Category Archives: Feathers

Beautiful Great Blue Heron Glamour Shot and Focus on Feathers

Great blue heron head-shot in the cove.

Head-shot of Great Blue Heron preening – babsjeheron

Look, you might as well know, this thing
is going to take endless repair: rubber bands,
crazy glue, tapioca, the square of the hypotenuse.
Nineteenth century novels. Heartstrings, sunrise:
all of these are useful. Also, feathers.

Barbara Kingsolver
“Hope, An Owner’s Manual”
(excerpt)

How many different types of feathers do you see in this next detailed image?

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

Great Blue Heron Feathers – Detail – babsjeheron

“Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.” 

~ Albert Einstein

Great blue heron , detail of neck feathers.

Great Blue Heron, detail of neck feathers – babsjeheron

While most people are readily aware of the magnificent wingspan of the Great Blue Heron, the beauty of Heron feathers isn’t simply limited to those huge wings. There are a number of less prominent but still stunning feathers, some arranged in intricate patterns.

The photo detail crop shown above is one I have always liked because of the way it reveals the lovely pattern of a Great Blue Heron’s neck feathers. Here, the Heron has her bill tucked behind a wing, and her neck juts out prominently, showing off the symmetrical pattern of feathers running the length of the neck,

This next photo shows some other great blue feather patterns. Can you guess where on the heron these are found?

Great blue heron feather patterns.

Great Blue Heron feather patterns – babsjeheron

Location of feathers shown – clockwise, from top left:

immature wing,
adult lower neck,
adult upper neck,
adult upper back,
immature shoulder patch.

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

Great Blue Heron Feather – babsjeheron

Red is grey and yellow white,
but we decide which is right,
and which is an illusion.

Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed

The feather shown in the top pane here is the same feather as that shown at bottom. Both photos were taken on the same day, with the same camera and lens, within minutes of each other. Only the background colors have been changed. Its a natural optical illusion.

Some fascinating examples of ‘color illusions’ such as this can be found at Brain Den. Enjoy!

Question: How do Great Blue Herons fly when they’re molting?

Answer: Awkwardly.

And what tutorial on feathers is complete without at least mentioning the molt?

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

Great Blue Heron molting – babsjeheron

Some birds molt by dropping most of their feathers at the same time, and then go into hiding while the new feathers are coming in.

As you can see from the above photo, this young Great Blue Heron has only dropped a full layer of wing feathers already. For comparison, the photo here below shows the intact wing feathers.

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

Great Blue Heron wings for comparison with wings in molt – babsjeheron

It was a treat to observe the molting young Great Blue Heron that summer. Birds in molt tend to make themselves scarce, hiding away until they have regained solid flight, to keep safe from predators. This young Heron chose my favorite cove as a hideout, and so I was able to photograph for a couple of weeks, well-hidden in a natural-cover blind along the shore.

The Heron was able to fly while missing that layer of feathers, but lifting off and gaining altitude seemed slow and clumsy compared to the Heron’s usual gracefulness. Coming in for a landing was also awkward – with fewer heathers to act as “brakes.” If you look closely at the top photo here, you can see that the Heron’s neck and head feathers are all erect. That isn’t a configuration that’s part of their usual landing, and I had the impression that the bird was straining to use all of its feathers – even neck feathers – to land.

Great Blue Herons have special downy feathers that crumble and create a powdery substance they use to clean their other feathers. While the powder down feathers are most comminly mentioned as occurring on the Heron’s chest, I believe that the bright white bands you see in the top photo give a good look at other layers of these special feathers.

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This post is prompted by the Lens Artist ladies (Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya) and Cee Neuner, all of whom encourage the community. This week, the Lens Artists focus on gorgeous photos with the theme of Your Inspiration. It is no secret that a Great Blue Heron is my muse and an inspiration. The poet William Stafford wrote an exquisite poem about muses, “When I Met My Muse.” My reading of that poem is that our muse lives inside each of us. For me, the muse is the Great Blue Heron within. As Stafford wrote

“. . . I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

When I Met My Muse [excerpt]
Poem by William Stafford
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .
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Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Blue.

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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 they need your love.

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

2015 (May), 2016 (March and July), 2018 (May, June, July), 2019 (December), 2020 (January) several one-woman photography shows at TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
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2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
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2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
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2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
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From December 4 through January 28, 2020, 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.

Many of the photos in the exhibit were shown for the first time, and do not appear on the blog. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.
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Thanks to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place is where the Herons are, of course it is. And the Herons? Their place is near the water, but also on the gallery walls and my blog. How else can I share them with you?

Thanks also to Ben H and WordPress for their WPC Challenge: Liquid. The Herons are drawn to water, as am I.
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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, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

And Have You Changed Your Life?

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

The Swan (excerpt)
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Mary Oliver

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

Two Mute Swans Aloft

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

Two Mute Swans change their course, their life.

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This week’s photo challenge is cover art. We were challenged to offer a photo to be used as the cover for a book. The two photos in this post could be used as the front and back covers for Mary Oliver’s exquisite Swan poetry. Her line “and have you changed your life” is shown in the course change of the two swans between the first and second photos. Perhaps they are taking a road less traveled in the second frame? The proposed book cover intentionally has no title or text on either front or back, they would display only on the book’s spine. Thanks to Pete R and WordPress for this topic.

Thanks also to Leanne Cole and Laura Mackey for hosting the Monochrome Madness challenge. These photos are actually in color, they have not been manipulated to simulate black & white. I love it when nature presents us her monochrome palette – there is something evocative about layered grey skies.
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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)

Mute Swan, Kayaking

What Empties Itself

The maple’s green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

Jane Hirshfield
A Hand (excerpt)
Given Sugar, Given Salt

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

Great Blue Heron in the rain,

The squall snuck up on me – and the Great Blue Heron – without warning. One minute, a noticeable increase in the breeze, the next, the rains. The kayak scudded on small whitecaps before I brought her under control. The sun kept shining faintly through thin layers of clouds, and I looked for a rainbow, to no avail.

And the Great Blue Heron? She remained rooted to the upturned limb throughout, enduring wind and waterdroplets as the blue kayak and I danced on waves further out in the cove.

Instinctively, I dropped the camera below decks where it was dry, and watched the heron through (waterproof) binocs.

Surely she would go elsewhere in search of shelter? But no, she remained stoic, preening impassively, water sluicing from her feathers.

Just as leaves on a tree shed the rain.

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This week’s photo challenge is endurance. Thanks to Krista and WordPress for this topic. If the heron could endure the rain, so could I. My camera gear is not waterproof, but I had the next best thing – a DIY camera housing improvised on the spot. I placed the camera in a large zip-top plastic baggie, tore a hole that snugly fit the lens opening, and took dozens of photos during the rain, with occasional pauses to wipe water droplets from the lens.

This week’s Sue’s challenge is hole. Although this photo doesn’t show the hole, it could not have been taken without a hole for the lens.
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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, Kayaking

To Sit and Wait is as Important as to Move

The thing is to be attentively present. 
To sit and wait is as important as to move.
Patience is as valuable as industry.
What is to be known is always there.
When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance.
The only condition is your being there and being watchful.

Wendell Berry
The Long-Legged House

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

Great Blue Heron’s erect back feathers stand on edge as a form of territorial dialogue.

“To sit and wait is as important as to move” could be a universal mantra for nature photographers, one I was actively practicing Friday from a secluded hide in the cove as the Great Blue Heron sunned herself on the half-submerged logs.

Unexpectedly, however, after half an hour of lazing about, she darted across the narrow channel and launched herself skyward to the west in a flurry of feathers and sqwaks.

Just as she was aloft, an alpha male in hot pursuit swooped down from the east to claim his territory in the cove. I eagerly panned the camera from my hiding place, trying without success to capture the fray, trying and failing to get both birds in a single frame.

The female vanquished from his turf, the male stood on the shore where he had landed – not ten feet away from me – and gazed after her disappearing form.

Only after a few minutes had passed did he turn around, and only then did he see me right there.

The tension was palpable. He stood stock still for a moment, sizing up the human interloper floating in his turf, and then started to erect his back feathers in a territorial display as if to tell me the cove is his.

I have watched this sort of feather display before, but it was always aimed at another heron. This time, though, it was unmistakably targeted at me.

It was a silent dialogue between heron and human about who’s the alpha bird.

I let the heron win.

How could I not?

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This week’s photo challenge is dialogue. Thanks to Frederic B and WordPress for this topic.

Thanks once again to Ailsa for her Weekly Travel Theme: Edge 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

A Languid Grace

Sometimes in stillness – 
When no one is looking –
She unfurls herself.
A languid grace.

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

Great Blue Heron wing


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This week’s photo challenge is fray. Thanks to John G and WordPress for this topic.

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

Thanks to the kind folks at 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

Wearing Water and Slowness

You will remember that leaping stream
where sweet aromas rose and trembled,
and sometimes a bird, wearing water
and slowness, its winter feathers.

Pablo Neruda
Love Sonnet IV (excerpt)
100 Love Sonnets

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

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Great Blue Heron feathers fray and yet still retain their beauty.

Frayed chest feathers are combed with a specially adapted claw, and a whitish powder down dusting protects the heron from oils and surface scum from the water. After a Great Blue Heron takes a birdbath, a filmy white coating of powder down often remains behind floating on the water. A heron taking a bath is an amusing sight to behold.

This week’s photo challenge is fray. Thanks to John G and WordPress for this topic.

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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

The Closest Inspection

Nature will bear the closest inspection.

Henry David Thoreau
The Natural History Essays

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

View more Egret photos here.

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This week’s photo challenge is the texture of things. Thanks to Natalia and WordPress for this topic.

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

Thanks to the kind folks at 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)

Egret, Great Egret

Who’s a Shy Boy?

Great Blue Heron feathers in a herringbone pattern.

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

Great Blue Heron – neck detail.

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This week’s photo challenge is things that zig and zag. Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for this topic.

Thanks also to Ed for his Sunday Stills topic Face Time.

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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

Years Ago, Before I Knew it was Illegal…

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

Years ago, I gathered these great blue heron aigrette feathers, which I treasure.
Here’s a graceful post about posessing feathers in The View From Kestrel Hill.

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Thanks to the kind folks at Wordless Saturday.

Thanks also to Krista Stevens and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure. (I treasure these feathers, one of which is my blog’s masthead art.)

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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, Feathers

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