Who’s a Happy Heron? Not Entirely Wordless Wednesday Redux
“Do animals feel emotions? We can easily identify joy when we see it on the face of another person. But what about animals? Can they feel joy and other emotions?
If you smile at me I will understand,
‘Cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.
David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Do animals feel emotions? As humans, we can easily identify joy when we see it on the face of another person. But what about animals? Can they feel joy and other emotions?
A quick Internet search will reveal a lot of anecdata about emotions in animals and birds, and many pet owners will attest to their own dog’s or cat’s or horse’s capacity to “feel.”
I’m not aware of “scientific studies” that prove the emotional capacity of birds and animals, but there are fascinating accounts of wild creatures “grieving” dead mates – Elephants and even Herons have been observed staying with their dead, Crows and Ravens are reported to have “funerals”for the departed.
What do you think – have you seen a pet or a wild creature show “joy?” I’d love to read your comments about animals showing emotions.
I think we can never have too much joy!
About today’s post: Today’s post is inspired by Ann-Christine’s Lens Artist prompt “Backlit.” The golden hour sunlight illuminates the water bubbles from behind in the top photo, as well as the stunning Pike in the Heron’s jaws.
Frequent readers may know that I have been nearly blind for many months and so have been largely absent from WordPress blogs. Last Thursday, I learned that instead of three retina laser surgeries, I will need only two – one for each eye. I’ll take that news as a win! Scheduling is still delayed, and until then, Patience is the word of the day.
Because of my near-blindness, I’m not able to link in my posts to the various host sites for WP challenges/tags in the way I have always done in the past, but please know that I value the sense of community here, especially among the Lens Artists, Cee Neuner, Debbie Smyth, BeckyB, Denzil, I.J., Restless Jo, Tofino Photography, and more, who all encourage the entire international network of photographers and writers. Sorry that I cannot link directly at this time – this is the best I can do for now.
I do love a happy ending, and hope my eye surgeon delivers one for the Herons & me! Patience Grasshopper.
Once again, the Great Blue Heron diving beneath the water’s surface graced gallery walls.
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. It was great to see so many of you there.
Since 2001, the Center for Arts Natick has been housed in the circa 1875 historic Central Fire House, where the Summer Street Gallery provides an opportunity for accomplished visual artists in the region to have their work prominently displayed for TCAN’s diverse and loyal audience.
If you’re in the Boston or Metro West area, please stop by TCAN to see the wonderful gallery displays of artworks by many talented visual artists, as well as excellent live music performances and stage plays. The gallery is open whenever the box office is open, so please check hours here.
As always, many of my own photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.
Folks, now that some areas have opened back up in a new normal, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past THREE years and they still need your love more than ever.
The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Click here and here to learn more!
My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.
TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick – One-woman photography show through February 2022
Natick Town Hall – Current group exhibit thru January 3 2023
Five Crows Gallery in Natick – Represented since 2013
Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.
Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™
May the Muse be with you.™
The Tao of Feathers™
A Patience of Herons™
© 2003-2023 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)
Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick Center Cultural District, Dragonfly
Posted on May 3, 2023, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Art, Birds, Fishing, Kayaking, Nature, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged # Lens-Artists, #LAPC, bird of the week, mindfulness, naturephotochallenge, wordless wednesday. Bookmark the permalink. 70 Comments.
I love the light in both the water and the pike.
I do think animals feel emotion. A dog who wags a tail, and most recently I came across a group of otters. I guess we can never really know, but an interesting thought to ponder.
Without question, animals feel emotion; we, as humans just can’t always understand it!
Hi Wardy – I agree with you and Donna. Thanks for chiming in. To be honest, sometimes we as humans don’t always understand human emotions!
Hi Donna – thanks for your compliment about the light and your interesting observation about others – did you sense any emotion in their behavior or countenance?
With otters, yes, but I always think, how do we know that what we are seeing is really what they are feeling. So….///
I agree. There can be a certain amount of projection going on. But I’ll take happiness whenever it feels right!
Amen! Me too
That head dive is so funny 😆
Hi Drexel – many thanks, I’m pleased that you enjoyed it. One thing I like about that photo, apart from the water droplets flying, is the way the back/body of the Heron is nearly the same color and shape of the rocks behind her, almost perfectly camouflaged. Btw, that’s the same Heron in that “not just another pretty face” territorial display from last week.
Lol. Honestly, I was really looking for the heron. It took me a while to find it. A real camouflage.
Hi Drexel – yes, a seriously camouflaged Heron! Here’s a little story about that photo at an Audubon gallery show, wherein a patron asked me why I had a photo without any Herons: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/great-blue-herons-magical-camouflage/ I adore how Heron feathers can change color depending on the light.
I’m amazed at the size of that fish and how easily it went down the hatch!
I think all animals can be happy but wether we recognize the body language is another question?
Hi Wayne – thanks! Here’s the sequence of that fish going down the hatch: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/epic-great-blue-heron-swallows-ginormous-fish/ We’re lucky she didn’t choke to death on something that huge. You make a good point about body language in animals and whether we can interpret it correctly! Take care for example. Many times cats purr in contentment and pleasure. But sometimes, cats purr when they are in pain.
Excellent shots, my dear Babsje! Of course animals feel emotion. 😉 xoxo
Hi Marina – aw, thanks for your lovely compliment about the Herons. I agree with you. My childhood dog would exhibit a “shame” response after my sister chastised the dog for doing something bad. I may be anthropomorphic about that, of course.
Well, our love for them may sometimes project feelings that may not be relevant to them, but then, how can we really know? We don’t even speak their language! 😉 xoxo
Hi Marina – good point about speaking their language! There are little non-verbal communication tips for cats – where we can mimic their eye movement such as blinking slowly at a cat to show it that we are not a threat or yawning at a cat to similarly appear to not be a threat. And then, what of animals that mimic humans, like talking Parrots who copy our speech. Fascinating stuff!
I love speaking to Hera even if she stares at me probably thinking “lets pretend I understand what she’s on about. It’s close to feeding time!” ;-)🐾🤣
Hi Marina – what w delightful comment! And I’m sure your interpretation of Hera is 100% correct. Giggling out loud here. Thanks. 🐾 🐱 💕
…yes, I know! 😂🤣🐾
🐾 🙏 🌙 🌟 ❤
Awesome series Babsje! Above all, you do have patience. Just waiting for the right moment to capture the Great Blue Herons as you do shows it. I’m sending you positive thoughts for your surgery and hope it happens soon. Yes, animals feel emotion, and their emotions are pure.
Hi Anne – thank you for your thoughtful compliment about the photos – and I like how you describe animals’ emotions as being “pure” and thanks also for your positive thoughts about my eyes!
When your dog goes nuts when you come home, who can doubt that’s unbridled joy!?
Good to know your number of planned surgeries has been reduced. Now if they’d just get busy and get on with it! I’m getting impatient for you.
Hi Susan – oh yes, that’s a sheer sign of unbridled joy. I had a Calico cat who would leap five feet straight up from the floor and land on my collarbone when I walked in the door every night after work. Good thing she was a small kitty. Thanks for your empathy and impatience about the eye op delays!
Love the catch w the fish Babsje – great lighting
Many thanks, Tina! I’m glad you liked the lighting on that one. It was just lucky timing, the Golden hour did all the hard work!
I wish you the best for your eye surgery, Babsje – I had cataracts removed a little over a year ago and it changed my life. Hopefully, you will be able to return to all of your favorite activities. As for animals, yes, they feel everything. I rescued a robin from some netting and he often came back to see me; I used to feed a little female squirrel and she would come up behind me in the garden and clear her throat to let me know she was there and then hop onto the wall to get her nuts. And my sweet Pixie poodle has a huge range of emotions that she expresses with her eyes, her voice and her body language.
Hi Lynn – I adore the anecdotes that you’ve posted here, thanks so much! Your Robin and little Squirrel are definitely heartwarming examples of inter-species communication. And I have enjoyed reading about Pixie on your own blog – what a beautiful being she is. And thanks also for your well wishes about my eyes – I had my own cataracts out in 2021. One thing I noticed afterwards was a change in colors. I bet you noticed that as well?
Pixie is special, she’s a rascal and so sensitive all at the same time. Yes, the color change was dramatic, going from sepia tone to full spectrum color.
Yes she is, as was Angel before her! And that color improvement was so remarkable. I noticed it in greens and blues the most. It significantly affected Claude Monet after his surgery that he changed his palette in a noticeable way.
I am almost certain that the higher animals can show a minimum of emotions as you yourself indicate. Others may see it as the result of a strong instinct. By the way, the key question is: “from when do we speak of “emotions”…?
Hi Rudi – thanks for your thought-provoking comments. How do we differentiate between emotion and instinct? Sentient beings can have both, no? And with plants – take the example of a plant that moves to follow the path of the sun. So many questions.
Not to forget the way plants and trees communicatie underground via their roots. Is it intelligence or not…. at least these are reactions of the plants to the surroundings.
Hi Rudi – Yes, you’re right. The below-ground communication between trees using their vast root systems is amazing! I’m glad you mentioned that example.
Beautiful photos. I heard my dogs earlier disputing whether or not humans have emotions.
Hi Martha – ok, you win the internet today – best comment ever, thanks!
Good to see you are back. I take it things went well? Can you see better?
Hi Phyllis – thanks so much for your empathetic comment. Actually there was an admin mistake that pushed it from March 28 to May 23, so nothing has happened just yet. Patience is still the word of the day!
Patience, prayer and trust in God.
Will keep you in my prayers. ;0)
Many thanks for your kindness, Phyllis!
I’ve read articles and seen documentaries about animals and emotion, because humans gauge it by expression and body language, many don’t realize how much animals do have both wild and domestic, even farm animals. My dog shows great emotion when I leave home to go on errands and if he’s left on his own in my room. It’s very well known that both cats and dogs offer emotional support to many people who live with PTSD, they have a calming effect and provide joy to children with a variety impairments that change their lives. Even my cat, a 15 year old female that is very attached to me is distressed if she’s in a position where she’s closed in a room or closet without my knowing it. In fact there is a new study in Greater Good Magazine that shares the commonalities between human and animal emotions, it’s fascinating. I’m glad you’ll only need two surgeries, patience is the word.
Hi Laura – thanks very much for your thoughtful observations. You’re right about body language and our interpretation of the animal’s expressions. I remember a friend proudly pointing out a Great Blue Heron standing at attention showing what they interpreted to be a calm pose when in fact an experienced observer would correctly surmise the Heron was alarmed and about to flee. It takes a little practice to be able to interpret, but as you point out, our cats and dogs and even farm animals can communicate their emotions in a wide range of body languages. Thanks for mentioning that study in a Greater Good Magazine and also for your kind well wishes!
Oh and your images are just beautiful, light and water are magical.
Hi Laura – aw, thanks for the lovely compliments! Glad you enjoy the photos.
Super action shots with wonderful light on the water droplets, Babsje. Wishing you all the best for successful eye surgeries. 🙂
Many thanks for your lovely comment Jane. I was pleased at capturing those water droplets, I had no idea until the image downloaded from the camera – surprises like that are fun. I’ve also been enjoying your own recent posts and photos of the stunning desert blooms from all that California rain. So different from the iconic California scenery. And thanks also for the eye well wishes. I am an impatient patient.
These Herons are so amazing. This Heron is swallowing this fish ..Thanks for sharing your images. Anita
Many thanks, Anita! Yes, that Heron must have said to herself “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” It took her more than half an hour to maneuver the fish into position so she could swallow it whole. Im glad you enjoyed this series.
I am so hopeful for the happy outcome of your impending surgery, Babse!
As for birds, living with them, they have taught me a lot about human behavior. But one area my little Zebra Finches seem to excel in is letting go. They have their fights and disagreements, but they are soon over. And they seem to be able to show compassion for one another. I have had a perfectly healthy bird snuggle up to one that’s been injured or isn’t feeling well.
As for wild birds, I have always thought that they respond to praise. If you approach a creature, human or other, in love, the response always seems to be a positive one. As much as birds don’t want to be “noticed” I do think they do at times appreciate it! Or are at least curious.
Hi Lisa – I adore hearing about your Finches and I like your examples of the way they show compassion towards each other – the idea of a healthy one snuggling up to an injured Finch is heartwarming. And I agree with your observations about approaching a wild creature or a human with love. Whenever I spend time out with the Herons or wildlife, whether photographing or just visiting, I always say a special “Thank you” as I am departing. I don’t take encounters with them for granted. Also many thanks for your hopeful wishes about my eyes. Fingers crossed!
I am absolutely positive the herons know your intent and they accept your thanks. Interspecies communication is most sacred.
Thank you Lisa, I like to believe so. Inter-species communication is often so much richer than we realize. This post is a story of a Heron who was rescued from near-certain death and a day after the rescue, the Heron did a low and slow fly-by over the boat of the rescuer, so close that she almost grazed his shoulder. I’m certain the Heron was saying “Thank you ” https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2021/07/20/happy-ending-to-beautiful-great-blue-heron-rescue/
That certainly is a happy face that you captured.
Many thanks, Dan! That gleam in Heron’s eye speaks volumes. She managed to swallow that pike after more than 30 minutes of maneuvering. I bet she didn’t need to eat for days.
Nothing like a fresh fish dinner.
Yep, although it would be even better with one of those cervezas that are served up on occasion over at your delightful blog. 🍺
I have no scientific evidence, but am convinced that our “more than human” friends and relatives on this planet (after all, we are all related) feel emotion.
Thanks Denzil, I’m sure you’re right. There is so much we humans still have to learn about the many forms of “intelligence” demonstrated by the other earthly life forms – animals and plants.
I can’t get enough of your stunning photos 🌹🙏 I can imagine how you feel when you get them in front of your lense.
Thank you very much for your generous compliments. It is indeed amazing and grounding and a meditation to float in the kayak out with the Herons and Egrets and Hawks and more. I have been blessed to be able to partake.
Glad to hear you will only need two surgeries. No wonder the herons are smiling! 🙂
I adore your phrasing “no wonder the Herons are smiling,” big smiles here at reading your comment. Thank you.