Great Blue Heron and Friends’ Saturday Night Baths
Rubber Duckie you’re the one,
You make bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie I’m awfully fond of you
The Sesame Street Songbook
Great Blue Heron feathers fray and yet still retain their beauty. Frayed chest feathers are combed with a specially adapted claw, and a whitish powder down dusting protects the heron from oils and surface scum from the water. After a Great Blue Heron takes a birdbath, a filmy white coating of powder down often remains behind floating on the water. A heron taking a bath is an amusing sight to behold.
Paddling around the bend at the far end of the middle pond, I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron lurking at the eastern end of the cove. Through the binoculars it looked like the heron was in a territorial display, erect back feathers gleaming in the bright sun. My pulse quickened. It’s always exciting to capture a territorial encounter between two herons with a camera.
The glare on the water made it difficult to be certain where the other bird was, and I needed to keep a good distance to not disturb their interaction. I was assuming that the territorial stance was directed at another bird, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any other herons nearby. I followed the heron’s gaze, looking for any antagonist in his line of sight, to no avail.
Confused about the heron’s behavior, I decided to just bide my time, and settled the kayak along the opposite shore, downwind and hidden from view.
A few minutes passed, with the heron still in a territorial pose.
A few more minutes, and suddenly the heron immersed itself fully under the water. Then that stiletto beak broke the surface, and the heron splashed up a froth of water.
The heron was taking a bath!
In nearly a decade of watching herons, this was only the second time I’d ever seen one bathing. I sat there mouth agape, watching and taking photographs as quickly as possible.
I stayed there sharing bath time with the heron until an interloper in an inflatable boat flushed the heron off, but even that couldn’t wipe the silly smile from my face.
Herons aren’t necessarily known for being playful when they’re alone, but perhaps bath time is a playful exception. That’s my
story theory, and I’m sticking to it.
This week’s Lens Artist challenge from Tina, with Patti, Amy, and Leya, focuses on on the.colors blue and green. Did you know that although Ardea herodias is known as the Great Blue Heron, it’s feathers are not actually blue at all? Have a look at the masthead art at the top of this page of my blog. That is a photo I took of an aigrette feather from a great blue heron. There is nothing blue about it. The secret that makes feathers appear blue to the human eye is the result of refraction. It is the play of light on the structure of the feather that allows our eyes to perceive blue.
Check out the Lens Artists’ Blue and Green photos here:
From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 149: Cool Colors – Blue and Green .
From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 149: Cool Colors – Blue and Green .
From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 149: Cool Colors – Blue and Green .
From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 149: Cool Colors – Blue and Green .
Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and they need your love.
My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.
2015 (May), 2016 (March and July), 2018 (May, June, July), 2019 (December), 2020 (January) several one-woman photography shows at TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
From December 4 through January 28, 2020, my Great Blue Heron photographs were once again on display on the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick.
Many of the photos in the exhibit were shown for the first time, and do not appear on the blog. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.
Thanks to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place is where the Herons are, of course it is. And the Herons? Their place is near the water, but also on the gallery walls and my blog. How else can I share them with you?
Thanks also to Ben H and WordPress for their WPC Challenge: Liquid. The Herons are drawn to water, as am I.
Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™
The Tao of Feathers™
© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)
Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Posted on May 29, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, Art, Fun with Herons, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Mute Swan, Nature, Red tailed hawk, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged # Lens-Artists, CFFC, heron, Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, postaday, TCAN. Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.
Good on ya’ for having your artwork on display. Great to see a fellow Massachusetts resident further the arts!
Many thanks for your kind comment and good to virtually meet a fellow MA resident on the site. Best, Babsje
Wat een prachtige post en foto’s
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the bathing beauty birds. Best, Babsje
Such great captures of the bathing behavior, Babsje. Love that backlit black and white. 😀
HiI Jane. So glad to hear you enjoyed the Saturday night bath fun post. That b&w is a favorite. Thanks for your kind comment. The ginormous floating rubber ducky was an accidental find taken with my phone – I couldn’t resist. Nor could the couple in a canoe who later wrangled it to their car at the boat house 4 miles up the lake. 😊 Best, Babsje
Ohh…live your black and white image, Babsje! Lovely collection.
How about both?? Live and love! 😊
Hi Patti thanks so much! I’m pleased that you like this one. The bathing swan was a surprise to me. There were two swans and a lot of commotion and thrashing about in the water and at first I thought they were squabbling but it turns out they were both bathing together! Best, Babsje
What great timing, Babsje.😀
Of course, all the shots are wonderful, yet wow!!!! the red-tailed hawk shot is amazing!
Hi Elizabeth. Very happy that you appreciate the Red Tail Hawks. Occasionally over the course of a few years I had seen a hawk taking a bath in that spot in the lake, but this time the hawk was joined by its mate. Read more here: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/great-blue-herons-guest-bird-of-the-day-beauteous-buteo-not-art-nbr-13/ thanks for your kind comment. Best, Babsje
Bath time for Bonzo! Birds do prefer taking baths in fresh water as opposed to salt.
Great shots Babsje!
Great comment thanks: bathtime for Bonzo. You’re right about saltwater vs fresh. It’s amusing to compare those huge birds like swans and herons taking their baths compared to backyard songbirds or hummingbirds in a garden size birdbath. Would love to see an Eagle taking a bath too. Best, Babsje
I can’t ever recall seeing a eagle take a bath now that you make me think of it?
They must be more private?
Or maybe Eagles prefer showers over baths? Just kidding. Maybe they don’t need baths because they get wet catching fish? Or perhaps they take baths at times of the day that are different than their usual fishing times of day? So not at sunset for example. Or as you say they are more private about it!
I’ll ask my birding friend about that Babsje? They would only do it in fresh water but remember a large bird like that would have a hard time escaping a ground predator If caught by a pond bathing!
Good point about ground predators! They might have bears and cougars to contend with. That’s worrying.
I know the Trumpeters are cautious about going up into a river system as it confines them to being able to take off quickly! With huge wings like that it takes longer to get into the air!
Yes you’re right! Watching our Mute Swans take off from the lake is mostly listening instead of watching for the first moments. The first thing I always notice is a whomp whomp whomp whomp percussion of the tips of those huge wings slapping the surface of the water as they try to propel themselves forward with enough speed to achieve liftoff. Sometimes it sounds like gunshots. And swan babies learning to fly is so different from other birds that drop down with gravity’s help. Baby swans have to fall UP not DOWN.
they have to use their feet like Freddy Flintstone does with his car!
Ha! So that’s their secret! Great retort. 😊
Haha. Here are some cygnets getting their feet in shape to do that Fred Flintstone maneuver: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery-and-a-powerful-way-to-learn/
cute little guys eh! Which I might add probably have cygnets of their own as this posting was 7 years ago.
Yep you’re right about that. They started out being 7 cygnets and gradually whittled down to three. At the time I couldn’t figure out what they were doing with their feet!
On second thought, maybe they DO like showers. Maybe rain showers are good enough most of the time for the Eagles?
maybe? I’m sure Eagles do bath but I have never seen one do it here? So maybe coastal Eagles do not but maybe the interior Eagles do where fresh water is more abundant?
I think you’re right… And Eagles are very smart birds. I bet they have secret freshwater spots with infinity pools!
There’s nothing like a good bath, is there!
Yep even for the wildlife. Thanks Leya! 😊
Great photos all. Bathing swan and red tails are my faves.
Many thanks John. One of those Red Tail Hawks had been seen bathing in that very spot several times over the years but that day I was surprised to see two of them frolicking about. And there were also two bathing beauty swans but they were too far apart to capture in one single frame. And the Rubbery Ducky inflatable was irresistible! Best, Babsje
Mind blowing ❤
So glad you like this one. Many thanks for your kind compliment. Best, Babsje
this is amazing. I love this bird and blog. the photos are stunning Thank you
Many thanks for your generous compliment. I’m glad you like the Herons. Best,Babsje
There is one that frequents our pond and it is majestic .
I love how graceful and careful they are on the ground
And of course when they take off that have that huge wing span which makes them look cumbersome but they always clear the trees while taking flight
You’re fortunate to have a Heron at your pond. And “majestic” is a perfect descriptor!
Great series! Love the images.
Many thanks for your kind comment! Watching them take their baths was a lot of fun and finding that giant inflatable rubber duckie in the cove was the icing on the cake. Best, Babsje
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