Wordlessly Watching – Daily Prompt: Fair and Feathers on Friday

With a whisper of a rustle of feathers, the great blue heron loped-flew across to the western shore.

Great blue heron wings her way across the lake.

Great blue heron wings her way across the lake.

She flew low and slow, the water’s surface mere inches below her wing tips. I watched wordlessly from the eastern shore, taking in her grace and economy of movement. An engineer friend once explained to me that birds fly so close to the water because it gives them maximum air resistance for those huge wings.

I’ve been observing the great blue herons here for almost a decade, and from time to time someone will ask how I’m able to keep track of which heron is which. The heron here is an example of one I can easily identify.

Have a close look at the photo in this post. Notice how the talons on her right foot are flexed and reaching. Now, notice her left foot, which seems to be limp compared to the right. Next, move your eyes upward slong her lower left leg. Do you see the extra bend there?

The unfair news was that she had broken her leg.

I wasn’t there when she broke her leg, and so don’t know exactly what happened, but when I first noticed the bad break, I was alarmed about her near-term chances for survival.

The good news? She survived for at least six years with that broken leg. It healed with a noticeable bend, and she successfully nested, mated, and brought several summer’s worth of fledglings into the world.

That’s more than fair, in my eyes.


Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for the Daily Prompt nudge, and thanks also to Prairiebirder for the Feathers on Friday prompt.


(This took place September 9, 2009)

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

Posted on September 20, 2013, in ardea herodias, Art, Bird photography, Birds, daily prompt, Feathers on Friday, Great Blue Heron, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Love your intimate knowledge: such joy in the existence of things, Babsje.

  2. Who would have thought it could survive so long after the break? Amazing!

  3. I thought of you yesterday when I was filming the water reflections on a nearby lake. Magically, a great blue heron landed on a sand bar near me and I was able to film it for quite some time. What beautiful creatures they are! Thank you for all of your inspiring images.

  4. That is amazing. I wonder how she survived while the leg healed..I have a one-legged mallard drake here and he has survived for 2 years now. (I feed him gamebird in the fall to beef him up for winter)….. amazing..Michelle

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s wonderful that you help your mallard drake bulk up for winter, so compassionate of you. 🙂 And yes, it’s pretty remarkable that the female great blue with the broken leg was able to adjust. She spent a lot of time perching on her good leg while the broken one healed, but later on, the broken one seemed quite sturdy, and I have photos of her standing on that leg as though nothing happened. In humans, they sometime say that a broken bone heals stronger than it was originally. Maybe that applies to birds too?

  5. That’s an interesting flight shot!

  6. So glad that she managed to survive that broken leg. Your pic is lovely, as always, Babsje. 🙂

  7. Impressive photo and such an informative story to go along!

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