. During nesting when a parent adult is with the chicks at the nest round the clock, the number of birds to be found foraging along the shoreline is cut in half. By early August, though, when the year’s crop of nestlings has fledged and the adults are no longer needed at the nest, its easier to find the whole population.

Great blue heron with flowering grasses in small pond. © Babsje (

Great blue heron with flowering grasses in small pond.

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. And of course, it’s an interesting exercise to identify juveniles who have gone through their molt, taking on adult plumage that alters their appearance markedly since I saw them the previous autumn.

The heron shown in the long shot here is one I was anxious about last summer. He first started letting me photograph him back in 2006, but was absent all during 2012, not a single sighting. Herons can live upwards of 15 years. He was fully adult back in 2006, when I would have pegged his age around 7, give-or-take, which might have put him around 13 last summer. I wondered about his survival.

In my secret fantasy, the herons who have gone missing have merely moved on to one of the other lakes or ponds in the watershed, although I know that the reality is that some simply are no more.

Imagine my elation this afternoon, then, realizing that my fantasy came true for this heron: for the first time in two summers, I found him – he was plying the grassy shores of a small pond about a mile and a half from the large lake where he used to feed. I am thrilled, and smitten all over again.

Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress.


(This took place July 13, 2013)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Posted on July 13, 2013, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, daily prompt, Great Blue Heron, Nature, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Weekly Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. What a lovely piece, Babsje. I understand the intensity of your watchfulness – becoming part of the herons’ world. (Thanks also for the unspamming hint. This has worked on several other sites that I often comment on). The photo has a dreamy quality, like a waking trance, which I suppose what true watching is.

    • Hi Tish – Many thanks for your comments about this post. I think you’re right, the photo is somewhat dreamlike. I usually print the photos at 11×14 or 16×20 and so wasn’t sure it would translate into the smaller size for the web. It looks like a painting, doesn’t it? Thanks for your suggestion about the book by Cynthia Voight, will have to look into it! And I’m glad your spam issues at resolved. Best, Babsje

  2. PS have read the Cynthia Voigt (think that’s the right spelling) book The Great Blue. It’s a coming of age novel for teens, but a good read for any age.

  3. He is really gorgeous. Glad you found him again. I didn’t know that they lived for so long.

  4. Happy is the man whom the Muses love: sweet speech flows from his mouth.
    You’re loved by the Muses & this shot and all your art is the proof * clap

    • And you, kind one, are also much loved by the muses. I hope readers have some moments spent with your photos, too. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words.

  5. I had no idea they lived that long..

    • Yes, and in captivity, they have been reported to live as long as 22 or 23 from what I have read, though I don’t know how often that sort of lifespan happens.

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