Category Archives: Feathers on Friday

Black Bird, Red Boat & Selfie

If Red Boat were a horse, she would have pawed the ground, then reared up on her hind legs and snorted.

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

Great blue heron being pestered by redwinged blackbird, shown at top left and far right.

The red kayak and I were out on the lake before 7am that day, an inaugural dawn paddle, the earliest ever out for us.

The water was as smooth as a mirror when first we paddled towards the north end of the cove, and abundant water lilies helped tame the red boat’s natural urge to take me on wild donut-spiral spins. (Whitewater boats aren’t designed for flatwater.)

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

While playboats aren’t engineered for lakes, this one watched many great blue herons with me.

I meandered north and then east, hugging the shoreline, binoculars in hand, a sweet paddle.

It had been unseasonably hot the past few days – in the 90s – but the weather broke overnight, plunging back into the 60s, and everything seemed frisky – birch leaves and the willows swaying in the breeze, red-winged blackbirds exultant in flight, ducks splashing in the shallows.

The goldfinches were playing tag, flitting from island to shore and back, and mother duck led a conga-line of ducklings into the reeds. Several schools of small sunfish darted just below the surface near the shore. No wonder the great blue herons like it there.

The red boat and I rounded the point near the corner of Cove Road, headed east. We paused a few minutes to read the water.

No longer glassy-smooth, the surface had darkened, becoming angry-looking, and the wind picked up from the east. If Red Boat were a horse, she would have pawed the ground, then reared up on her hind legs and snorted. As it was, she spun a couple of 360s and whispered “Danger!” in my ears all the while we carved circles.

The wind abated and that’s when I heard it – the first loud frawhnk from the south, and saw the long loping wingflaps of a heron skimming close to the surface, headed towards the center of the lake.

Within seconds came the call of three more frawhnks, this time from overhead. Even the big herons were frisky in the cooler air, chasing each other across the lake, round the bend, then climbing back skywards.  One passed directly over my head, circled east and back right overhead again – frawhnk, frawhnk, frawhnnnnk – then circled back to my cove.

Red Boat and I followed at a discrete distance, lagging behind to let the heron settle in.

Arriving at the end of the cove, we came around from behind the small island, binocs in hand, to find… no heron in sight. Not in the reeds, nor the trees, nor behind the lush green waterplants.

No photos of the great blue soaring this dawn, but it was never about the photos anyway.

We tarried a while, watching the ducklings and fish, admiring wild purple irises in the vegetation, and the gorgeous ball-like water lily buds, then paddled for home.

Five cormorants perched on our swimming float were a welcome home committee.

I maneuvered the red boat gingerly up to the shore, coming alongside a half-submerged log that’s an impromptu dock these days, and poled her into position with my paddle like a gondolier pushing his boat.

It was then that I heard it, from directly behind me, not 8 feet away – the frawhnk, frawhnk calls, as a heron glided by me so close, so close.

I was thinking then that the red boat and I would need to do more dawn paddles.

We had a hailstorm that night, with marble-size hail pellets that entirely blanketed the yard. The lightning strikes took out the isp connection, offering up an unplugged weekend. What a welcome respite that was.

After the hailstorm that night, Belle, the brindle-colored terrier-hound, howled a duet for an hour with a coyote that was lurking somewhere along the shoreline. Very eerie – the coyote’s call the sort of sound that makes a person sit bolt upright in bed at 3AM and the little hairs on the nape of the neck stand straight up.

The next morning, another dawn outing on the lake. I took along a thermos of coffee and some oatmeal with maple syrup and had breakfast nestled under a white birch in the northeast side of the cove.

The birds seemed unscathed from the hailstorm – ducklings and cygnets getting bigger by the week, and I watched a grackle carrying a large plump earthworm back to the nest.

A Red Winged Blackbird pestered a heron that had landed too close to a nest – very aggressive blackbird to take on a creature so very much larger.

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

The photographer.

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This week, Cheri and WordPress challenged us to post a selfie. Mine is elusive, as it should be. Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie.

Thanks to Paula for her Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge

Thanks once more to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday challenge.

Thanks yet again to Cee for her Fun Foto Challenge: Large prompt. (Difficult to believe that the heron and the blackbird are both birds, the heron is so very large compared to the blackbird, just as a Great Dane compares to a Toy Poodle.)

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Still prompt. (People who understand the hull design of various kayaks will understand why the Red Boat spun me around in donut-circles. It is nearly impossible to keep a playboat still on flatwater like the lake.)

Thanks to Petrel41 for this post about Red Winged Blackbirds

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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, Red Winged Blackbird

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Peregrine Falcon & Selfie

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

This peregrine falcon is part of a breeding program.
Click here to see more photos from the wildlife rehabilitation center.

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

The photographer reflected in the falcon’s eye.

This week, Cheri and WordPress challenged us to post a selfie. Mine is small and subtle, but one from a favorite genre: images reflected in eyes.

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Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie.

Thanks once more to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday 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)

Peregrine Falcon

Object of her Affection

One August day, I realized that our two-year-old male had lost his right hand.

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

Great blue heron stretching his damaged wing.

Above the “wrist,” the bone structure of a great blue heron’s wing is a little bit similar to our arms.

From the wrist down, it’s an entirely different story, but if you look closely at a detailed photo of an outstretched heron’s wing, the most outward feathers appear to be the heron-equivalent of hands and fingers. When about to land, in fact, the heron has the ability to cup the “hands” and “fingers” independently of the bulk of the wing, curving them forward to slow it’s landing speed. 

The previous weekend, while watching him in the cove, I noticed that the leading edge of one of his wings looked a little ragged. It was difficult to see clearly from my position in the kayak in the natural-cover blind. He kept his wings tucked along his sides as he fished from a partly-submerged log as usual, and the binocular angle was awkward.

At the time, I thought perhaps it was just that he was molting still.

But the nagging question bothered me – would he molt his entire set of large hand feathers all at the same time?

I looked at the many photos from recent sessions in the cove with him and couldn’t tell definitively if it was molt or not. There was something white out of place, a shaft-like projection that could have been a feather’s quill shaft, but with the actual feather fronds stripped off, but that was just a guess.

The photos from that August afternoon proved me wrong: he had some sort of traumatic amputation and lost his right wing’s hand.

My heart was in my throat watching him as he stretched out his wounded wing. I felt sad beyond words, anxious for his long-term survival, wondering how the injury would affect his migration.

How did fare? Click here to see his amorous antics with the object of his affection.

And as for me? I am smitten by this plucky heron.

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Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Object. Cheri challenged us this week with the word “object.” Is an object of one’s affection ok for this topic? I hope so, because this great blue heron certainly fits the bill.)

Thanks to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday 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, Kayak Birding

Beauty and a Beastly Background

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

Great blue heron by shadow of chain link fence.

Although you wouldn’t be able to tell from the photo gallery in this blog, I’ve long been fascinated by incongruous scenes, where great blue herons or egrets appear with unexpected objects or backgrounds, ones we don’t usually associate with natural beauty. Since my first paying photography gig was hanging a show for Diane Arbus, it might be easy to understand the seeds of that fascination.

This week, Michelle W has challenged us with the concept of juxtaposition, and so the photo here has a beautiful great blue heron striding atop the rocks in front of the shadow of a broken down chain link fence.

She’s a beauty by a beast of a background.

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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition.

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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

Teachable Moments

Nature vs Nurture?

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

Great blue heron fledgling perched in tree.
Is he calling out “Feed me!” to it’s mother?

How much of what a baby heron needs to master for survival is instinct, and how much is behavior learned from its family?

Until a heron chick fledges and leaves the nest, almost all of its food comes from the parents, who bring it back to the nest. I say “almost all” because the chicks can poke about for insects and grubs while in the nest, but they can’t catch fish there.

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

Great blue heron mother models how to fish for her fledgling.

In more than a decade of heron watching, there have been a handful of occasions where I have witnessed a parent heron “teaching” a fledgling once it has left the nest. The photos in today’s post are from one of those times.

In this instance, the mother heron patiently “modeled” fishing behavior for her fledgling. She stood motionless in the sheltered curve of the shoreline, until she caught the attention of the fledgling. The fledgling watched intently for a while, and then took a flying leap up and over the mother, and curved mid-air back around to land on the lowest branch of a tree. Once there, it frawhnked loudly a couple of times. Perhaps it was saying “Feed me!” to Mom, a few yards away on the shore?

The mother heron flew off to the west after the fledgling started calling out, and after three or four minutes, the fledgling took off in pursuit.

As quickly as possible, I followed suit in my kayak. After about ten minutes of hard stroking, I found both mother and child foraging along the northern shoreline about a mile a way.

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

Great blue heron fledgling follows it’s mother along the shore, learning how to forage.

The fledgling followed the mother along the shore, watching her at times and occasionally poking in the muck at others. The mother was careful to keep moving, and didn’t let the fledgling get too close.

When the fledgling landed it’s first fish, I wanted to cry out in joy, “Way to go baby bird!”

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Thanks to Josh R and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Family.

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™

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

Great Blue Heron, Fledgling

Freshly Fledged in the Cove

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

Great blue heron fledgling being joined by it’s mother in the cove.

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Thanks to Josh R and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Family.

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

Thanks to the fine folks at Wordless Saturday

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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, Fledgling

70 Wonderful Great Blue Heron Nests

The man sat cross-legged on the sidewalk that skirted the perimeter along the water’s edge. In his lap, a pen and notebook. Pressed against his glasses, the eyepiece of an antique spyglass. Someone else might have used a modern telescope.

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

How many playful great blue fledglings will we see in 2014?

Herons are ancient, their ancestors appearing 40 million years ago, and so it seemed fitting for him to have an old spyglass trained on the nesting island, instead of a newfangled telescope.

He was alternately looking through the eyepiece and jotting down notes in his book when I walked around the bend. We were strangers, but curiosity got the better of me and I interrupted his writing to ask what he was looking at.

“Great blue herons. Mothers and chicks, in nests on the island. There are about 60 pairs of herons nesting on the island.”

I shyly asked if I could take a quick peek, and in the instant my own eye peered through the spyglass, an entirely new world opened up. It was stunning. I was left wordless by the first vision of an adult with a chick – the graceful curve of the adult’s neck, their golden eyes, subtly shaded grey-blue feathers, the adorable cap feathers of the fluffy chick, all of it.

And thus it deepened, my love affair with great blue herons.

In a couple of recent posts, I’ve written about that nesting island. If you’ve missed them, click here, and here, and here to catch up.)

For eleven years, I had lived across from the Eastern end of the waters, and from my balcony and on walks along the shoreline, I had watched the comings and goings of a stream of herons at certain times of the day. In the mornings, they headed away from the island as though on their way to work, later to return with fish for their offspring. They flew in wave after wave after wave thoughout the day.

More than 10 years had passed since that accidental sidewalk encounter, and I was curious about the number of herons still nesting on the island. I painstakingly photographed the length of the island from the only accessible vantage point, the South, in May, 2011, and captured 32 nests – remarkable since I had no access to the Northern exposure.

Out of curiosity, today I found a satellite image of the island taken exactly one month before my panorama. The herons and/or their nests stand out starkly in this next image.

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

Can you count the great blue herons’ nests on the island in this satellite view?

By my informal count, there are at least 70 nests and/or herons visible in that satellite view. My heart leaps with joy at their numbers.

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Thanks to Cheri Rowlands Lucas and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginnings. (By my count, there are more than 70 great blue heron nests on the island. That’s a whole lot of new beginnings.)

Thanks to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday challenge.

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Possibility challenge. (With that many nests, the island reeks with the possibilities fir new life.)

Thanks to Cee for her Fun Foto Challenge: Preoccupied prompt. (Yes, I am definitely preoccupied with this island and her herons.)

Thanks to Sue for her A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Yellow prompt. (Great Blue Herons have such amazing yellow eyes and bills!)

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™

(This photo was taken May 1, 2011.)

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

Great Blue Heron

Beautiful Great Blue Herons Beginning their Nest

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

Great blue herons beginning to build their new nest with a huge branch.

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Thanks to Cheri Rowlands Lucas and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginnings challenge.

Thanks to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday challenge.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Where’s My Backpack: Birds challenge.

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

Thanks to the kind folks at Wordless Saturday.

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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™

(This photo was taken May 19, 2011.)

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

Great Blue Heron, Nest Builging

Plucky Great Blue Heron’s Happy Ending

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

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

Young male great blue heron in display while approaching an older
female heron in the cove. To read the original post, please click here.

The female watched, unmoving, unthreatened. For the duration of his approach, she stood entirely still save for a slight shift in the angle of her head, in my direction as I sat equally motionless in the kayak.

This was one of the stories of the young Romeo heron chasing after his Juliette.

I know that some readers were wondering about the survival of the great blue heron who epically and heroically swallowed the two-foot-long pike. (Please click here in case you missed that series of posts.)

The female heron being pursued by the young male shown in the photo in this post is the same bird that swallowed the huge pike. The chase scene described in this post took place almost three years after the drama of the ginormous pike.

Plilpala51 noted in a comment on that epic post that the heron would be fine.

And she was.

I have seen her every summer since that 2007 saga.

I love happy endings.

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Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge. (This was an amazingly intimate encounter with these two great blue herons, a very special outimg in the cove for me.)

Thanks to Ailsa for her Weekly Travel Theme: Still prompt. (The older female heron was a study in stillness, unmoving in the face of the onslaught from the younger male.)

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

Thanks once more to Prairiebirder Charlotte for her Feathers on Friday 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

Great Blue Heron’s Grand Fish Adventure

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

Great blue heron trying to grasp the grand fish.

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

Great blue heron uses body English while begging for fish from the fisherman.
(Please click here to read Part 1 of this fish tale if you missed it.)

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

Great blue heron with fishing line flying over it’s head, left.
At right, catching a small bait fish tossed by the fisherman.

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

Great blue heron looking beneath the surface to find the large fish tossed to her by
the fisherman. She finds it, grasps it (as seen in the first photo at the top of
this post), then finally comes back up to the surface triumphantly clutching the prize fish.

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

She carries the fish down the shore, then washes it in the water before lifting back out.

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

She tries to swallow the huge fish, then puts it back in the water before trying again to swallow it.

There are times when a heron tries to eat a fish that is simply too large. When that happens, sometimes the heron gives up, and abandons the fish. Sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, the consequences can be serious, and not just for the fish.

To be continued…

(This post is the second part of a series. If you missed the first part, please click here to read Part 1.)

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Thanks once more to Prairiebirder Charlotte for her Feathers on Friday prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for her Weekly Travel Theme: Still prompt. (When the fisherman tossed the enormous fish to the waiting great blue heron, I gasped, silently. While the heron attempted to eat the fish, I sat stock-still in my kayak, not daring to move lest the heron get spooked and choke on the fish.)

Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand prompt. She asked for jaw dropping, grand. The great blue heron literally dropped her jaw at the sight of the grand fish being reeled in, and my jaw dropped as the rest of this story unfolded that day.)

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

Thanks to Sue Llewellyn for her Word A Week Photography Challenge: Shadow challenge. I shadowed the heron for a long time, in order to make sure it wasn’t harmed by the fishing line or hooks. It is not recommended to get so close or feed any wild animals, but this bird was obviously already familiar with fishermen as food sources before that day.

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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™

(These photos were taken October 7, 2007.)

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

Great Blue Heron, Fishing, Kayaking

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