Category Archives: Ecology

Cleanup on Aisle 17 – Look Who’s Helping Marge

Look who’s helping Marge clean up the lake.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Wonder what this Great Blue Heron is thinking.

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Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for their Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers. The plastic bag being held by this Great Blue Heron at one point contained something large, larger than a king-sized pillow to be sure. Allow me a non-sequitur of sorts. A kayaking friend, Margie, has been paddling the lake for many years, and each time she goes out, she makes a point of retrieving as much trash as she can carry back on her kayak. (Sometimes that trash is in the form of sodden dollar bills, but I digress.) Last weekend, she retrieved one of those huge orange barrels traditionally used to block off traffic lanes that had somehow tumbled down the hillside and into the lake. (Wish I had a photo of that barrel perched on her kayak’s bow.) A few weeks before that, Marge rescued a fledgling heron chick that was spluttering and splashing in the water. (Really, really wish I had a photo of that rescue.) Margie is one of my heroes for that.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for hosting the Wild Bird Wednesday challenge.

Thanks to Wordless Wednesday for the Wordless Wednesday challenge.
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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Ecology

Cleanup in Aisle 11 with Great Blue Heron

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron holding a huge plastic bag she pulled from the muck along the shore.

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Thanks to Wordless Wednesday for the Wordless Wednesday challenge.

Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Community prompt. She asked for photos that speak to the topic of “community.” Our community has wonderful volunteer groups that perform cleanups of the rivers, ponds, and lakes in the Charles River Watershed. Volunteers pilot their boats with crews of others, and they comb the shores for debris. As you can see from the photo in this post, even the wildlife helps in the cleanup. Although the photo has an amusing aspect, plastic trash such as the huge bag shown are a serious danger to shorebirds, who can choke on or become entangled. More to come in a future post.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Pollution

Paved Paradise?

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

John Muir
The Mountains of California

Great blue heron yearling fishing in the reeds.

Great blue heron yearling fishing in the reeds.

Joni Mitchell wrote about how they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” and John Muir wrote of beauty being found “wherever it is really seen.”

Not all of my outings at the lake yield great blue heron photographs, or even sightings. At certain times of the year, such as during their molt and nesting phases, fewer herons are to be seen at the lake. The day the above photo was taken was during the nesting period, and despite visiting all of the usual places at the lake, I left empty-handed after several hours.

That day, I decided to treat myself to Chinese dinner at Lotus Flower, and walked there from the lake. The route I took meandered past a huge mall, and a large movie theater complex. It crossed through the parking lot of another smaller mall anchored by a big box store and huge bookseller, and then across the road to cut through the parking lot of yet another ginormous retailer.

Lots of paved parking lots weree traversed that day.

Great blue heron yearling fishing in the reeds - eye detail.

Great blue heron yearling fishing in the reeds – eye detail.

As I crossed the road to the final lot, I saw it there in a small drainage pond: a young great blue heron fishing in the reeds. Who knew that a pond created solely to catch runoff from the paved parking lots would morph into a small ecosystem that supported a variety of life forms? I had seen generations of Canada geese, Mallard ducks, and frogs in the pond over the years, but this was the first time I had noticed a heron. Since then, I’ve seen one other heron fishing there, and there are possibly others at times.

Because of real-estate constraints of my blog, it’s difficult to see the heron’s eye, and so here’s a detail head-shot.

Circling back to John Muir, he wrote that “Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen.”

I know that I saw beauty in the eye of the heron as it fished in the pond that day, and I believe the great blue heron’s eyes saw beauty in that pond, as well.

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Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge nudge.

Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated. (In this photo, I like his the green grasses and yellow flowers are so much more saturated than the heron and water.)

Thanks again to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Birds challenge.

And thanks also to Michelle for the Weekly Pet Challenge Roundup nudge.

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(This took place June 2010)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

All that Glitters is not Gold – Feathers on Friday and Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

While those purple flowers may look lovely, their beauty holds a dark secret.

Great blue heron fledgling with purple loosestrife in background.

Great blue heron fledgling with purple loosestrife in background.

This photo of a great blue heron fledgling sunbathing was taken six years ago today. It’s one of my favorites, the heron caught in golden late afternoon sunlight, with lovely purple flowers just out of focus in the background.

While those flowers may look lovely, their beauty’s secret is dark – they’re an invasive species called Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), that spread from Europe to North America.

The flowers make an attractive background for shoreline photography, and attract insects that are a popular food source for herons – especially dragonflies. However, the plant chokes wetlands, displacing native vegetation and damaging the ecosystem. According to Mass Audubon, “a single purple loosestrife plant can produce a million or more small seeds that are spread by water and waterfowl.”

An interesting “biocontrol” program to reduce, if not eradicate, purple loosestrife by releasing loosestrife-munching beetles started in Massachusetts in the early 2000s. Released beetles were reported to have the ability to spread as much as 20 miles from their release location according to The Green Blog . Similar biocontrol programs in the UK target Invasive Japanese knotweed by introducing predatory insects, as the BBC reports.

Although this lake was not in close proximity to a beetle release site, by 2008 the program appeared to be showing results here. Just one year after the 2007 photo above, I noted that the purple loosestrife plants had virtually no flowers in the parts of the lake I frequented, just brown spindly dried stalks and some greens at the base, that may or may not have even been other plants entirely.

I noticed a change in the herons’ habits, as a result. The very lovely loosestrife flowers grow on slender stems maybe 4 feet high, and attract dragonflies and other insects that herons like to eat. No loosestrife flowers meant less clumps of tall plants for the herons to hide amongst along the shoreline, and fewer insects-as-food available in those places where they were abundant in summers past. Not that there was a shortage of food for the herons by a long shot, but the disappearance of the loosestrife in those areas caused the herons to move to other areas to forage.

Now, five years after, the purple loosestrife has returned. It is beautiful and vibrant and as menacing to the ecosystem as before. What caused the return?  Did the harsh winter kill off dormant beetles? The extreme heat? I don’t know, I’m not an entomologist.

What I do know is that all that glitters is not gold and not all that looks beautiful is.

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Thanks for the Feathers on Friday nudge, Prairie Birder, and also thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus nudge.

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(This took place August 30, 2007)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Somebody Moved My Habitat – Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreshadow and One Shot Five Ways

Nothing endures but change.

Heraclitus, 540 BC – 480 BC

Great blue heron in front of tunnel arch, 2007.

Great blue heron in front of tunnel arch, 2007.

What makes a photo a cliché? We’ve all seen them, photo scenes or compositions imitated so repeatedly by photographers that they define niche genres.

Photos of bees on echinacea or lily stamens come to mind – those photos are so prolific as to consitute their own memes. Same for damselflies on water lilies, osprey nests on channel markers, huge droopy sunflowers, open-winged butterflies on flowers, and how about those photos of the leaning tower of pizza with a tourist in the frame trying to prop up the tower? [Readers, please chime in via comments with your thoughts on photo clichés/memes.]

I’m not saying that all cliché photos are necessarily bad, and I’m not immune: I, too, have done bees on echinacea, bees in the heart of day lilies, damselflies on water lilies, and others.

Consider the photo at the top of this post: it would be a cliché of the “great blue heron with tall reeds” and of “great blue heron with arched tunnel” genres if the heron was in an upright pose.

As I said, I’m not immune to the occasional cliché, and in the case of the tunnel with heron meme, I’m guilty of shamelessly aiming for the idealized rendition over the years. I’ve sat in the kayak across the lake from the tunnel, hidden undercover for hours watching and waiting for the heron and sunlight to cooperate.

I’m not going to post the various cliché photos from over the years here because what caught my eye last week when I ventured there for the 2013 attempt was a profound change. You can see for yourself in this series, starting with the 2007 frame at the top of this post.

Great blue heron stretching wings near tunnel arch, 2009.

Great blue heron near the tunnel arch, 2009.

Great blue heron fishing near the tunnel arch, 2010.

Great blue heron near the tunnel arch, 2010.

Great blue heron foraging near the tunnel arch, 2011.

Great blue heron near the tunnel arch, 2011.

And in 2013? Wild grasses have invaded the shoreline, starting from the west and moving eastward. This is the 2013 view of the heron and tunnel:

Great blue heron facing tunnel arch hidden by vegetation, 2013.

Somebody moved my habitat: Great blue heron facing tunnel arch hidden by vegetation, 2013.

So, no 2013 “heron by tunnel” meme for me.

Much more important than that is what the wild grass invasion foreshadows for this ecosystem. Time will tell. Stay tuned.

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Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge Krista Stevens, Cheri Lucas Rowlands for the liberties I’ve taken with the Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot Five Ways and WordPress.
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© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

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