To Sit and Wait is as Important as to Move
The thing is to be attentively present.
To sit and wait is as important as to move.
Patience is as valuable as industry.
What is to be known is always there.
When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance.
The only condition is your being there and being watchful.
“To sit and wait is as important as to move” could be a universal mantra for nature photographers, one I was actively practicing Friday from a secluded hide in the cove as the Great Blue Heron sunned herself on the half-submerged logs.
Unexpectedly, however, after half an hour of lazing about, she darted across the narrow channel and launched herself skyward to the west in a flurry of feathers and sqwaks.
Just as she was aloft, an alpha male in hot pursuit swooped down from the east to claim his territory in the cove. I eagerly panned the camera from my hiding place, trying without success to capture the fray, trying and failing to get both birds in a single frame.
The female vanquished from his turf, the male stood on the shore where he had landed – not ten feet away from me – and gazed after her disappearing form.
Only after a few minutes had passed did he turn around, and only then did he see me right there.
The tension was palpable. He stood stock still for a moment, sizing up the human interloper floating in his turf, and then started to erect his back feathers in a territorial display as if to tell me the cove is his.
I have watched this sort of feather display before, but it was always aimed at another heron. This time, though, it was unmistakably targeted at me.
It was a silent dialogue between heron and human about who’s the alpha bird.
I let the heron win.
How could I not?
This week’s photo challenge is dialogue. Thanks to Frederic B and WordPress for this topic.
Thanks once again to Ailsa for her Weekly Travel Theme: Edge challenge.
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. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)
Great Blue Heron
Posted on August 31, 2014, in ardea herodias, Art, Audubon, Birds, Feathers, Great Blue Heron, Nature, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Travel theme, Weekly Photo Challenge, Weekly Travel Themes, Wildlife Photography and tagged great blue heron, postaday. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.
Excellent photo and I really enjoyed your detailed, informative description of this unusual turn of events.
Many thanks, Nick, I’m glad you like this one. The enounter was fascinating as it unfolded, being so close to the birds, really too close for my long lens to even focus. And it was an interesting moment to realize the territorial display was aimed at me, personally.
Territorial yes – but maybe he was flirting a little? Like – hey good looking – are you looking at me? Wait, before you take my picture, I need to make certain you get my good side…..
Giggling here, you may be right come to think of it. After all, a bird has never asked “Does this angle make me look fat?” Thanks for the fun comment, glad you like this one.
Utterly amazing event and image… I’m totally ignorant of these sort of details. Is that the territorial display in the image… and what indicates it as such?
Glad you like it, thanks for your kind words. To answer your question, the slightly elevated feathers on his upper back are a territorial display. The photo in this post shows a much more pronounced version of the same display, where it is easier to see: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/close-encounter-of-the-heron-kind/ . In this earlier post, the heron raises his feathers and breaks into a full-fledged run along the shoreline, chasing off a juvenile interloper. There are several different kinds of displays the herons use, some of which involve fluffing out their feathers to make them appear larger and more physically imposing. This is one of those.
Thank you for the lesson. I appreciate it! 🙂
You’re welcome! Now you can watch for similar in your GBHs there. 🙂
That’s what I was thinking, if only they’d sit still long enough for me to get a look at them!
I wonder, do you suppose it is still the sound of your car that startles them?
I think our migrating herons and egrets and ducks are just naturally skittish. I’m not sure if the fact that we have duck hunting here plays into that, or not. But if they usually fly off if I so much as slow the car down when driving past. They don’t seem to mind if the cars keep moving.
You may be right about the impact of duck hunting there. Maybe you can try to sneak in on foot early one day, with a portable blind, and out-wait them?
It looks like he has an eye on the wing feathers where they come out of his body. 🙂
Good observation, Laurie! I have noticed that same configuration of markings in other photos of this same bird, a sort of third eye for herons? Glad you like this one, thanks.
it would certainly make predators think when they see an eye that big. 🙂 I always enjoy your offerings of these beautiful birds.
Indeed, you’re right about that Laurie. Here’s an earlier post where I wrote about “false eyes” – they are often found in nature, but not everyone realizes that Great Blue Herons have them, too. Here’s the link. And thanks once more for your kind words – glad you appreciate the herons.
You see those false eyes quite a lot in nature. Especially on butterfly wings and bird wings, anything to survive. Thanks for the link.
Nature has some mysterious, magical tricks up her sleeve, no?
Great post, awesome info. Love how you end the description of the event with, “I let the heron win. How could I not?” Thanks for sharing!
I’m so glad you like this one, Judy, many thanks for your kind words!
I hope you don’t mind – I really want to borrow Wendell Berry’s quote!!!
Hi Judy – Glad you like it! Here’s my personal philosophy about using quotes from other people: I never quote without properly crediting the other writer and ALWAYS provide a link back to where the reader can support the writer by buying a copy of the book from where the quote was taken. Many bloggers use quotes to add value to their own posts but they don’t share that value with the people they quote, but I think it only fair to make sure the original writer can benefit in some small way, and linking back helps make that happen. Plus, I think basic copyright etiquette requires doing that. So, borrow away but properly credit Mr. Berry. He is a national treasure!
I agree with your philosophy entirely!! I included the quote in my ‘about’ page. I credited Mr. Berry and also included a link back to your original post. I just love this quote.
Glad you agree, Judy. Wendell Berry is a national treasure!
A marvelous image and a marvelous story!
Many thanks for your kind comment, I’m happy to hear that you like this post!
Tremendous image of my favorite bird! Well done!
Thanks so much, Phil! It’s my favorite bird, too, in case people haven’t already guessed that. Glad you like this one.
Sitting and waiting, yes, one must and then the magic seems to appear. The other day little r and I were meandering through the woods in Fairbanks, took a bit of a sit-and-wait an, I swear, we actually watched a Shaggy mane mushroom burst out of the ground. We returned after lunch and it had grown to at least 8″.
That’s one thing I enjoy about reading your blog – so often you capture those sorts of moments, and the settings in Alaska fascinate me. Thanks for sharing your mushroom story, and glad you like this one.
What a wonderful description of that exchange between you and the heron. And I agree with you – especially as nature photographers, we really have to cultivate patience. This summer, I drove to a particular site that had a beautiful stand of wildflowers to capture hummingbirds. I had a vision of the picture I wanted but just couldn’t get it, even after returning twice…and it wasn’t exactly in my neighborhood.
Many thanks for your kind comment and for sharing your take on the importance of patience, as well as your experience trying for that hummingbird capture. Hopefully you’ll have an easier time of it next summer!
❤ ❤ ❤ Wonderful post!
Many many thanks for your wonderful heart-full comment! Best, Babsje
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