Beautiful Great Blue Heron Gone Fishing

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Catching Large Fish – babsjeheron

Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen.

John Muir
The Mountains of California

Are there any artists who don’t fall in love with their models, their muses? I am enamored of them all, the Great Blue Herons I’ve been observing for the past two decade in the watershed here. 

Our winters can be harsh, so generally I’m not able to be out on the water from December until April. Once back on the lakes each spring, I survey the area, looking for each of the individuals in their usual territory of years past. There is one active nest visible by kayak, and another two that I’ve pegged based on observation of flight paths and satellite photos, and the two main rookeries are three to four miles distant.

Inventorying the Herons once the brooding of eggs has started is a challenge. During nesting when at least one parent adult is with the chicks at the nest round the clock 24/7, the number of birds to be found foraging along the shoreline is cut in half. 

By early August, though, when the year’s crop of nestlings has fledged and the adults are no longer needed at the nest, its easier to find the whole population.

Each year brings great relief when I find the individuals I’ve been following over the years, and also some anxiety around the missing Herons. And of course, it’s an interesting exercise to identify immatures who have gone through their molt, taking on adult plumage that alters their appearance markedly since I last had seen them the previous autumn.

Great blue heron with flowering grasses in small pond. © Babsje (

Great Blue Heron with flowering grasses in small pond – babsjeheron

The Heron shown in the long shot above is one I was anxious about that previous summer. It first started letting me photograph back in 2006, but was absent all during 2012, not a single sighting. Herons can live upwards of 15 years, with some reportedly as old as 23. It was fully adult back in 2006, when I would have pegged the age around 7, give-or-take, which might have put it around 13 that previous summer. I wondered about survival.

In my secret fantasy, the Herons who have gone missing have merely moved on to one of the other lakes or ponds in the watershed, although I know that the reality is that some simply are no more.

Imagine my elation one afternoon, then, realizing that my fantasy came true for this Great Blue Heron: for the first time in two summers, I found the Heron – plying the grassy shores of a small pond about a mile and a half from the large lake where it used to feed. I was thrilled.

However, sightings of this Great Blue Heron after the one day at that small pond continued to be elusive.

Fast forward four years and 6.6 miles. In the intervening four years, I had moved houses and with that move came walking distance access to the Charles River dam and the scenic fish ladder you can see in the photo at the top of this post.

The purpose of the fish ladder is to give fish the means to travel upstream to their spawning ground, since they cannot jump over the dam along side the ladder. I have never observed any fish swimming up the ladder, but I have seen fish tumbling down.

Which brings me back to Great Blue Herons. They love to wait at the base of the dam for unlucky fish swept over the edge.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron at the Dam – babsjeheron

And what about the Great Blue and the Salmon shown in the top photo?

There is no problem so complicated that you can’t find a very simple answer to it if you look at it right.
Douglas Adams
The Salmon of Doubt

The Great Blue Heron tenuously worked her way up the fish ladder, scanning the rushing waters for lunch. The river was in drought conditions that subdued the usually-robust waterfall to a trickle, and her customary fishing hole at the base of the falls proved fruitless.

For more than an hour, she stalked the waters for Salmon, climbing the fish ladder slowly, intently scanning the pooled water at the base of the dam, then pausing to rest, perched there on one leg. All the while, she faced away from the torrent gushing down the ladder behind her.

I could see fish in the rushing waters and wondered if the Heron would shift her focus.

True to that Douglas Adams quote, she finally turned around and looked right at the fish ladder, and left no doubt at all about that Salmon.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Has Gone Fishing – babsjeheron

Fortunately for the Great Blue Heron, the ‘no fishing in fish ladder’ sign and policy don’t apply to Herons.

And fortunately, too, for this photographer who watched the exciting scene unfold.

And this is where my inner-Heron-geek gets unleashed. I have written recently about the many ways wildlife lovers can identify specific individual birds or animals: unique behaviors, specific territories, distinguishing features, scars, and more.

Remember the Great Blue Heron pictured above in that small pond with the tall golden grasses? The one I was elated to see after a two-year absence from the big lake? Four years later and 6.6 miles south, on an entirely different body of water I found that Heron again – catching a Salmon in the fish ladder.

So, sometimes birds that we think are no longer alive are still with us – they have simply moved on to on new territories.

I love happy endings.
This post is prompted by Cee Neuner, Debbie Smyth, and the inimitable Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community. This week, the Lens Artists focus on gorgeous photos with the theme of Feet and Shoes. What a fun topic!

In the case of this Great Blue Heron, the scarred legs and damaged toes gave it away for me:

Great Blue Heron Has Gone Fishing - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Has Gone Fishing – Note inset of toes – babsjeheron


Thanks to Cee for her CMMC: Black and White challenge

Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .

From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .

From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .

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


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick, B&W

Posted on August 21, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Fishing, Heron, Monochrome Monday, Nature, Photo Essay, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 79 Comments.

  1. Amazing captures. 😊❤️

  2. It must be a relief when you find them again.

    • Hi Ann-Christine. Yes! It is a huge relief. I feel protective of them. That’s the risk of loving them – that they will disappear. Such is the circle of life. Glad you like this storu. Best, Babsje

  3. Ce blog à propos de ces hérons est magnifique et inspirant

  4. Such a fun post. 😀 😀 Thanks for joining along 😀

    • Hi Cee. Thanks so much. Yes this one was fun playing Sherlock Babsje to identify that individual Heron. Thanks for welcoming us all to your creative challenges. Best, Babsje

  5. You always create such unique shots Babsje! You are the Heron Lady.

  6. Beautiful shots, Babsje. I love the one with the flowers.

  7. I can imagine your joy at seeing your old friend. The first B&W shot is very interesting not just because of the line but because it makes you look multiple times or at least it did me, to really see the photo properly. However, I really like the color shots, especially the one at the top of the post on the right, not part of the post.

    • Hi Janet. Thanks for letting me know you prefer the color photos. That Heron at top right on the site is a favorite of mine, catching that huge pike. It was exciting to watch. And yes, I felt real joy at seeing my old friend. Many thanks for your kind words. Best, Babsje

  8. Babsje, you bear the fruit of long, patient attention. Thanks

  9. Wow! I love herons. Great photos.

  10. Especially love the shot by the dam, Babsje. Exciting!

    • Hi Jane. Thanks very much for your kind words. Yes, it was indeed exciting at the dam. The roaring sound of the rushing water adds to the feel of that spot. Best, Babsje

  11. Wonderful post! I had no idea herons could live to be that old. I especially loved the fish ladder pic.Now, about those pies: I run towards apple pie, not too sweet. Big dilemma, though—vanilla ice cream or cheddar cheese to go with it?

    • Hi Julie, love your comment! I assume your Apple pie will be with your delicious Baldwin Apples? I like a tart apple pie with some cinnamon and my mom always insisted on cheddar cheese. Last time I ordered Apple pie with cheddar at a restaurant they were so confused. I think I converted some wait staff! Glad you like the fish ladder. One of my favorite spots. Best, Babsje

  12. Gorgeous, gorgeous images! ❤

  13. This is a fascinating story of a blue heron. I had no idea you could identify individual birds like that. You must be very observant and dedicated to be able to do so. Your story kept me spellbound. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  14. Prachtig. Hopelijk heeft hij zijn maal bijeen kunnen vangen

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Herons and Friends: There are No Wrong Answers | Babsje Heron

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