Beautiful Great Blue Herons’ Autumn Day

Great blue heron preening on log in Autumn - babsjeheron   © Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Preening on Log in Autumn – babsjeheron

The map is not the territory. ~ Korzybski

The photo is not the experience. ~ Babsje

The coldest afternoon of the season on the lake, and there I was in my protected blind in the cove with the yearling Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, several Canada Geese and no footgear. Not expecting the chill winds, I put in barefoot, warm neoprene socks snug in the drybag stashed in the rear hatch of the kayak.

The yearling Heron had been eyeing the Geese warily after five of them flew in perfect vee formation and splash-landed about fifteen feet south of us. They had paddled lazily past us and meandered deep into the Eastern end of the cove. The Heron seemed aroused by their intrusion into his turf, but too afraid of them to do anything about it.

A detente was reached and the Heron resumed fishing for his lunch, and I resumed taking photos and shivering. Whole-body shivers that made me wonder if ANY of the photos would be free of blurring.


A small fish leapt forward, smack into the side of the blue kayak with a loud klonk.

The Heron didn’t bat an eye, though I suspect the fish was stunned momentarily. I peered over the side of the kayak, half-expecting to see a fish surface floating belly-up.

I had been at the lake less than two hours and was considering leaving because it was so cold, but if the young Heron could take it, then so could this human. I thought about my feet, very cold and  unprotected in the bow, and was considering make-shift socks as solutions to be able to stay out longer…

… And then it happened.

The Heron stopped fishing, he tensed visibly, and before my eyes, his plumage expanded in an unmistakable display. His back arched, tail tilted up, head tilted upwards, too.

Young male Great Blue Heron in display while approaching older female in the cove - babsjeheron  © Babsje (

Young male Great Blue Heron in display while approaching older female in the cove – babsjeheron

He was looking directly at me.

But he couldn’t have seen me as an interloper suddenly. That didn’t seem possible at all, but he was looking right at me, and approaching, with an intensity in his eyes and a purposefulness in his strides.

And then, then I looked over my right shoulder…

… And saw her there…

… Not eight feet behind me – an adult female Heron, one I know from years on the lake.

She had flown down and landed eight feet from the blue kayak and Blue Heron and me. Usually, the wary Herons will over-fly if they see a kayak, but this one came right up to us. Extraordinary.

I looked directly at her, clicked off a couple of totally unfocused frames in eagerness to not miss the moment. I didn’t look in the viewfinder, just pointed the camera in the right direction and hit the shutter.

And she looked back calmy and said “Arh…” using the Heron “greeting” call.

Maybe she was greeting the other Heron, maybe she was greeting me, maybe both of us?

“Arh…” again.

Since the other Heron was in a display posture by this time, I’d like to think she was greeting me.

I backed my kayak up farther away, towards the other shore to give them more space.

The yearling Heron strutted the length of the half-submerged log and branches, plumes puffed and gorgeous.

The female watched, unmoving, unthreatened.

The yearling climbed off the branch, into the water, and waded closer to her. His plumes  returned to normal configuration, but he waded with his back arched, neck and head angled upwards in display.

And suddenly, a flurry of silken plumes as he lept into the air towards her, and she took flight towards the deep end of the cove.

He wheeled mid-air and followed suit. She rose and arced North, over the tallest pines and then curved East over the far end of the cove.

He sped after her, just above water-level, deep into the cove. When last I saw him, he was climbing swifty up into the canopy after her.

I think it was an amorous display, and not a territorial display at all – a courtship chase flight. The season was wrong for that, of course, but a couple of recent years, it had been very warm into October and some birds were showing evidence of breeding plumes growing longer. But then again, maybe it was only a territorial display.

Whichever it was, it was extraordinary to see it from so close a vantage point.

And once again, I am smitten by the Great Blue Herons.


This post is prompted by Cee Neuner, Debbie Smyth, Dawn Miller and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers.

The focus for this week’s LAPC is Seen Better Days. This week, I had eye surgery number five. I’ll spare you a photo of me once again wearing an eye patch this time, but needless to say I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the Great Blue Herons better in 2022.

The next two photos are the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images from one of my favorite, most-photographed corners of the cove. That is, “most-photographed” until a greedy real-estate speculator illegally bulldozed beyond the water-line under klieg lights after dark.

© Babsje (

Beautiful Great Blue Heron Fledgling Basking – babsjeheron

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron in Destroyed Habitat that had Seen Better Days – babsjeheron

A fine was levied: $103,000. $1,000 a day for 103 days in violation of a court order. The first of the two scenes above can never be photographed again.

Thanks to Cee for her CMMC: Autumn or Spring. This is an Autumn post.
Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday: A few spare minutes well spent . Any minutes with the Herons are well spent!
Thanks to Dawn for her Festival of Leaves . This post has dark red autumn leaves.

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 168: Seen Better Days .

From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 168: Seen Better Days.

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 168: Seen Better Days .

From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 168: Seen Better Days .


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.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
Natick Town Hall
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
Audubon Sanctuary

Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .


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

Posted on October 9, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Festival of Leaves, Heron, Kayaking, Nature, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Amazing shots as usual.

  2. Fun story Babsje – at least until the end when we see the damage the developer had done. Did he pay the fine? What happens to the land now, is he allowed to build on it? I’ve heard many stories of developers breaking rules but this is the most egregious I’ve seen. At night, under lights? Unbelievable!!!

  3. Love the contrast with background. Well done 👍🏾

    • Hi Drexel. Thanks very much for your kind compliment! I’m glad you like how the contrast worked out. I was pretty pleased the shot worked, myself. The Heron was in the right spot that day. Best, Babsje

  4. So beautiful and then so sad. Thanks for posting!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Dawn. I agree with you – that section of the cove was desecrated by the greedy developer. My heart aches looking at what we lost. Best, Babsje

  5. Our environment is being whittled away because our population is increasing, while the wildlife is decreasing.

  6. I love seeing these birds.

  7. I sometimes really hate us, humans. We understand nothing but money – greedy and selfish creatures.

  8. What a fabulous experience!

    • Hi Jo. Thanks so much for visiting and your kind compliment. It was amazing out there with those two Great Blues. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and actually have my camera there. Best, Babsje

  9. To be in the middle of the experience, it’s one of those instances when you just want to watch. Right now, the geese are flying more often. Like the GBH, they don’t file a flight plan to know when they’re flying and from what direction. 🙂

    • I agree with you, David. Sometimes it’s best just to watch! But having an occasional flight plan sure would be fun. Not so often that the spontaneous element of surprise gets lost. Thanks for the great comment. Best, Babsje

  10. love the photos and the opening one has that striking warm colors in the background – really wonderful and rich
    – and so sad about the accidental bulldozing – yikes – and hopefully the fine works to prevent such future occurrences

  11. Beautifully captured with nice story. Well shared 🌹🤗

  12. Your description of this encounter sounds so magical. And I love how it seemed that they were communicating and posturing for you. What a wonderful experience. I’m glad you stayed with it despite the freezing feet. 🙂

    • Many thanks for your generous compliment. Yes, it was magical. I’m fascinated by wildlife to human communication. Glad you enjoyed this story. Best, Babsje

  13. Beautiful images, Babsje! Just lovely displays of autumn colors and the yearling. Gorgeous!

  14. Beautiful, but bring your footgear next time! 😉

    • Many thanks Julie! I actually had the neoprene booties with me but stashed in the back hatch of the boat because it was warm and lovely when I put in. Lesson learned. Glad you like the story. Best, Babsje

      • Thinking of you yesterday as I met a heron in the meadow field (pics on my blog). I think it was searching for mice maybe? It looked busy, anyway. If only you had been there, you would have walked up and said hello to it, and it would have smiled back! 😉 😉

        • Thanks Julie. I saw your Heron photo. Lovely photo. I can tell that is a young Heron and it must have been very hungry there. I am concerned for it. It should be migrating very soon – or should have already left. Lovely photo. This is that time of year when they need to be left alone so they can pack in all the calories they can. Something North of 75% do not survive their first year. I hope it caught some calorie-dense lunch! Best, Babsje

          • I agree about your worry. I’ve never seen one this late around here…. ‘-(

            • Well my thinking is that if the Heron is smart enough to look for and catch small mammals in a field, it may have a fighting chance! We’re forecast for 4 warm days this week here – in the mid 70s – and that should help it pack on the calories. Fingers crossed! But your photo was lovely!

  15. What a fabulous encounter! And with you right in the middle. I would be thrilled!! Wonderful story too.

    • Many thanks for your generous compliment, Cindy. It was a once in a lifetime front row seat watching those two engage. Glad you enjoyed. Thanks! Best, Babsje

  16. The heron against the autumn colored leaves is so pretty!

  17. die zeearend is ook geweldig

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