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.

Wendell Berry
The Long-Legged House

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron’s erect back feathers stand on edge as a form of territorial dialogue.

“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. (

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 , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. It looks like he has an eye on the wing feathers where they come out of his body. 🙂

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. A marvelous image and a marvelous story!

  8. Tremendous image of my favorite bird! Well done!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. ❤ ❤ ❤ Wonderful post!

  1. Pingback: Great Blue Heron Photos of the Year | Babsje Heron

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