Black Bird, Red Boat & Selfie

If Red Boat were a horse, she would have pawed the ground, then reared up on her hind legs and snorted.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron being pestered by redwinged blackbird, shown at top left and far right.

The red kayak and I were out on the lake before 7am that day, an inaugural dawn paddle, the earliest ever out for us.

The water was as smooth as a mirror when first we paddled towards the north end of the cove, and abundant water lilies helped tame the red boat’s natural urge to take me on wild donut-spiral spins. (Whitewater boats aren’t designed for flatwater.)

© Babsje (

While playboats aren’t engineered for lakes, this one watched many great blue herons with me.

I meandered north and then east, hugging the shoreline, binoculars in hand, a sweet paddle.

It had been unseasonably hot the past few days – in the 90s – but the weather broke overnight, plunging back into the 60s, and everything seemed frisky – birch leaves and the willows swaying in the breeze, red-winged blackbirds exultant in flight, ducks splashing in the shallows.

The goldfinches were playing tag, flitting from island to shore and back, and mother duck led a conga-line of ducklings into the reeds. Several schools of small sunfish darted just below the surface near the shore. No wonder the great blue herons like it there.

The red boat and I rounded the point near the corner of Cove Road, headed east. We paused a few minutes to read the water.

No longer glassy-smooth, the surface had darkened, becoming angry-looking, and the wind picked up from the east. If Red Boat were a horse, she would have pawed the ground, then reared up on her hind legs and snorted. As it was, she spun a couple of 360s and whispered “Danger!” in my ears all the while we carved circles.

The wind abated and that’s when I heard it – the first loud frawhnk from the south, and saw the long loping wingflaps of a heron skimming close to the surface, headed towards the center of the lake.

Within seconds came the call of three more frawhnks, this time from overhead. Even the big herons were frisky in the cooler air, chasing each other across the lake, round the bend, then climbing back skywards.  One passed directly over my head, circled east and back right overhead again – frawhnk, frawhnk, frawhnnnnk – then circled back to my cove.

Red Boat and I followed at a discrete distance, lagging behind to let the heron settle in.

Arriving at the end of the cove, we came around from behind the small island, binocs in hand, to find… no heron in sight. Not in the reeds, nor the trees, nor behind the lush green waterplants.

No photos of the great blue soaring this dawn, but it was never about the photos anyway.

We tarried a while, watching the ducklings and fish, admiring wild purple irises in the vegetation, and the gorgeous ball-like water lily buds, then paddled for home.

Five cormorants perched on our swimming float were a welcome home committee.

I maneuvered the red boat gingerly up to the shore, coming alongside a half-submerged log that’s an impromptu dock these days, and poled her into position with my paddle like a gondolier pushing his boat.

It was then that I heard it, from directly behind me, not 8 feet away – the frawhnk, frawhnk calls, as a heron glided by me so close, so close.

I was thinking then that the red boat and I would need to do more dawn paddles.

We had a hailstorm that night, with marble-size hail pellets that entirely blanketed the yard. The lightning strikes took out the isp connection, offering up an unplugged weekend. What a welcome respite that was.

After the hailstorm that night, Belle, the brindle-colored terrier-hound, howled a duet for an hour with a coyote that was lurking somewhere along the shoreline. Very eerie – the coyote’s call the sort of sound that makes a person sit bolt upright in bed at 3AM and the little hairs on the nape of the neck stand straight up.

The next morning, another dawn outing on the lake. I took along a thermos of coffee and some oatmeal with maple syrup and had breakfast nestled under a white birch in the northeast side of the cove.

The birds seemed unscathed from the hailstorm – ducklings and cygnets getting bigger by the week, and I watched a grackle carrying a large plump earthworm back to the nest.

A Red Winged Blackbird pestered a heron that had landed too close to a nest – very aggressive blackbird to take on a creature so very much larger.

© Babsje (

The photographer.


This week, Cheri and WordPress challenged us to post a selfie. Mine is elusive, as it should be. Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie.

Thanks to Paula for her Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge

Thanks once more to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday challenge.

Thanks yet again to Cee for her Fun Foto Challenge: Large prompt. (Difficult to believe that the heron and the blackbird are both birds, the heron is so very large compared to the blackbird, just as a Great Dane compares to a Toy Poodle.)

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Still prompt. (People who understand the hull design of various kayaks will understand why the Red Boat spun me around in donut-circles. It is nearly impossible to keep a playboat still on flatwater like the lake.)

Thanks to Petrel41 for this post about Red Winged Blackbirds


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™

© 2014 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Red Winged Blackbird

Posted on February 14, 2014, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, Feathers on Friday, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Nature, Photography, postaday, Thursday's Special, Weekly Photo Challenge, Weekly Travel Themes, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I adore the photo of your kayak….wonderful. Your selfie is great too.

  2. Red-winged blackbirds know no fear! I’ve seen them chasing hawks and eagles often, and rarely, whitetail deer.

  3. That really is funny how RW BBs seem to enjoy annoying herons and egrets.

    • You are so right about that, Phil. It really is amusing, the sort of David and Goliath thing they have going on. I can almost envision the blackbird wielding a sling-shot. G
      Ad you like this one!

  4. So tickled to see a photo of Red Boat – I have wondered what kind of kayak you use. Now I am intrigued that you paddle a whitewater boat and surprised that it doesn’t interfere with your photos. I’ve been longing to get back on the water and am ready to begin in earnest looking for a flatwater kayak – my whitewater days are far behind me. Do you paddle any other kayak?

    • Hi Sarah – Many thanks for your thoughtful comment, I’m glad you like this post! The red kayak was one I used when I lived on that small lake, I bought it mainly because it was small and lightweight, and therefore easy for me to carry from house to dock and back, but I don’t recommend using a whitewater boat on a flat lake surface, even though it worked out nicely for me. At the boathouse, I have used a variety of recreational and touring kayaks over the years. My all-time favorites were Old Town Cayugas. (They are possibly the least rad/sexy boats HOWEVER they are extremely stable, and have very roomy cockpits. Stability in rough conditions is something to be valued when carrying lots of camera gear, and a roomy cockpit makes for easy changing of lenses.) I have used and enjoyed many others though, and cut my teeth on Perception Carolina’s, one of the best-ever IMO. I used to go for the 15-16 footers but in recent years have stuck to the 13-14 foot kayaks. Thanks for asking!

  5. quite beautiful! thanks so much for following my baking blog at vannillarock.

  6. You are so clever Babsje 🙂 I have only seen your comment now 🙂 Thank you.

    • Hi Paula – Thank you! Sorry for posting Thursday’s Special on Friday. I had nasty fall on the ice Thursday morning and everything hurt and so I couldn’t type. Glad you like it, even though I was tardy. See you next week.

  7. Your red boat is beautiful- I love the color red! Do the Heron stay calm when they see you coming or do they fly away? when I ride on the river they are very nervous. I have noticed the older ones are not quite as jumpy and will let us get closer if we are riding by:-)

    • Hi Robbie – Many thanks, I’m glad you like the kayak. You’re lucky that you can see the great blues along the river there. I always try to give the herons a wide berth. They’re federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and so we can’t approach them too closely. Some of the herons here flush at the first sign of an approaching human, others become wary and skittish, but stay around as long as nobody invades their sense of space.

      • The “older + wiser” ones seem less skittish along the river bike path because there is so much use all day long. But that is very rare. They usually jump in the water as soon as we stop to take a picture. They like us moving by not stopping and gawking-lol

        • What you say makes sense, Robbie. Glad they “tolerate” human presence at least that much. I read of a place that opened up a bike path/rail trail and the nearby great blue heron colony was entirely abandoned by the herons afterwards. Very very sad.

  8. Nice post – I remember white water boats on lakes – round and round and round you go!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Thanks for your kind moment, Stewart! You described it spoon – round and round and round we go! Pretty fun but takes a bit of finesse to control the boat, doesn’t it?

  1. Pingback: Feathers on Friday | Prairie Birder

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