No Bird is an Island

When last we heard from our intrepid, love-struck great blue heron, his intended had given him the cold shoulder. Today’s story – wherein our young hero first tries to impress his Juliette – is the prequel to that heart-warming tale. The scene is the same cove of the same lake. The date is one year earlier. The two herons are the same ones as before.

(If you missed the first installment, please click here to read Juliette, Juliette, Wherefore Art Thou, Juliette?)

Great blue heron perching on one leg on the rock island.

Great blue heron perching on one leg on the rock island.

The coldest afternoon of the season on the lake, and there I was in my protected blind in the cove with the yearling great blue heron, a green heron, several Canada geese and no footgear. Not expecting the chill winds, I put in barefoot, warm neoprene socks snug in the drybag stashed in the rear hatch of the kayak.

The yearling heron had been eyeing the geese warily after five of them flew in perfect vee formation and splash-landed about fifteen feet south of us. They had paddled lazily past us and meandered deep into the Eastern end of the cove. The heron seemed aroused by their intrusion into his turf, but too afraid of them to do anything about it.

A detente was reached and the heron resumed fishing for his lunch, and I resumed taking photos and shivering. Whole-body shivers that made me wonder if ANY of the photos would be free of blurring.


A small fish leapt forward, smack into the side of the blue kayak with a loud klonk.

The heron didn’t bat an eye, though I suspect the fish was stunned momentarily. I peered over the side of the kayak, half-expecting to see a fish surface floating belly-up.

I had been at the lake less than two hours and was considering leaving because it was so cold, but if the young heron could take it, then so could this human. I thought about my feet, very cold and  unprotected in the bow, and was considering make-shift socks as solutions to be able to stay out longer…

… And then it happened.

The heron stoped fishing, he tensed visibly, and before my eyes, his plumage expanded in an unmistakable display. His back arched, tail tilted up, head tilted upwards, too.

He was looking directly at me.

But he couldn’t have seen me as an interloper suddenly. That didn’t seem possible at all, but he was looking right at me, and approaching, with an intensity in his eyes and a purposefullness in his strides.

And then, then I looked over my right shoulder…

… And saw her there…

… Not eight feet behind me – an adult female heron, one I know from years on the lake.

She had flown down and landed eight feet from the blue kayak and blue heron and me. Usually, the wary herons will over-fly if they see a kayak, but this one came right up to us. Extraordinary.

I looked directly at her, clicked off a couple of totally unfocused frames in eagerness to not miss the moment. I didn’t look in the viewfinder, just pointed the camera in the right direction and hit the

And she looked back calmy and said “Arh…” using the heron “greeting” call.

Maybe she was greeting the other heron, maybe she was greeting me, maybe both of us?

“Arh…” again.

Since the other heron was in a display posture by this time, I’d like to think she was greeting me.

I backed my kayak up farther away, towards the other shore to give them more space.

The yearling heron strutted the length of the half-submerged log and branches, plumes puffed and gorgeous.

The female watched, unmoving, unthreatened.

The yearling climbed off the branch, into the water, and waded closer to her. His plumes  returned to normal configuration, but he waded with his back arched, neck and head angled upwards in display.

And suddenly, a flurry of silken plumes as he lept into the air towards her, and she took flight towards the deep end of the cove.

He wheeled mid-air and followed suit. She rose and arced North, over the tallest pines and then curved East over the far end of the cove.

He sped after her, just above water-level, deep into the cove. When last I saw him, he was climbing swifty up into the canopy after her.

I think it was an amorous display, and not a territorial display at all – a courship chase flight. The season was wrong for that, of course, but a couple of recent years, it had been very warm into October and some birds were showing evidence of breeding plunes growing longer. But then again, maybe it was only a territorial display.

Whichever it was, it was extraordinary to see it from so close a vantage point.

And once again, I am smitten by the great blue herons.


Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Shorelines prompt.

Thanks again to Stewart Moncton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

And thanks also to Michelle for the Weekly Pet Challenge Roundup nudge.


(This story took place October 2, 2010)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Posted on October 15, 2013, in ardea herodias, Birds, daily prompt, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Michelle's Weekly Pet Challenge, Nature Photography, postaday, Sunday Stills, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. He does looks very handsome 🙂

  2. theconstantwalker

    I live close to my local river and which is home to lots of herons… beautiful birds to see.

  3. Your Title says it all…. great image and lovely post

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