Category Archives: Fledgling heron

Catch Me If You Can

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

My heart was in my throat as the older great blue heron bore down on the newly-fledged bird.

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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for their Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts. These two herons are a year apart in age, and share the same parents and nest. The fledgling was only two or three days out of the nest at this time, and his very light coloring contrasts with the more mature plumage of the yearling.

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, Fledgling

Autumn Sun – Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated and Sunday Stills: Birds

The whitewater kayak carved circles in the water whenever I pulled on the paddle too sharply. Seeing the fledgling great blue heron on the eastern shore quickened my pulse, and my paddle strokes.

Great blue heron fledgling in autumn.

Great blue heron fledgling in autumn.

The boat wasn’t designed for flat-water outings, but it was the only one I had that autumn afternoon. The kayak was overly-nimble, and at times it seemed like merely turning my head too quickly would also turn the boat. When I saw the heron out of the corner of my eye, my head turned in that direction automatically, and instinctively I dug in the paddle to set a course for that end of the cove.

“Wheeeee!” I thought to myself as the kayak spun full donuts on the otherwise smooth waters, around and around.

The kayak stopped spinning and I adjusted my touch, with feather-light strokes of the blades planted less deeply in the water. I settled in amongst the surface vegetation to the west of Monkey Island to stabilize the kayak, and waited for the ripples to subside.

The fledgling foraged in the shallows, and stood there for quite a while basking in the warming rays of the late afternoon sun.

It was a good day for being alive.

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

Thanks also to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Birds prompt.

The topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is “saturated.” The photo included in this post is one of the more saturated of my heron photos because of the bright late-afternoon autumn sun.

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(This took place November 9, 2008)

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

Grow Grow Grow Your Boat – Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated and Sunday Stills: Birds

Entirely unaware of the fledgling great blue heron beside the boat garden, stalking him with increasing speed, the yearling heron plied the shoreline. Perhaps it was his curiosity about the fire pit in front of the Adirondack chairs that led him to put his guard down?

Great blue heron fledgling in territorial display by boat garden.

Great blue heron fledgling in territorial display by boat garden.

A favorite location for photographing herons is the sunken boat garden shown in this photo. Each year, the property owners plant something different. One year the boat contained tubs of cherry tomatoes that looked delectable when fully ripe, the bright red of the fruit promising sweetness.

To the south of the boat garden are two hammocks suspended out over the water that look so inviting on sweltering August afternoons. Next door is a tableau of Aridondack chairs gathered near a fire pit, and I can imagine lounging in a hammock while dinner sizzling nearby teases my senses.

Each year, it’s a treat to explore that area of the lake to see what has been planted, and to try for heron photos with the boat garden. Photographing them there is tricky for a couple of reasons. The angle of the sun is good for only a short while each day; it’s in the shadows in the morning and for much of the afternoon the light is too bright and harsh. Even when the light is good, of course there’s no guarantee that there will be any herons plying that section of the cove.

On this day, I was somewhat in luck – there was a yearling great blue heron foraging along the shore to the north of the boat garden. Most great blues follow a consistent direction when fishing along the shore. Just like “mall walkers” who get their exercise by walking a circuit around a mall before the shops open, herons generally pick a direction and follow that direction. That day, it was looking good because the yearling was heading down the shore in the direction of the boat garden.

I settled the kayak into a secluded spot and set up to photograph the heron when it neared the boat garden. And then I waited.

Sometimes no matter how well a photographer plans, the model has others ideas, and this was one of those times. The heron lazily worked his way up to the boat and just when I was ready for shots of the heron moving along in front of the boat, it ducked behind the stern, instead, and proceeded south, obscured by the towering gladiolus in the boat!

All was not lost, I thought to myself, maybe the heron would do something photogenic by the hammocks or the Adirondack chairs and fire pit while the light was still good. I shifted my focus in that direction and waited for the heron to catch up.

It was looking promising for some photos with the chairs, and I had started firing off a few when I heard a slight rustle overhead. I looked up and saw a fledgling great blue heron perching on a limb directly over the beach where the other heron was curiously investigating the fire pit.

The fledgling swooped out of the canopy and landed just to the north of the boat garden and suddenly took on a territorial posture. I have blogged here in the past about fledgling herons in the nest playfully practicng various displays (click here and here) but this was the first time I had seen a fledgling put a genuine territorial display to use against an older, larger heron in a shoreline situation.

Back feathers erect, such as they were at this point in the fledgling’s development, the fledgling strutted down the shore towards the yearling, who was engrossed with the fire pit. A few moments after the photo shown above, though, the older heron caught sight of the aggressive fledgling bearing down on him and burst from the sand out over the water, heading southwest.

The fledgling, having proved his mettle and securing both the beach and his status as an alpha bird, relaxed his pose and spent several minutes exploring the boat garden before eventually flying off to the north.

What a thrilling experience that day, to see a very young great blue heron assert dominance over an older and larger heron.

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

Thanks also to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Birds prompt.

The topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is “saturated.” The photo included in this post is one of the most saturated of my heron photos, which are generally more muted due to the coloration of the birds.

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(This took place September 17, 2011)

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

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Lens – Daily Prompt: Secret of Success

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 
The Little Prince

Great blue heron fledglings in nest in mirror image.

Great blue heron fledglings in nest in mirror image, July 2013.

This is the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the season’s great blue herons chicks have finished fledging, and they can be found plying the shores in some areas more abundantly now than at any other time of year.

It’s an exciting time of year for birdwatchers and nature photographers, alike, as the young herons are less wary than adults, and so more accessible.

In the past week, dozens of new photos of great blue herons and fledglings have been uploaded to the Internet. Some are spectacular photos, yet some of those spectacular shots are scenes where the birds were being endangered unwittingly by the photographers.

This is a critical time of year for the fledglings: between now and autumn migration, they must master all of their survival skills.

The statistics are sobering. As mentioned on the Heron Conservation org’s website:

  • Mortality rates are high in juveniles. In the first year they are 69-71%, decreasing thereafter and with regional differences.
  • Highest postfledging death rates are from August to December, probably related to the difficulty of learning to feed.

I have posted in the past about human encroachment into herons’ space (If The Heron Can Read This, You’re Too Close) and about herons that have become comfortable with (some) humans’ present (Here’s Looking at You, Kid). My blog contains a widget with useful guidance for nature photographers and birders including these and more:

Michelle W requested that we post to answer this specific question, “What would it take for you to consider yourself a “successful blogger”?”

I would consider my blogging successful if I’m able to raise photogrqphers’ consciousness about safe ways to capture those magnificent herons without endangering them.

I’d like to see more people clicking the links to resources for protcting birds in the right-hand column on my blog.

I’d like to see more photographers using appropriately long lenses.

I’d like to see more people shooting from hides or blinds.

I could go on and on, don’t get me started. Oops, too late!

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Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for the Daily Prompt nudge.

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(This took place July, 2013)

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

United States great blue herons fledging

It is so exciting to see the Cornell herons fledging already! As for the herons nesting here, I’m off to check on them today, fingers crossed that the extreme heat this past week wasn’t too hard on the two nestlings. In the meantime, in this earlier post is another link to that heron cam that Petrel41 had posted: http://wp.me/p3sJPz-2L

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video is called Great Blue Herons, Camera host Cornell Lab, beautiful birds,they are courting,4/9/13.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Heron Fledging Has Begun

The first young heron took flight from the nest tree in Sapsucker Woods yesterday just after noon. The fledgling earned the nickname “Uno” from the hundreds of chatters who witnessed the flight on the new Heron Cam 3. Enter our contest to see if you can guess when the final heron will fledge–the winner will be announced on the Bird Cams Facebook page and will receive a 5″ x 7″ print featuring one of the nestling herons!

While you’re waiting for the last nestling to fledge, check out the growing nestlings on the two Osprey cams (Dunrovin and Hellgate). The nests are only about 10 miles apart from one another in western Montana, but the Dunrovin…

View original post 177 more words

The Edge of his Feathers – Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph…

From the poem “Birds”
Pablo Neruda,
Art of Birds

When last the great blue heron nestlings appeared here, they were playfully testing each other with bill duels just like the adults sometimes do in courtship and in face-to-face territorial attacks. At that point in time, they were just over a month old, and learning how their wings worked. As you can see in this photo, the edges of his feathers stand out in stark relief, with far too much daylight between the individual feathers for him to get true lift.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

In this photo and the sequence below, the herons’ play is taking the form of practicing a “forward” display. In case you’re wondering if he’s not simply testing his wings for flight, there are a couple of clues. Notice in the first two frames that his cap feathers are erect. This crest raising display isn’t a sign of an ordinary test flight. In the next five frames, he pivots and turns towards his nestmate, assumes the forward display posture, and follows with wing waving threats. The final clue is this: within one minute of the last frame shown below, he engaged his sibling in another bill duel, grasping the other fledgling’s beak firmly in his bill. Assertiveness training, anyone?

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: getting started by crest raising.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display frames 3-4.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: territorial display frames 5-6.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: forward display.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: territorial display frames 7-8.

As I wrote earlier, I’m glad there are two, keeping each other company and entertained, while serving as practice partners. I imagine it would be very lonely to be only one, sitting alone in a high-up nest waiting to grow in feathers before fledging, expecting to fly.
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Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge, Michelle W and WordPress.
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(This took place July 29, 2012)

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

Expecting to Fly – Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Imagine how lonely it would be to be only one, sitting alone in a high-up nest, waiting to grow in your feathers.

The nestlings are starting to try their wings. It is remarkable and yet I can barely stand to watch. They don’t have enough feathers yet for flight, since they’re only 4 1/2 weeks old, but they roughhouse with each other in amusing ways. 

It has been said that animal babies’ “play” helps develop their survival skills, and my observations of great blue herons over the past decade supports that theory. One form of great blue heron baby play is shown in the photo sequence here. The fledglings thrust and parry, grabbing each other’s beaks in a bill duel similar to that used by adult herons in courtship, and that also helps develop their eye-beak coordination.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: bill dueling.

Great blue heron fledglings at play: bill dueling.

Adult great blue herons are generally solitary creatures when not in mating and nesting season, and the nest play of chicks is one way they can improve their survival odds.

I am glad there are two of them, to keep each other company, and to serve as practice partners. I imagine it would be very lonely to be only one, sitting alone in a high-up nest waiting to grow in feathers before fledging, expecting to fly.

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Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge, Michelle W and WordPress.
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(This took place July 29, 2012)

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

Fleet of Wing, Nimble of Foot – Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Focusing higher, there he was… On a limb twenty feet farther out from the nesting tree… At the tip top, fifteen feet higher than the nest… Which itself was at least seventy feet above the island floor.

The great blue heron nestlings were learning to fly. For a few weeks they had been stretching their wings, furling and unfurling feathers in the tight confines of the nest. They went through a stage of climbing from the nest to nearby branches by extending their legs and reaching out with their toes, but now they were using their wings instead. Up and down, hop-flying up to a branch and then back down to the nest, practicing.

I had been watching for an hour, then was momentarily distracted. When I glanced back at the nest, only one chick was in the nest. The other? Scanning the branches just above the nest for him with binocs, not there. He had been there a few minutes earlier. Focusing higher, there he was… On a limb twenty feet farther out from the nesting tree… At the tip top, fifteen feet higher than the nest… Which itself was at least seventy feet above the island floor.

Great blue heron fledglings practice flying.

Great blue heron fledglings practice flying.

This was more than a practice hop up from the nest; the fledgling had fully “flown” to the tip of that branch.  It was thrilling. Fearlessly, fleet of wing and nimble of foot, he practiced take offs and landings from the tip of that branch. 

My heart was in my throat as I watched, because it was such a long way down and he was still a beginner. And his nest mate? I imagined him thinking, “My turn, I want my turn now!”
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(Thanks for the photo challenge nudge, WordPress!)
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 (This took place August 11, 2012)

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

Close Encounter of the Heron Kind

Without warning, the juvenile great blue heron – peaceably fishing the north shore of the cove only moments before – straightened up to his full height. Then it dawned on me that his body posture had become suddenly “watchful.”

I followed his gaze down the cove, and there was the older adult male aggressively cruising full-speed straight at us.

The juvenile was riveted, almost cowering at the sight of the large adult. I took one last photo before he hopped-flew across the inlet to the south shore.

The adult swooped very low, gradually circled, and landed thirty yards away. He immediately fluffed up his back plumes, puffed up his breast, and strutted off in the direction of the younger bird. After a few yards of strutting, he broke into a full run and ran down the shore after the juvenile.

Adult male great blue heron in territorial display running along the shore.

Adult male great blue heron in territorial display running along the shore.

When the adult had closed the distance between them to less than 10 feet, the juvenile launched himself upwards and disappeared down the inlet.

The adult relaxed his ruffled feathers and lingered along the shore, fishing, his territory in the cove protected once again.

This was back in 2007, but the memory is as vivid as if it was just last week: it was the first time I’d seen a heron’s territorial display up close and personal. On that day, I managed a couple of photos of the adult’s feathers in display, but then the CF card filled up, and all I could do then was watch in silent wonder.

So, there are no shots of the close encounter between the juvenile and the adult for that patricular day. It was such a spectacle that I didn’t care about the camera.

And as I’ve said before, it is a choice to be present IN the moment, instead of focusing on the technology of recreating that moment for the future. In this instance, a full camera card brought me back to that lesson in mindfulness.

August 18, 2007

© 2007-2013 Babsje. (Http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

Please click here for the latest additions to the Great Blue Heron Photo Gallery

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