Great Blue Herons and My 15 Minutes of Satellite Fame on the Water

© Babsje (

Wherein the Great Blue Heron Sticks her Landing at the Waterfall – babsjeheron

The helicopter flew low and slow above the channel. I glanced up at it quickly to see what insignia it carried, but didn’t bother with the binoculars and so didn’t get a good look. Helicopters aren’t rare over the lake, in fact the building next door had one parked on the roof, and besides, I was in a hurry to find Great Blue Herons to photograph.

I nosed the kayak through the first tunnel, then curved sharp right into the slender finger-like cove where Herons sometimes perched. Just as the kayak slid out from under the tree canopy, I heard it again. The helicopter was flying directly over the cove. Since the cove paralleled the turnpike for a small distance, I thought maybe it was a traffic copter, put it out of mind and paddled deeper seeking out Herons.

No luck finding Herons there, I paddled back out towards the big lake. Just as I exited the cove, the helicopter reappeared, right overhead again. Seeing the same helicopter in a short timespan over a small area seemed odd. Maybe it wasn’t traffic-related, I thought, maybe it was a video crew getting some B-roll footage for TV or a movie being filmed near Boston. Whatever it was, I hoped they wouldn’t capture me. I’m notoriously camera-shy. It’s not about me, it’s about the Great Blue Herons. In school, they taught us, “Report the story, don’t BE the story.” Words to live by.

© Babsje (

Guess who in the blue kayak? – babsjeheron

By the fourth time I encountered the helicopter that morning, I decided to make contact, and gave them a big wave goodbye with my paddle and took the kayak elsewhere on the lake.

Fast forward to the next winter.

It was a stormy night, one of those howling New England winter storms that made me long for warm days on the water. That night, I was frittering away some time online before sleep, and in an idle moment wondered what the lake looked like in a satellite view.

I found the lake, at left in this next photo, and then zoomed in until I found some of my favorite nooks and crannies, and then zoomed in again. In the second frame are two light dots. I zoomed in again, and in the third frame, the dots are larger still.

And with one final click to zoom in as close in as the satelite/mapping software allows, the two dots become two vessels. One, a fishing boat. The other? A blue kayak. With me aboard.

And then it all came back to me in retrospect, the day of the helicopter. It wasn’t the traffic or news or B-roll, it was part of the Google mapping project. And my concern about being captured was NOT unfounded.

At least a viewer can’t zoom in any closer than in the top photo of this post. I can live with that degree of anonymity. I think.

© Babsje (

Zooming in on the lake – babsjeheron

Out of curiosity, I looked for a satellite image of one of the nesting islands near here. The Herons and/or their nests stand out starkly in this next image.

© Babsje (

Can you count the Great Blue Herons’ nests on the island in this satellite view? – babsjeheron

By my informal count, there are at least 70 nests and/or Herons visible in that satellite view.

My heart leaps with joy at their numbers.

Thanks to Cee for her CBWC: Trees or Tree Parts. The satellite view of the nesting island has enough trees to support.that large Heron colony.
The amazing Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic On The Water. John Steiner is the host this week.

Check out John’s beautiful water photos here: Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 155: On the Water .

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. (

Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick

Posted on July 4, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, B&W, Black and White Photo Challenge, Cee's Black & White Challenge, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Monochrome Monday, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. Wow – that was kind of exciting and there is no way to ever identify you from those photos! Except that you told us (of course).

  2. Oh, that’s a super story!🌅

  3. Fascinating story. I have seen the Google cars, but as far as I know, I have avoided the dreaded street view. 😊
    I always enjoy seeing your heron images. Always beautiful.

    • Many thanks John. Happy to see you hosting this week. Your lead photo makes the water look so inviting. And I’ve never run into any of the Google cars and was surprised they used helicopters! Best, Babsje

  4. You are famous now, even if you didn’t really want to be. I agree with your thoughts on keeping the focus on the STORY, not yourself. That is so cool that these images gave you a clear picture of the rookery!

    • Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment. Yes It is about the wildlife and not the camera person. I was amazed that the satellite view showed all those nests! I can only see one side of that island from shore – it is inaccessible by people because the water is part of the city water supply. So the sat view was a real eye-opener. Best, Babsje

  5. Wat een model. Hij weet zich wel te presenteren

  6. Thats very odd Babsje……….Goggle uses satellites not Helicopters. There are so many satellites used for mapping. Was this confirmed by Goggle?

    • Thanks Wayne. It appeared for me on Google. The satellite drill down was within the Google ecosystem. I didn’t ask them. I can try to replicate and follow up. I’ve used terraserver also in the past. Google street view is weird when it gets to the lakes. They use those cars of course. Best, Babsje

    • Hi again Wayne. I agree with what you say. After a not-exhaustive bit of research, it seems that Google is indeed using helicopters. It is possible that my experience happened during their early development phase. Here’s one link: Best, Babsje

      • they use those helicopters for a 3D virtual video. Never heard of those before? Did you see yourself in a still or video?

        • Thanks Wayne. Two different things. The satellite view is definitely from a satellite. They were doing the helicopter for the street view testing. The way I worded my post seemed to conflate them. I cannot see well enough today to go back and look at how they rendered the area around the like and turnpike with the plug in for street view but I will at some point. Thanks for your probing questions! Best, Babsje

  7. What a fun twist on the helicopter story to discover yourself immortalized in Google Maps! It’s amazing to see all those nests in that island. So nice to know that nature can flourish in such close proximity to the city.

    • Hi Katherine. Thanks! Yes it is reassuring to see how the wildlife thrives so close to the city. That island is in a reservoir that supplies some of the drinking water under certain circumstances. Best, Babsje

  8. What a delightful bit of notoriety!

  9. great story.
    Thanks for sharing – what a story!
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. What a fun post Babsje! Loved the image of the herons nesting from above. How cool is that?! Glad your anonymity remains secure LOL!

    • Hi Tina. Yes it was wonderful to see all those Herons nests on that island. A fe2 years ago a pair of Bald Eagles took over one of the nests on the west end, which is at top left in that satellite image. That is a real game-changer on the island. Thanks for your kind comment. Best, Babsje

  11. Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I have often wondered what the helicopters are up to and generally have written them off to traffic monitoring but I will be more curious now. I will have to look up some of the places I frequent often. The image of the heron nests is truly amazing!

    • Hi Lisa. So many of us ignore the helicopters. Usually around here they are traffic copters or medical choppers or military (there is an Army base in my lake!!) Glad you liked the aerial view of the nests. Thanks for your kind comment. Congrats on your retirement tomorrow! Best, Babsje

  12. How cool to be immortalized though not in celluloid…digital now!! Sometimes when I’ve Googled my house, it is interesting to be able to date the shots according to what hedges were there or removed or if the grass looked good or overtaken by weeds and half dead and whose car was parked where. A moment in time for sure. The mapping isn’t about capturing people but the fact that it can so easily and without permission is a little creepy.

    • PS: I do like the visual of you in the kayak though in situ and after you describing your adventures that way. Amazing you get what you do from the fragile floating platform.

      • Thanks so much Judy. Taking photos from any boat can have a pretty high degree of difficulty. I think the gorgeous lead photo on your site – in a swampy-looking area with those trees- was taken by boat? You must have been pleased to see how that one came out. Best, Babsje

        • it is true that image among others was shot from a boat. But I think my 19′ rubber boat is probably easier that shooting from a kayak. I suppose once you get used to working in a certain situation you learn what to do about the motion. I find it does require concentration to shoot a bird in a dark background from a moving boat and get the DOF and SS the way you want. So sometimes it’s just get it in focus 🙂 !!

    • Hi Judy. Thanks for your thoughtful perspective. I agree with you that it can be a little creepy to see what’s on street view AND the all-seeing satellites 24/7 that can drill down so closely… Privacy? What is privacy now? Street view has actually captured some nekkid people without their knowledge. Best, Babsje

  13. Great heron shot, and, so much for privacy. It’s a good thing we can’t see the aliens zooming in on our apartment windows from a trillion light-years away. 😉

    • Thanks for your kind and sobering comment, John! Are you sure they’re still a trillion miles away?? Glad you like the Heron. Best, Babsje

  14. That is a cool story! …and a little education as well 😊

  15. Thanks for following my blog Babsje! Great Heron shot.

  16. This was a cool story. How exciting to link the two events together.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. Glad you found it exciting. Yes it was an unreal experience to keep seeing the helicopter overhead and it was pleasing to make sense of it after seeing that satellite view. Best, Babsje

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