Great Blue Heron’s Jaw-Dropping Day with a Fisherman

The great blue heron always gave those other fishermen a wide berth, but this man was different. He was using bait – big-looking silvery bait – and his fishing gear was ample and good.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron’s jaw dropped as the fisherman reeled one in, off camera.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron foraging not far from a fisherman.

Paddling on to the north, and under the tunnel, I nosed the kayak smoothly, silently into the middle cove, eyes straining hard right to see the alpha heron before before the alpha heron saw me and bolted off.

Then suddenly, a flash of blue-grey to my left – the female, swooping onto the western shore – the same female who had been chased by the alpha a few weeks earlier. The same female who back then chose me as the lesser of the evils.

I watched her foraging along the shore from a respectful distance, not wanting to get too close lest my presence scare her off, anxious about the solo fisherman casting into the cove from his perch along the tunnel overpass.

He wasn’t one of the regulars, the usual happy fishermen and boys who gather on the sloping tunnel sides. I knew the heron always gave those men a wide berth, but this man was different. He was using bait – big-looking silvery bait – and his fishing grear was ample and good.

I felt unease for the heron, but she continued prodding the mud in her corner of the shore, occasionally venturing out into deeper waters five feet or so, stalking what was beneath the surface there, dallying until her interest waned or util the prey moved on.

So it went for 15 minutes or so…

And then she made her move, and strode purposefuly north, until she reached the tunnel.

And the lone fisherman.

I followed behind her, 10 feet back, out of her line of sight, parallel to the shore.

In the past when she reached the tunnel, she would  rise from the water on strong wings, and cross the channel, clearing it and going fully beyond in 3 loping wingstrokes.

Each time I was there, I raised my camera to catch her mid-stroke, framed by the tunnel entrance, and this day was no different.

I got into position, focused across to where I knew her flight path to be, and waited.

… In vain, once more.

This time, she landed short of her usual place on the north shore.

She landed directly in front of the fisherman, directly in the path of his perilous casts!

© Babsje (

Great blue heron begging for a handout from a fisherman.

I hovered on the left bank, alarmed.

Would he hook her?

Would he accidentally wrap his filament around her throat?

Would she chase after his cast and take his bait fish, swallowing hook, line, and sinker?

I paddled cross the channel and struck up my usual fisherman’s conversation with him, edging closer in to be able to rescue the heron from his line.

“Catching anything?”


“Good. What’re you sing for bait?”


“Great weather for October!”


He settled back into the rhythm of his fishing.

Heron settled in, watching the baitfish soar out on the end of its tether, occasionally swooping out to pick up the leftovers after he reeled back in.

I settled in to squeeze off photos here and there.

We established a routine, the three of us – me in the middle, 5 feet from him, heron only 4 feet beyond me.

At least, I thought, I could rescue heron if he snagged her or if she bit down onto a hook.

And then I heard it.

Tweeee-eeee-eeet, a wavering whistle.

He was whistling to Heron!

She perked up!

And he tossed a small silvery fish her way.

She lunged and swallowed in one exquisite movement!

And so it went for the next half-hour, he would cast out, and sometimes she followed his lure, sometimes not.

Every 4th or 5th cast, he’d toss a silvery prize her way. She always took his treat and was eager for more…so eager she moved in closer and closer to him, and to me.

Too close for any good camera shots.

What should have been too close for her comfort.

To be continued…

(This post is part of a series. Please click here to read Part 2.)


Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge. (This was an amazingly intimate encounter with the great blue heron, and this particular heron is very special to me.)

Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand prompt. She asked for jaw dropping, grand. The great blue heron literally dropped her jaw at the sight of the grand fish being reeled in.)

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

Thanks to Sue Llewellyn for her Word A Week Photography Challenge: Shadow challenge. I shadowed the heron for a long time, in order to make sure it wasn’t harmed by the fishing line or hooks. It is not recommended to get so close or feed any wild animals, but this bird was obviously already familiar with fishermen as food sources before that day.


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™

(These photos were taken October 7, 2007.)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Fishing, Kayaking

Posted on December 12, 2013, in A Word A Week Photo Challenge, ardea herodias, Art, Bird photography, Fishing, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Thursday's Special, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I’ve enjoyed the story Babsje 🙂 Amazing 😀

  2. Oh, you’re such a tease….. 😀

  3. Interesting. Different from the situation in your earlier fisher / bird post. I reckon chucking bait to a heron or egret – the same as you are fishing with – is asking for trouble. Especially while calling it. No such problem with flyfishing, luckily. RH

    • Flyfishing is an extraordinary sport, isn’t it? Do you tie your own? Do you use feathers?

      I totally agree with you. I was VERY concerned for the well-being of that great blue heron. The fisherman, while well-intentioned and while obviously a person who had a special connection with the heron, himself, was unwittingly endangering the bird by feeding it bait fish. My blog has a side bar on protecting birds, and I take those guidelines seriously. In this instance, was extremely worried, the heron was just too close to him and was leaping out at the bait whenever he cast out his line. I was so alarmed that I paddled my kayak in between the man and the bird to be able to get to the bird quickly for a rescue.

  4. You’re weaving a good story here…

  5. Arrgh!! Have to wait a day for this exciting tale to finish. I love it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Bob! Sorry to keep you in suspense, but it was too long for one post. Remember the days when newspapers ran serialized stories and a person had to wait a week between installments? The instant gratification age embodied in the internet has changed that, no?

  6. Good story. When I fish in the surf here, its normal to be stalked by gulls, but not herons.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Thanks, Stewart. Gulls can be mercilessly aggressive, I have watched them grab bait from a line mid-air. I hope they never gang up on you while surf fishing!

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