Freshly Fledged  – Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

No crumpled birds littering the island floor, no sodden nestlings floating in the waters nearby…

When I arrived at the island, the nest was entirely empty. Both chicks had definitely fledged for good. My job as shepherdess was complete for that season. It had been only a few days shy of three full months, and I had seen them through from building the nest to fledging.

 © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Great blue heron fledgling focusing intently while stalking a fish.

Great blue heron fledgling focusing intently while stalking a fish in the cove three weeks after leaving the nest.

It was an emotional realization, a few tears of joy for them and their new soaring life, and some of sadness at the thought of never watching that heron family in the nest again. At never hearing the sometimes sweet, sometimes raucous chih-chih-chih…chih-chih-chih of the chicks at feeding time, so loud it could be heard above the din of boat traffic – so head-turningly loud that people who didn’t know what was afoot would stop and turn their canoes towards the noise to see what it was.

I wanted to see proof for myself that their maiden flights were a success, and so started a circumnavigation of the southern lake, staying close to the shoreline, binoculars in hand, looking for the fledglings. Close to the island, I found  no crumpled birds littering the island floor, no sodden nestlings floating in the waters nearby.

Two-and-half hours after beginning the exploration, I spied a fledgling on the far southwest shore! I kept a good distance to avoid interrupting his foraging – every morsel counts at less than 24 hours out of the nest – and took a few photos through the telephoto. More little tears. (Yes, I can be sentimental and silly.)

Satisfied at having found a fledgling safe on the shore, I paddled back to the special cove nook, to have oatmeal and coffee and watch the empty nest in hopes the chicks might return.

I was reading a book, floating in the shade, the waters were like glass, so very quiet you could hear the…

… You could hear the soft frawhnk of a heron in flight…

… In flight towards the nest.

One of the adults soared over the island, then swooped onto the tallest branch of the nest-cradling tree.

And not two minutes later, another much softer frawhnk, as a fledgling glided up to the nest and settled back home. Goosebumps!

And then came the music to my ears:

Chih-chih-chih…chih-chih-chih…chih-chih-chih

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Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge Sara Rosso and WordPress.
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(This took place August 13, 2012)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

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Posted on July 20, 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. 19 Comments.

  1. Excellent action shot of the fledgling. The story that accompanies it really pulls the viewer right into the boat for vicarious enjoyment!

  2. What a wonderful experience to watch the nest and then see them take flight.. and the photo is great. He looks a little unsteady, like he is trying to balance.

    • Thanks for your kind comments and for visiting the herons here. Yes, he was still a baby in this photo, getting accustomed to foraging for himself. The have to learn so much in a matter of two months or less!

  3. How utterly thrilling. Your description gave me goose bumps! Great shot of baby bird, too.

  4. What fun it must have been to watch this family grow! Thanks for sharing both pictures and story.

    janet

    • Thanks for the kind words, and for visiting the herons here. Yes, it was fun and exciting and very recording to witness. I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity, and learned so much!

  5. You really had me there sitting with you in the boat. Gorgeous photo of this youngster. 🙂

  6. Wonderful site and fabulous photographs! Very inspiring.

  7. I agree, it is fun to see the empty nest and look around for the fledgling learning how to fish. I have never seen a bird crash from first flight so far but know of at least one poor anhinga chick which wandered too far out on its branch, not a fledgling yet, and simply fell. Sodden is a good word to describe the bird by the time I saw it…trying move its wings in the water but you knew it was doomed.

    Thanks for the story, it is sweet.

    • Hi Judy – Many thanks for your comment. I love reading your stories about the herons, and egrets, and now your anhinga. I’ve never seen an anhinga – we don’t seem to have them here. Best, Babsje

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