Category Archives: Skywatch Friday

Beautiful Great Blue Heron Expecting to Fly

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

Great blue heron practicing flying one day before fledging.

There you stood on the edge of your feather
Expecting to fly…
Neil Young
Buffalo Springfield Again

The fledgling Great Blue Heron seemed to hover atop the branch mid-flight, toes outstretched with only one goal in mind, stick the landing. There was no margin for error 80 feet above the island floor.

My heart was in my throat as I watched – riveted – from across the channel, eight stories down.

The next day, only one Heron remained at the nest.

And the next day?

Spoiler alert here.

What a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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Thanks to Cherie and WordPress for the recent WPC Challenge: Atop.

Thanks once again to Paula for her Thursday’s Special challenge.

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

Thanks to the kind folks hosting SkyWatch Friday.

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From July 1 through July 30, 2016, I was the Featured Artist of the Month at the Summer Street Gallery. The Great Blue Heron photographs once again graced the walls of the lobby and theater in a one-woman show at The Center for Arts in Natick. In addition to the visual arts shown at the gallery, TCAN has a lively, dynamic lineup of upcoming performing artists.

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™

© 2017 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN

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Beautiful Great Blue Heron Aloft Like the Mythical Phoenix

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

Great blue heron soaring upwards, like the mythical Phoenix.

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Thanks to WordPress and Nancy for last week’s Photo Challenge Look Up.

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I’m the Artist of the Month from July 1 through July 30, 2016, at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick. The Great Blue Heron photographs once again grace the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show. TCAN has a lively, dynamic lineup of upcoming performing artists.

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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™

© 2016 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN

Not Art Nbr 3: Brought to You by the Number Four

Chih-chih-chih… chih-chih-chih… chih-chih-chih… changes.

It’s not just a David Bowie song.

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

Great Blue Heron and Four Chicks in Nest

It is music to my ears, the sounds of Great Blue Heron chicks in the nest: chih-chih-chih… chih-chih-chih… chih-chih-chih…

It was utterly absent at the nesting island during all of 2014. The Great Blue Herons had abandoned the nest last year.

In 2013 and 2012 the pair produced two chicks each year that successfully fledged from the nesting island.

For 2011, there were no chicks, and in 2010, they abandoned the nest and chicks due to human encroachment. (If the Heron Can Read This, You’re Too Close.)

The herons had a brood in 2009, nesting in a tree that came down during a storm between 2009 and 2010, but in 2008, there were no chicks.

I am moved beyond words that the plucky Great Blue Heron pair has reclaimed their nest on the island after the extreme weather of 2015, as if the 109 inches of snow this winter was a figment of our collective Boston-area imagination.

The 2015 brood of four nestlings is the largest at the nesting island in at least eight years.

And even though this photo isn’t art, the Great Blue Heron and her four nestlings are.

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

Thanks to the kind folks hosting SkyWatch Friday.

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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™

© 2015 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Great Blue Heron Chicks

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

Winningest Photos – No Hanging Chads (Spoiler Alert)

And the winner is…

We have a tie.

Last week, readers voted for their favorite photos posted in 2013. There were 55 votes, a great turnout. Thank you to everyone who participated!

[Spoiler alert: Today’s post reveals the winners. If you haven’t yet voted, it’s not too late, so please click here. As they say, vote early, vote often.]

First place winners (a tie):

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

Dragonfly teasing great blue heron.

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

Great blue heron eye-to-eye with dragonfly.

Second place winner:

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

Great blue heron fishing using a twig to attract the fish – sequence.

Third place winners (another tie):

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

Great blue heron fledglings practice flying.

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

Egret flying above subtle, shimmery reflection almost like a puddle of moonlight.

Fourth place winners (a five-way tie):

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

Great blue heron lands a large fish – detail.

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

Egret channeling Isadora Duncan.

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

Great blue heron in molt preening.

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

Great blue heron showing off a gorgeous wing.

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

Great blue heron photobombed by a duck.

Fourth place winners (another five-way tie):

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

Squirrel swimming with a duck a few days after the hurricane.

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

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

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

Egret submerges her head to land a fish.

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

Great blue heron reacts with erect cap feathers when dive-bombed by a hawk.

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

Egret flying directly at the viewer.

Here are the rest of the photos ordered by reader votes.

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

Green heron channeling Don King, alarmed by nearby fox, with raised cap feathers.

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

Egret Channeling John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever

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

Great blue heron diving beneath the surface.

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

Great blue heron carries prize feather like a dog carries a favorite bone.

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

Great blue heron molting.

Here a the survey results in all of the colors Michelle requested:

Survey results in all the colors of the rainbow.

Survey results in all the colors of the rainbow.


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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the Daily Prompt: Roy G. Biv colors challenge.

Thanks to Alex Wild for the Show us your best science nature photos prompt.

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

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

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

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

Great Blue Heron, Egret, Dragonfly, Squirrel

Amazing Great Blue Heron Nests on the Island

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

Great blue heron flying from the nesting island across the channel to gather twigs for the nest.

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

Six great blue heron nests on the island. The flying heron in the top photo here is the same heron flying up to it’s mate in this photo. Click here to see a panorama showing thirty-two occupied nests.

This week, Cheri and WordPress have challenged us to show beginnings. With upwards of fifty great blue heron nests, this island is absolutely ripe with beginnings, with the seeds of new life.

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

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

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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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, Nest Building

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

Snowy Walden Pond

…nature is one and continuous everywhere.

Henry David Thoreau
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden; Or, Life in the Woods / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod 

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

Walden Pond shoreline wall in winter.

Walking at Walden on New Year’s Eve back then felt so right. It is a grounded space, a grounding place that I like to revisit around the start of each new year. Our sudden blizzard this week has preempted this year’s traditional sojourn to Walden physically, but not in spirit. You’re welcome to join me there through some photos.

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

Cabin at Walden Pond.

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

Snowpilgrim at Walden Pond at sunset.

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

Henry David Thoreau contemplating snow in front of his cabin at Walden Pond.

Walden Pond reflection - New Year's Eve.

Walden Pond reflection – New Year’s Eve.

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Thanks to Ese for her Weekly Shoot & Quote: Continuous challenge.

Thanks to Ed for the Sunday Stills: White challenge. (Winter white brings forth edge details in a landscape that are otherwise obscured, like the sinuous curve of the stone wall along the shore. It’s unremarkable in summer, but stands in stark relief after the snow.)

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

Thanks to Dawn for her Lingering Look at Windows challenge. (Surely the windows in the cabin where Thoreau lived for two years must count as worthy windows. After today’s blizzard, thoughts turn to Thoreau in his cabin in such a storm, perhaps a passerby might see his candle or lantern aglow looking in from the outside, and feel warmed.)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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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)

Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau

Comet Hale-Bopp and The Pleiades for Weekly Photo Challenge and Thursday’s Special

Survived by approximately several trillion siblings, Comet ISON leaves behind an unprecedented legacy for astronomers, and the eternal gratitude of an enthralled global audience. In ISON’s memory, donations are encouraged to your local astronomy club, observatory or charity that supports STEM and science outreach programs for children. 

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)
Born 4.5 Billion BC, Fragmented Nov 28, 2013 (age 4.5-billion yrs old) 

Karl Battams
CIOC
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign

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

Comet Hale-Bopp at top right, the Pleiades mid-frame above the trees.

Like many astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere, I was eagerly anticipating a naked-eye view of Comet ISON this December. When last I last I photographed a comet, it was in the pre-digital camera era for me, and so I was sorting out the gear and possible locations for 21st century comet shoots. But it was not to be.

As Dr. Tony Phillips writes in What Happened to Comet ISON?

Dec. 4, 2013:  Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot.  Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.

Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.

Hopes for December comet-watching dashed, I’ve taken a walk down memory lane, revisiting archives of the last comet I photographed, Hale-Bopp, sixteen years ago.

This is Thursday, time for Paula’s wonderful Thursday’s Special challenge, and I’m submitting this post because the year of Comet Hale-Bopp holds a special place with fond memories.

Also, this week, Ben Huberman has challenged us to show light sources. The above photo has many: besides the comet at top right and The Pleiades clustered in the center, untold other celestial bodies are visible.

One of hundreds of photos taken during the months Hale-Bopp was visible here, this scene was across the road from home, an expanded view of more of the landscape from the first comet photo I shared here. (Please click here if you missed seeing my daughter posing with Hale-Bopp)

Karl Battams makes a valuable suggestion in the quote at the start of this post: support STEM and outreach programs for children.

During the year of Hale-Bopp, we watched and photographed almost daily for the duration, tracking the comet’s position on paper star charts. We experimented with all of the low light film we could find, comparing the quality of color reproduction and sharpness. Lacking any idea how long an exposure needed to be in order to clearly see the comet on film, and without a timer on-hand, my daughter hit on the hippopotamus technique: she would depress the plunger on the cable release and hold the shutter open while counting out loud “one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus.” It worked from the very first photo!

We had a great time together, just the two of us viewing the comet through my old 35mm Konica and small toy telescope, but what really made an impression were the star parties, where people from the community and scientists from MIT and Harvard gathered at the elementary school with their telescopes and gave everyone a more up-close-and-personal experience.

While Comet ISON is done, there will be others, and Comet Hale-Bopp will swing back by Earth in around 5,000 years, give or take.

But please don’t wait that long to get involved with science outreach in your community.

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

Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Night Shots prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Sky. (The night sky is so wondrous.)

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: High. (How high sky!)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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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 In 1997.)

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

Comet Hale-Bopp, The Pleiades, Comet ISON 2013

Lunar Eclipse with Aurora Borealis – Weekly Photo Challenge

…All that is now,
All that is gone, 
All that’s to come,
and everything under the sun is in tune,
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon. 

Roger Waters,
Pink Floyd,
The Dark Side of the Moon

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

Total lunar eclipse and aurora borealis. November 8, 2003

This week, Ben Huberman has challenged us to show sources of light. The photo above shows the total lunar eclipse of November 8, 2003.

As people know, the Moon is illuminated by light from the Sun. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon, and the Earth’s shadow is cast on the surface of the Moon, causing the moon to take on a red-orange color.

It was magical that night, standing out in the field watching the eclipse unfold. My eye was focused through the camera for most of the duration and it was only afterwards that I realized a slender finger of a green aurora was also captured on film. That was a pleasing bonus.

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Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Night Shots prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Sky. (The night sky is so wondrous.)

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: High. (How high the moon is.)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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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 November 8, 2003.)

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

Lunar Eclipse, Aurora Borealis

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