Great Blue Heron Chase Scene (Not Art Nbr 7)

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult and Fledgling Chase Scene – babsjeheron

Heart pounding in my throat, partly hidden under overhanging branches along the channel, I watched the chase unfold. Will the Great Blue Heron Fledgling escape the territorial adult?

I was returning to shore after a relaxing morning, hoping to get back to the dock before the rains started. The grey skies threatened to open any minute. Passing into the channel, I noticed the adult Great Blue Heron foraging on the south side and so I stopped under the oaks to watch. This particular Heron was a capable fisher and it occurred that maybe I could capture him as he captured a big fish. I looked at the threatening sky and stuffed my camera into a handy ZipLok bag, and stashed everything else below decks, and then settled in to watch him work for his supper.

After a few minutes, a Great Blue fledgling landed on the same shore as the adult, about 20 yards east. My heart rate picked up as the fledgling quickly made a beeline for the adult, taking long strides along the water’s edge, closing the gap between them. Usually a fledgling will not try to approach a ‘strange’ adult Heron, and so that behavior was a clue that the adult was a parent of the fledgling. The question was, which parent – father or mother?

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult Territorial Display on Shore – babsjeheron

It didn’t take long to find out, as the adult Heron suddenly erupted from the shore, and burst over the small rock-island. He landed less than five feet from the fledgling, in an unmistakable territorial display posture that told me the adult Heron was the father of the fledgling, not the mother. Female Great Blue Herons will allow the fledglings to join in feeding activities even after the youngsters have left the nest. The father birds, however, will defend their territory and chase away their own offspring.

And so the chase was on.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult Chasing Fledgling – babsjeheron

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult Territorial Display on Branch – babsjeheron

Having vanquished the fledgling, the adult Heron landed on a fallen tree jutting over the water, his back feathers still in an erect territorial configuration.

He pivoted on the branch and settled in, staring up into the trees.

Where was the fledgling? I scanned and scanned the canopy with binoculars but couldn’t find the fledgling.

I tried to follow the line of sight from the adult Heron’s angle of view and at last found him about 50 feet up in the trees.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult on Shore and Fledgling in Tree – babsjeheron

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Fledgling in Tree – babsjeheron

And so we three had a standoff – fledgling in the trees, adult on a branch at the shore, and me across the channel, trying to stay hidden below the oak branches.

People who know me know that my motto is “Walk softly and carry a long lens.™” Because most of the photos on this blog were taken on the water, it is especially important to give the wildlife an extra-wide margin of personal space so as to not endanger them in any way by venturing too close.

As much as I take special precautions to remain hidden from their view, including use of telephoto lenses and natural-cover hides, every once in a while the wildlife sees me. Such was the case yesterday – busted by both birds – the fledgling gazing down from his perch 50 feet up, and the adult glowering at me from across the channel.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Adult and Fledgling Looking at Photographer – babsjeheron

The question was, which of the three of us would give in first. Would the adult give up his rapt focus on the fledgling? Would the fledgling make a run for it? Would I tire of getting drenched watching them from under the oaks along the shoreline?

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Fledgling Gets Away from Adult – babsjeheron

It was music to my eyes to see the fledgling make a run for it. The adult Heron swiftly took chase, but the fledgling had enough lead time to soar around the corner at the end of the channel before the adult got close.

I paddled off after them, well off their intense pace. When I rounded the curve at the end of the channel and panned the sky with binoculars, there was no sign of either Heron.

Lazily, I headed into the first cove I came to. There was the fledgling on the southern cove. His body language was anxious, and he was repeatedly glancing back to the mouth of the cove. It seemed like he was “looking over his shoulder” to make sure the territorial adult wasn’t still chasing him. He eventually settled down and began plying the shore for dinner. I felt as though he had had enough excitement for one day, and didn’t need my presence to add to his nervousness, and so I quietly backed out of the cove and headed south.

Within less than 3 minutes of leaving the fledgling in the cove, a shadow passed very close and very low over me. It was the fledgling.

I love happy endings.

Great Blue Heron Fledgling 1, Adult Great Blue 0


Thanks to Ben H and WordPress for this week’s WPC Challenge: Edge. Ben has asked for something that kept our heart beating fast. Yesterday’s encounter on the lake kept me on the edge of my kayak’s seat and my heart in my throat and beating fast: would the fledgling escape the territorial adult?

From July 1 through July 30, 2016, I was the Featured Artist of the Month at the Summer Street Gallery. The Great Blue Heron photographs once again graced the walls of the lobby and theater in a one-woman show at The Center for Arts in Natick. In addition to the visual arts shown at the gallery, TCAN has a lively, dynamic lineup of upcoming performing artists.

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™

© 2016 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN

Posted on September 11, 2016, in ardea herodias, Art, Audubon, Bird photography, Birds, Great Blue Heron, Photo Essay, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. What an adventure! Kudos to you for keeping your cool enough to get those amazing shots. So strange to see the fledgling that high in the tree, too. Never would have spotted him if you hadn’t included the circles.

    • Hi Naomi! Many thanks for your kind words and for being so forgiving about the yellow circles. If I need to encircle something, it feels like a sort of slippery slope but I was excited about finding the fledgling. Plus it was raining and the photo quality was affected so the circles helped. I got drenched but the birds took it in stride, it was a surprise they didn’t seek shelter. Best, Babsje

  2. The Territorial Display shot is terrific, Babsje.

    • Hi Jane, thanks so much! I’m glad you like that one. I love watching their various displays. The courtship ones are especially fascinating, and some of the territorial ones communicate such raw power. Best, Babsje

  3. Well done for being the featured artist of the month. No that was a exciting encounter of the two herons in the territorial battle.

  4. Followed our local GBH nest on the Cornell Webcam at Sapsucker Pond until a few years ago when they didn’t return to the same spot. Enjoy seeing your wonderful photos and reading about my favorite birds!

    • Many thanks for your kind words and glad the Great Blues are your favorite birds, too. I also enjoyed the Sapsucksr Woods Heron-cam from afar, the images were beautiful and often riveting. I also enjoyed your own blog posts about the Red Tailed Hawks there last year (or was it the year before? How time flies.) I am especially enjoying your current “alphabet art” drawing series. How delightful, especially the cat in the “downward dog” posture. Best, Babsje

  5. Where there are with so much Herons ,it’s important to let see where the territorium start and ended

    • Thanks so much for your astute comment, and you’re right about their territories. The males defend their areas fiercely, and seem to have the same general areas from year to year. This year was difficult due to the drought here – the water levels were very very low, and so the shallow areas along the shore were high and dry, and so they moved a bit away from the usual places. Best, Babsjye

  6. Ihave not stopped by that much this year:-( I thought of you and your love for the Blue Heron this summer, we are seeing more!!!! I see 4 or 5 each time I head out for a bike ride on the river. They are beautiful:-) no one takes better photos or tells a storey about them than you!

    • Hi Robbie – A belated thank you for your very kind comment! I, too have not stopped by for a while, as you can tell. I’m very happy to hear that you were seeing more Great Blues on your bike rides. Looking forward to more inspiring reading at your blog. Best, Babsje

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Great Blue Herons – Playtime? – (Not Art Nbr 19) | Babsje Heron

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: