Beautiful Great Blue Heron Uses Tools, Picks up Litter, What a Day

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron

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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron

When last we saw the smart Great Blue Heron using a tool, it was the Gull feather you see here and above.
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A short eight minutes after she abandoned the Gull feather as a fishing lure, she decided to try out a different form of bait…
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She marched a bit further down the half-submerged pine and plucked a twig from the tangle of sticks along the log.
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Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr1 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr1 – babsjeheron

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She wiggled the slender twig around beneath the surface of the water…
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And around again….

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Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr2 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr2 – babsjeheron

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Probing with her twig to stir any fishes below…
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…Her movements were subtle…
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Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr3 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr3 – babsjeheron

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…Almost mimicking the way a Heron stands in stillness and gently prods the water with a foot…
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Transfixed, I watched her repeat this for more than ten minutes.
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Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr4 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Using Stick as Tool Nbr4 – babsjeheron

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This was not the first time I had witnessed a Great Blue Heron using a tool.
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You can read the story of another Great Blue Heron fishing with a stick CLICK HERE.
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Great Blue Heron Finished Using Stick as Tool - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Finished Using Stick as Tool – babsjeheron

You can read the story of this same Great Blue Heron fishing with a feather CLICK HERE.
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That day, I took more than 925 photographs at the lake.
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That day began in the long slender cove, where this same Great Blue Heron was plying the shore.
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© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron holding a huge plastic bag she pulled from the muck along the shore – babsjeheron

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Her fishing technique that day was unlike anything I’d witnessed before: she poked and prodded the muck along the south end of the cove for at least half an hour.
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Her trophy? This huge plastic bag. At one time, it contained something large, larger than a king-sized pillow to be sure.
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Young Great Blue Heron male on amorous approach - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Young Great Blue Heron male on amorous approach – babsjeheron

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On this day the young male Heron had been intently watching the female from yards away down the cove, while the female poked the mud with her long beak, tugging persistently at something.
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Great Blue Herons with Litter - babsjeheron © 2017 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Herons with Litter – babsjeheron

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Just as the young male made his move, strutting up the cove towards the female in his courtship posture, her beak lurched free from the mud, with a huge plastic bag stuck on her lower bill.
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Great Blue Carrying Huge Plastic Bag - babsjeheron © 2017 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Carrying Huge Plastic Bag – babsjeheron

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I’m not sure if he was more interested in pursuing her as a mate or in wresting the huge plastic bag from her.
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Whichever was his intention, she was having none of it. She pivoted on her heels and flew westward out of the cove with the bag trailing from her beak, leaving the young male behind.

Young Great Blue Heron male looks on dejectedly after the female fled - babsjeheron   © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Young Great Blue Heron male looks on dejectedly after the female fled – babsjeheron

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I wish I could say that the female was carrying the bag voluntarily, but I cannot: the plastic was hooked securely on her lower bill.

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I quickly paddled out of the cove, hoping to follow her and ensure that she freed herself from the bag. Under the shade of tall pines, she shook and shook her head from side-to-side the way a dog shakes a rag.
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Great Blue Heron's Trash Bag - babsjeheron © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron’s Trash Bag – babsjeheron

To no avail.

More than three weeks later, I found the plastic trash bag floating and retrieved it. Here it is on the ground next to my old kayak for scale. The boat is 15 feet long. As you can see, that plastic bag was nearly half the length of the boat.

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This post is prompted by Cee, Jez, Becky, 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 Lens Artist challenge hosted by Amy is “A Day of My Week.” All three of the little stories in my post today took place on the same day, with the same Great Blue Heron. On that July 25, I took more than 925 Heron photos from my kayak on the lake.

  • The day started with the female Heron pulling a ginormous plastic bag from the mud near the shore and her encounter with the amorous young male.
  • As if that wasn’t exciting enough to watch, the female Great Blue then picked up a Gull’s feather and used it as a fishing lure – it was amazing to see a bird use the feather of another bird as a tool.
  • And then, the same Heron picked up a slender twig and used that in her attempts to lure fishes to the surface.

I would have been thrilled to experience any one of the three incidents I witnessed that day – but to experience all three of them in a single day? Mindboggling.

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Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. The Herons bring joy.
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Thanks to Jez for the Water Water Everywhere Challenge. Quite a bit of water today.
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Thanks to Becky for her Past Squares challenge. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about Becky’s Squares challenge, and haven’t joined the fun before…So I have no ‘past’ squares to contribute but I hope the squares in today’s post are enough for starters.

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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 172: A Day of My Week .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 172: A Day of My Week .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 172: A Day of My Week .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 172: A Day of My Week .
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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 a half and they need your love more than ever.
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Natick Center Cultural District logo

Natick Center Cultural District

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The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Learn more!

My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

Please watch this space for news of my upcoming Winter 2022 gallery show.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
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Natick Town Hall
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Five Crows Gallery in Natick
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Audubon Sanctuary
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Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.
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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick

Posted on November 2, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Heron, Kayaking, Nature, Photo Essay, Photography, Squares, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Dear Babsje,
    GREAT pictures like always telling a nice story.
    Thanks for sharing and all the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind compliment about the Heron photos! I’m pleased that you like them – it was quite a day out there in the kayak. Although any day spent on the water is a wonderful use of time. Wishing the Fab Four of Cley a lovely start to your November. My best to all the Fab Four, Babsje 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦

  2. Quite the day Babsje! I hope the bag was dislodged from the heron’s beak without causing her any problems. Incredible what people toss without thinking!

  3. So sorry to see the heron had the buge plastic bag stucked on her lower bill. What a struggle… Thank you for following her and let us know she was free from it…
    Beautiful photos, Babsj!

    • Hi Amy. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It was pretty intense then until I was sure she got freed from that huge plastic bag. I love a happy ending! Thanks for hosting this great challenge of yours. Best, Babsje

  4. Amazing how Nature adapts! I’m sure this fishing technique isn’t common but because this one Heron tried it,It shows how animals are always trying something new!
    Plastic is our curse! I’d like to think this Heron was cleaning up!

    • Hi Wayne. Thanks for your kind observations
      You’re correct – that Heron pulled Litter Patrol from the shore hat that day! I have actually seen other Great Blue Herons besides the one in today’s photos use tools to fish. This one is using a stick. It may be a child of today’s Heron? In which case it may have learned by watching mom? It is on the same semi-submerged white pine log. https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/who-you-calling-a-birdbrain-great-blue-heron-fishing-with-a-twig/ Best, Babsje

      • Interesting scene Babsje! I’d like to see a video of this whole process to understand this technique better.

        • Thanks Wayne, so would I! Video would be good. Frame by frame stills was all I could do. I did that with the earlier Bird Brain post. It’s odd behavior to see real-time and in the case of the Bird Brain post I didn’t realize what was taking place until I downloaded the images afterwards. Having seen it 3 times now, I’m more in tuned to know what to look for – if that makes sense. Thanks for your great comment. Best, Babsje

  5. So glad that heron freed herself. Would hate to think some human’s negligence caused her demise.

    • Thank you very much for your kind sentiment. I felt the same way – worried that the plastic bag would entrap her. It took a lot of shaking her head to break it free, and it looked exactly like a dog whipping its head back and forth from side to side clutching something. It was such a relief. Best, Babsje

  6. Such gorgeous photography of this heron 😀

  7. What amazing captures! The plastic photo should be a poster for The Green Movement.

  8. Another happy story, Babsje – beautiful images!

  9. The apes will be ashamed they are being ‘out-tooled’. And plastic. UGH!

  10. Thanks for your wildlife stories, Babsje!

    • Hi Rebecca. Thanks so much for saying that. Wildlife stories are so much fun to watch and photograph real-time and its extra icing on the cake when they can be shared with you. Best, Babsje

  11. What a day! i’m glad the female heron finally got rid of the huge bag.

  12. Wow. Such a story. Do you think the heron got interested in the bag thinking it was food, or are they just curious?
    Hope you are well on these fine fall days!
    Julie

    • Hi Julie. Sorry I missed your kind comment. WordPress has been dropping some incoming comments for some mysterious reason. The Heron was fishing as usual in one of her customary spots. I’ve observed her catching several varieties of fish there as well as Frogs and crayfish. Plus assorted bits of litter – some from boaters such as paper coffee cups, Styrofoam bait containers, etc and some that had apparently blown into the lake from traffic on the adjacent Mass Turnpike. I suspect they the Heron zeroed in on the fully submerged plastic bag as simply another form of prey initially and then became more and more curious and more and more intent on extracting it the more and more she tugged until it broke the surface attached to her lower bill. It took a very long time and I had no idea that her prey was that bag until it cleared the surface. Thankfully the story had a happy ending. Best, Babsje

  13. Great story and photos. You are certainly patient!

  14. An amazing post & story; it’s fantastic that the herons are so inventive with what they find 👏 It’s such a shame about the litter that has to be cleared up though 😩

  15. thank goodness there was a happy ending! Great shots, and a very warm, if somewhat belated, welcome to Squares. Do hope you will join us again in February – I will be announcing the theme later this month

    • Hi Becky. Many thanks for your warm welcome and thoughtful comment. That particular Great Blue Heron has captivated me over the years and I, too, was very happy and relieved at the happy ending to her story. See you again in February for your lovely and inspiring challenge. Best, Babsje

  16. What a day indeed
    And ugh! Litter bothers me!

    • Hello! I agree with you on both points – it was quite a day and litter is an abomination. That particular stretch of shoreline is next to a westbound lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike/Interstate 90. It is very possible that the huge plastic bag accidentally blew down the 25 foot road embankment into the lake from a truck or car and not deposited by a boater. However the random coffee cups and Styrofoam bait boxes? Definitely from boaters too careless to pack their trash out. Thanks for your good comment. Best, Babsje

  17. I’m impressed – what a busy fellow 🙂

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