Great Blue Herons Create Beginnings of New Life

© Babsje (

Great blue heron rises sharply upwards.

I stood along the shoreline, binoculars trained on the island, trying to count nests and great blue herons. The island is a good distance from shore and even at a healthy magnification through the binocs, that is a challenge. It occurred to me it would be easier to take a series of photos and stitch them together and count the nests and birds that way.

Sweeping the camera from West to East the length of the island for the panorama, I had zoomed in on a nest with heron that was closest to me, and suddenly out of the corner of my eye realized that a second heron was making a beeline across the channel, flying fairly low across the waters towards me.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron flying from the nesting island across the channel.

I started firing off frames – with little time for re-focusing – and at the last moment, only a couple of yards from shore and me, and as shown in the top photo in this post, the heron arced sharply upwards into the stand of tall pines along the shore to my right.

The pine bough shook and bounced and then quivered under the bird’s weight, and then the heron poked up its head and looked straight at me.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron bouncing after landing in the pines, then turning to look at me.

It climbed higher into the pine, in and out of view, and then – just as suddenly as it had arrived – it took off back to the island.

I watched it course across the lake and then up, up to the top of the trees there, landing at the nest.

I watched some more through the binocs, and the heron once again made a beeline for me, only to soar into the nearby pines once again at the last minute. I watched the boughs bounce and the heron clamber about in the tree for five to ten minutes before it returned to the nest across the waters.

This odd behavior repeated itself several more times before I was able to get a proper focus on the heron as it was about to leave the pine on my shore and return to the nest. The heron had a long twig dangling from its beak as it swooped down from the pine.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron leaves the pine tree carrying a twig for the nest on the island across the channel.

It was building a nest, gathering its lumber from off-island. Until that day, I had never before seen nest building in person, how exciting that was.

I then focused the binocs back on the nest to better watch the heron weaving the twigs into the nest and it was then that I noticed: not one, but two great blue herons in the nest. Two adults. Two adults building their nest together. Thrilling to watch.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron returns to the nest, at left. Later, they mate, at right.

After a while, they celebrated the day’s nest building efforts with full-on mating – more thrilling, an incredible sight even from the distant shore.

I took more than 500 photos that day. The island is far from shore and totally inaccessible to man; boating is prohibited as the island is in a reservoir that is part of the public water supply for the city. There isn’t much detail in many of the photos, and they are not art, but I wanted to share that experience with you.

I am enamored of that bird, his industriousness in foraging for twigs and taking them back to his mate in the nest.


Thanks to Cheri Rowlands Lucas and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginnings. (Watching the herons mate during a break in their nest construction was amazing, a sacrament, like watching the beginning of new life unfold at the most basic of levels.)

Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge. (This was an awesome and special experience.)

Thanks to Cee for her Fun Foto Challenge: Preoccupied prompt. (The heron flying back and forth and back and forth and back and forth with sticks fir the nest was definitely preoccupied, as was I, watching.)

Thanks to Sue for her A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Yellow prompt. (Great Blue Herons have such amazing yellow eyes and bills!)

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Birds challenge.

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


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™

(This photo was taken May 1, 2011.)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Nest Building

Posted on January 9, 2014, in A Word A Week Photo Challenge, ardea herodias, Art, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, Great Blue Heron, Nature, Photo Essay, Photography, postaday, Thursday's Special, Weekly Photo Challenge, Weekly Travel Themes, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I guess your blue herons are preoccupied. Thanks for playing!

  2. Hi. B. Great series of shots. It will be lovely to see all the chicks later on.

  3. Lovely post Babsje 🙂

  4. What a beautiful experience. You must have been just mesmerized as you stood there.

  5. What a super awesome experience, l am so glad to focus on it to see what will be next to this herons.Thank you.

  1. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Breaking Free | Lost in Translation

  2. Pingback: 70 Wonderful Great Blue Heron Nests | Babsje Heron

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