Mute Swans Saturday Night Bath Time

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

Mute Swan Bathing Beauty – babsjeheron

Another bath? Do we have to?

Well it IS Saturday and that does mean bath day – even for birds.

That Saturday, I was tired, and the journey back to the home dock would take another hour and a half. I had already bagged a fair number of Great Blue Heron captures and was eager to take out.

From a distance, I gave a passing glance at the southern shoreline and saw the usual pair of Mute Swans floating in their usual spot, and so I paddled on.

Rounding the curve below the Labs, coming closer to the Swans, I noticed an odd-looking thrashing and splashing unlike any Swan behavior I’d seen before.

Binoculars up, I sat transfixed, watching from across the channel as one of the Swans took a Saturday bath. Amazing.

Many of us have seen Robins, or Warblers, or other small songbirds splashing about in a backyard garden birdbath. Now, imagine a bird with a 7-to-8 foot wingspan behaving just the same – dunking their head and neck fully below the surface, coming back up to shake off the water, rearing up on legs, wings akimbo flapping and expelling droplets galore, and preening, preening, preening to sort out feathers. The Swan’s bath lasted more than 15 minutes. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. i took just over 250 photographs in that 15 minutes. Canon burst mode for the win.

Mute Swan Bathing Nbr 3 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Mute Swan Bathing Nbr 3 – babsjeheron

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

The Swan, Excerpt.
Mary Oliver,
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Mute Swan Bathing Nbr 2 - babsjeheron  © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Mute Swan Bathing Nbr 2 – babsjeheron

Obligatory. What’s a Saturday night bath without a Rubber Ducky!

Rubber Duckie you’re the one,
You make bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie I’m awfully fond of you
Vo-vo-dee-o!

Jeff Moss
The Sesame Street Songbook

giant inflated rubber ducky floating © 2020 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Rubber Ducky at the Lake – babsjeheron

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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 Feet and Shoes. What a fun topic! Did you know that Great Blue Herons have webbed toes? Here’s one example:

The circle shows webbing between two toes

Great Blue Heron in the Rain Nbr 2 – babsjeheron The circle shows webbing between two toes

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 161: Feet and Shoes .
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Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Blue.

Thanks to Paula for her Thursdays Special: Pick a Word in July: Flow. The water flow cascaded off the Swan as she bathed.

Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!

.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

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, Mute Swan, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

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 .
.

Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Blue.

.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

Beautiful Great Blue Heron on a Misty Morning

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

Great Blue Heron on Bough – babsjeheron

“Lie still in a stream and breathe water. Climb to the top
of the highest tree until you come to the branch
where the blue heron sleeps. Eat poems for breakfast…”

Advice to Beginners (excerpt)
Ellen Kort


If I Had My Life to Live Over: I Would Pick More Daisies, Sandra Martz, ed.

No two days at the lake were the same. In literally thousands of hours in the field, I have observed a Great Blue Heron on this pine bough only once before, nearly fifteen years ago. Over the years, I’d always scan that spot with binoculars in hopes of again seeing a heron there, but always in vain…

Until that one misty Saturday morning.

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

Great Blue Heron on Bough Nbr 2 – babsjeheron

The photo here captures only the second time I’ve ever seen a Heron perched on that bough. The first time, I wasn’t able to squeeze off a photo before the Heron took flight. So this photo was a first among my tens of thousands of Great Blue Heron photos. I hope it won’t be another fifteen years for the next sighting.
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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 .
.

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

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .
.

Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Blue.

.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

Red Tail Hawks Saturday Night Bath

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

Two Red Tailed Hawks – babsjeheron

What, you were maybe expecting Great Blue Herons today?
It’s Saturday night bath time!

Rounding the corner coming out of the channel, a flash of movement to the left caught my eye. Raising binoculars, I discovered it wasn’t the Canada Goose I had expected to see. It was a Red Tailed Hawk about to launch in to the lake for a cooling bath. Thrilling. Only once before – years ago – had I seen a Hawk bathing, and here, at nearly the same spot along the shore, was another.

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

Two Red Tailed Hawks Bathing – babsjeheron

Just as I swung my camera into position, another flash of feathers. Two. There were TWO Red Tailed Hawks splashing into the lake together, bathing together while cacophonous Blue Jays and Grackles pestered from branches above.

Compare the mood of the two Red Tailed Hawks in the top photo with that in the left photo. Do you see the change, from excited animation when first landing in the water to affectionate nuzzling, as the hawks bathe together side-by-side, touching their beaks.

Hawks are very territorial, and this pair owns that piece of shoreline, although the Blue Jays who also nest in the thick stand of trees would beg to differ. The Hawks bathed in silence, seemingly oblivious to the raucous chattering from the Jays that flitted from branch to branch above them. My practice is to keep hidden from the wildlife I photograph, and if the Hawks were aware of me, they didn’t let on.

Two Red Tail Hawks Bathtime fanned tail – babsjeheron

The pair frolicked close to the shore there, dunking underneath a few times, then surfacing and shaking off the water droplets from time to time. They remained very close together the entire time, almost constantly touching. It was July, which is not traditionally mating season for Red Tails here, and son heir closeness surprised me. At one point their dance involved fanning out the beautiful red tails in display.

Red Tail Hawk Bathtime – babsjeheron

For a finale, they both ducked their heads below the surface and pointed tails skyward. They reminded me of synchronized swimmers. I have never seen wild birds so closely match their movements, as though engaged in a perfectly choreographed ballet.

Red Tail Hawk After Bathtime – babsjeheron

At the end, the male Hawk flew up into the trees and spent a long time there, preening and fluffing out and drying his feathers. The female remained in the water for a little while longer before she, too, flew off to get dry.

I paddled on back to the boathouse a very satisfied photographer. It had been an amazing day.

And do you remember back at the top of this post I had mentioned seeing another bathing Hawk in that same area of the shore? Pictured below is that young Hawk. He is an immature Red Tail who doesn’t yet have the red feathers. They turn red at around three years of age.

Young Hawk after bath – babsjeheron

Encountering the immature Hawk taking a bath happened in a way eerily similar to chancing upon the two Hawks bathing years later and only a few yards farther down the shore. My kayak rounded the corner coming out of the channel, and a burst of movement to the left caught my eye. Raising binoculars, I discovered it wasn’t a Canada Goose at all. It was a Red Tailed Hawk splashing about in the water! I didn’t know Hawks did that and I was thrilled to see it.

Below ks a photo sequence of the young Hawk’s bath. He bathed for many minutes while I was watching from a hidden spot. It was lovely to see such an endearing young bird enjoying the water. I felt very lucky to have been present.

Hawk bathing sequence - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Young Hawk bathing sequence – babsjeheron

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Not to derail my own post, for folks who have been following my attempt to find the exact age of our beautiful keyhole tunnel, I’m still getting a runaround, bouncing from historical society to historical society. However I did learn more about our gorgeous Echo Bridge, shown in this antique postcard. That is not me in the canoe.

Echo Bridge Postcard

Obligatory Great Blue Heron photograph:

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

Great blue heron foraging in the rain.

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Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!
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The always-inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic of Postcards. Ana Campo from her blog Anvica’s Gallery is the host this week. I included an antique postcard of Echo Bridge today.

Thanks to Ana for her Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 159: Postcards . She has some lovely photos for this challenge at her link, check them out.
.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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, Red Tail Hawk
Read the rest of this entry

Great Blue Herons Guest…Philosopher? (Thoreau on Walden Pond)

Walden Pond reflection - New Year's Eve.

Walden Pond reflection – babsjeheron

…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)

Thoreau contemplating snow in front of his cabin at Walden Pond – babsjeheron

Walden Pond is a grounded space, a grounding place that I like to revisit around the start of each new year, and my intention one New Year’s Eve was a solitary sojourn. It was sublime that day, wandering the pond’s shoreline in solitude.

I was alone there save for Henry David Thoreau standing next to his small cabin. Someone earlier had placed a carved piece of snow in his hand, and it was amusing to see Thoreau staring at it intently, as if contemplating snow. It was a perfect, light-hearted grace note.

And did Henry David Thoreau ever conjure up a snowman to keep him company at Walden Pond when in a whimsical mood one day?

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

Snowpilgrim at Walden Pond in the waning light – babsjeheron

Perhaps, perhaps not, but someone else did.

This snowpilgrim sat perfectly still like that for hours while I wandered around. I believe she was meditating.

She had melted a little from the traditional configuration. Or maybe I’m mistaken and it never was stacked with three large balls of snow like a classical snowman at all. After all, Thoreau wasn’t much of a traditionalist. So perhaps it always was in this pose, gazing out over the waters, thinking mysterious things?

The setting sun cast wintry golden light through the trees on the far shore, reflecting the sky and horizon on the softly frozen water. I had Walden Pond all to myself then – except for that sculpted snowperson watching over the shore and Henry David Thoreau contemplating snow.
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What about the Great Blue Herons you usually see in my blog? Where would Thoreau stand on Herons? I’ll let Ralph Waldo Emerson respond:

“…Our naturalist had perfect magnanimity; he had no secrets; he would carry you to the heron’s haunt, or even to his most prized botanical swamp, — possibly knowing that you could never find it again, yet willing to take his risks. ”

Excerpted from
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Eulogy of Henry David Thoreau, May 9, 1862, Atlantic Monthly, 1862

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Obligatory Great Blue Heron photograph:

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

Young Great Blue Heron in Molt – babsjeheron

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Thanks to Cee for her CMMC Challenge: July. I chose tan as the topic from her photo. Thoreau’s cabin had tan siding.
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Thanks to Nancy Merrill for her A Photo a Week Challenge: Reflection. Two images in my post show reflections on Walden Pond.
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The always-inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Along Back Country Roads. Beth Smith from her blog Wandering Dawgs is the host this week. There are a couple of different ways to get to Walden Pond. my favorite is the back road way.

Thanks to Beth for her Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 158: Along Back Country Roads . There are a couple of different ways to get to Walden Pond. my favorite is the back road way. To learn more about the Walden Pond Visitor Center CLICK HERE.
.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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, Walden, Thoreau
Read the rest of this entry

Great Blue Herons Abundant Nests (Not Art Nbr 29)

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

Great Blue Heron flying from the nesting island across the channel to gather twigs – babsjeheron

With upwards of fifty Great Blue Heron nests, this island is absolutely ripe with new beginnings, with the seeds of new life.

© 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 – babsjeheron Click here to see a panorama showing thirty-two occupied nests.

[Note: Ordinarily, I feel that if I need to use yellow circles to point out features in a photo, I’m on a slippery slope and probably shouldn’t publish them, but it was an extraordinary experience to see such abundant Great Blue Heron nesting (and mating) taking place on the island, so I’ve made an exception.]

I stood along the shoreline, binoculars trained on the island, trying to count nests and Great Blue Herons. The island is a good distance from shore and even at a healthy magnification through the binocs, that is a challenge. It occurred to me it would be easier to take a series of photos and stitch them together and count the nests and birds that way.

Sweeping the camera from West to East the length of the island for the panorama, I had zoomed in on a nest with a Heron that was closest to me, and suddenly out of the corner of my eye realized that a second Heron was making a beeline across the channel, flying fairly low across the waters towards me.

I started firing off frames – with little time for re-focusing – and at the last moment, only a couple of yards from shore and me, the Heron shown in the top photo in this post arced sharply upwards into the stand of tall pines along the shore to my right.

The pine bough shook and bounced and then quivered under the bird’s weight, and then the Heron poked up its head and looked straight at me.

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

Great Blue Heron bouncing after landing in the pines, then turning to look at me – babsjeheron

The Great Blue Heron climbed higher into the pine, in and out of view, and then – just as suddenly as it had arrived – it took off back to the island.

I watched it course across the lake and then up, up to the top of the trees there, landing at the nest.

I watched some more through the binocs, and the Heron once again made a beeline for me, only to soar into the nearby pines once again at the last minute. I watched the boughs bounce and the Heron clamber about in the tree for five to ten minutes before it returned to the nest across the waters.

This odd behavior repeated itself several more times before I was able to get a proper focus on the Heron as it was about to leave the pine on my shore and return to the nest. This time I saw it: the Heron had a long twig dangling from its bill as it swooped down from the pine.

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

Great Blue Heron leaves the pine tree carrying a twig for the nest across the channel – babsjeheron

It was building a nest, gathering its lumber from off-island. Until that day, I had never before seen nest building in person, how exciting that was.

I then focused the binocs back on the nest to better watch the Heron weaving the twigs into the nest and it was then that I noticed: not one, but two Great Blue Herons in the nest. Two adults. Two adults building their nest together. Thrilling to watch.

After a while, they celebrated the day’s nest building efforts with full-on mating – more thrilling, an incredible sight even from the distant shore.

I took more than 500 photos that day. The island is far from shore and totally inaccessible to man: boating is prohibited and there are no access roads. There isn’t much detail in many of the photos here, and they are not art, but I wanted to share that experience with you. Readers of this blog know I’m both fine art photographer and nature photographer, and the only “fine art” in today’s post is that of the Great Blue Herons, themselves, building their nests. There is no doubt that buildibg large sturdy nests is an art, nests that are capable of keeping eggs and chicks safe in our often wild New England weather.

I am enamored of that Great Blue Heron, his industriousness in foraging for twigs and taking them back to his mate in the nest. That Heron had come to know me from my frequent walks along the shoreline there. I’m humbled that he accepted my presence that day of nest building and mating.

Click here to see a panorama showing thirty-two occupied nests.
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Thanks to Cee for her CMMC Challenge: July. I chose trees and green as the topic from her photo. Green pine trees are abundant and blanket the nesting island and shoreline across the channel.

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Thanks to Debbie for her One Word Sunday: Count.
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The always-inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Along Back Country Roads. Beth Smith from her blog Wandering Dawgs is the host this week. This memorable encounter with the Great Blue Heron gathering twigs for the nest took place during a walk along a road near my home.

Thanks to Beth for her Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 158: Along Back Country Roads . This Great Blue Heron encounter took place during a walk along a road near my home.
.

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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

Mindfulness and the Great Blue Herons

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

Great Blue Heron rises sharply upwards as it passes by me – babsjeheron.

And the Herons? They’re a study of Patience and Grace

I went for a long walk late Sunday afternoon along the sidewalk that follows the contour of the reservoir that holds the nesting island. In places, the path is right next to the rocky shoreline, and in others the terrain between the path and the water’s edge is thinly forested with old growth white pines and cherry, apple, and dogwood, and oak and maples, all blanketed by tall ferns and ground foliage. At this time of year, the ground plants are just beginning to sprout and the leaves on the bushes and shorter trees have not yet started, so there is a clear view through the woods to the water.

Many creatures live there, and every walk I take seems to reveal more of them. Last night, it was a large cottontail rabbit. Saturday night, a lone young Canada Goose that had gotten stranded on the wrong side of the path and needed some encouragement to dip beneath the guardrail to safety. It was fascinating to see the parent Goose demonstrate to junior how to navigate under that guardrail. We don’t often see wildlife actively teaching their young.

Sunday, as I was walking, something made me stop suddenly and drew my attention to the right, into the woods and trees. From where I was at that moment about fifteen feet of thin, tall trees and underbrush sloped gently downward to the shoreline, and there, not ten feet away, stood a Great Blue Heron.

They are usually very shy and erupt into flight at the first sensing of an approaching human, but for some reason this Heron remained stock still. We stood there, staring eye-to-eye for a long, long time, though it could not have been more than twenty seconds. His eyes, doe eyes almost, soft eyes, like those of a deer. His long bill, the orange-yellow of Aztec gold. His cap feathers, pure white. It felt as though I was looking at a being of kindness and intelligence, and an equal.

The silence between us was absolute.

We stood there, eyes-locked, watching each other, absorbing in full stillness, and then he leaned forward and lifted skyward in absolute silence, not an audible rustle of feather in the unfurling of exquisite wings – just soundless, effortless flight.

Suddenly, I wished I had brought a camera, and then just as quickly, I dismissed that wish – had the camera been there, I would have missed that experience. Instead of sharing stillness with the Great Blue Heron, I would have been absorbed in things like aiming and focusing and f-stops and bracketing and all of the composition things we photographers do; by then the Heron would have flown away, alarmed by my fidgeting with the gadgetry, and I would have missed the moment.

So, what does this story have to do with my photography? I used to do a lot of photographing in the mountains near Santa Cruz, with the vistas of mist-shrouded hilltop after hilltop marching to the Pacific Ocean, and along the Pacific Coast at sunset – hundreds of hours seeking to capture the perfect sunset moment, until one day I realized I was missing the moment IN the moment by working so hard to preserve it for future viewing.

Technology had gotten in the way of experiencing the moment right then and there, in the now.

What does this story have to do with my photos? It’s a lesson in our choice to be present in the moment, as I was with the Heron that afternoon, instead of focusing on the technology of recreating that moment for the future. It’s a lesson in mindfulness.

And the Herons? They’re a study of Patience and Grace.

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Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. The Herons bring joy.

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Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!
.

The always-inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Along Back Country Roads. Beth Smith from her blog Wandering Dawgs is the host this week. This memorable encounter with a Great Blue Heron took place during a walk along a road near my home.

Thanks to Beth for her Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 158: Along Back Country Roads . This Great Blue Heron encounter took place during a walk along a road near my home.

,
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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

Happy Ending to Beautiful Great Blue Heron Rescue

Great blue heron fishing near the reeds and pickerel weed.

Great Blue Heron fishing near the reeds and pickerel weed – babsjeheron

The flames licked higher and higher up the utility pole and by then, the van was fully engulfed. Would the boathouse go up in flames, too?

Young Osprey perched amid pinecones.

Young Osprey perched amid pinecones – babsjeheron

When the fire alarm sounds grew ominously closer, I was photographing an immature osprey nestled high up amongst the pinecone clusters just down the channel and around the bend from the boathouse. 

Quickly, I stashed the camera below deck and paddled rapidly back to the dock. Judging from the black billowing smoke, it seemed possible that the boathouse was the scene of the fire, and I was concerned for the dockhands there. 

I arrived at the dock and discovered a van engulfed in flames just at the moment the driver escaped through the back door. The sirens from the fire trucks were getting louder as they grew closer, but the firemen weren’t yet on the scene. 
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  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Van fully engulfed in flames on road next to boathouse on Columbus Day weekend.

Van fully engulfed in flames on the road next to the boathouse – babsjeheron

A speeding motorboat swerved in alongside me and the driver launched himself over the bow and hit the water running like a military commando, dashing toward the vehicle, taking charge of the scene. It was a striking action scene like something from a film.

The firemen soon arrived and doused the flames in the van and the utility pole, and Alex and Jason had the boathouse under control – the electrical system was toast due to the burned utility lines, but no fire damage otherwise.

It was the last day of the season for the boathouse that year, and so I slipped back down the channel for a final circuit of the lake, a final good bye to the Great Blue Herons for the season – always a poignant afternoon for me.
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Fast forward nearly a year. New England was experiencing one of its blistering July heat waves, so hot I took a taxi to the lake rather than walking there with all my gear. 

The cab driver and I got to talking as people are sometimes wont to do in taxis, and he started to tell me about his bass fishing tournaments and then about the time he was at the lake and there was a fire.

Great blue heron lands a large fish.

Great Blue Heron lands a large fish – babsjeheron

I took a closer look at his cab photo then and realized that he was the speedboat commando who had pulled alongside me the day of the fire. Just to be sure, I asked him to describe his boat, and it was the exact boat I had seen that October day, and he confirmed that he had indeed dashed out of the boat to assist in the rescue. As it turns out, he was a retired police officer, so that sort of action in the face of a fire was ingrained by his training and experience.

We marveled a bit at the coincidence of having witnessed the fire together that day, and I mentioned that I had spent the rest of my time there that day photographing and saying goodbye to the Herons for the year.

And what the taxi driver told me next made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

After I had gone in for the day, and after he was done assisting with the fire, he went back out fishing on the lake, and headed into the small cove between the two tunnels. There are a couple of semi-submerged pines laying on the surface, where there is often good fishing.

Great blue heron fishing with a feather as bait.

Great Blue Heron shaking a Seagull feather. She is standing on the same partly-submerged pine log where she had been tangled in fishing line – babsjeheron

That day, however, he came across a Great Blue Heron caught in fishing line on one of the pine logs. The line was caught in the Heron’s wing and foot, and the Heron was struggling and obviously very weakened by the time he got there.

The taxi driver idled his boat, and pulled up as near to the Heron on the pine as possible, and got out of the boat. He cut the tangled line, freeing the Heron, but the heron was too weak to take off, it was too weak to even lift its head.

He then picked up the Heron, and took it to the shore. He laid it down on the ground and cradled it, placing its head and neck in a good position so it could breathe easier.

He stayed with the Heron as long as he could, but had to leave before the boat ramp access closed for the day.

The next day, he went back to check on the Heron.

It was gone, not on the ground where he had placed it.

He went about his fishing for a while.

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

Great Blue Heron preening two years after her rescue – babsjeheron

At one point – I don’t remember how long he had been out by then – a Great Blue Heron flew low and slow right across his bow, nearly touching his shoulder.

They don’t do that, you know.

The driver was convinced it was the Heron’s way of acknowledging him, thanking him.

And I agree.
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In the taxi the following July as the driver told me his tale, he showed me the photos he had taken with his cell phone of the Heron, while she was entangled on the pine log and then on the shore.

If I had them, I’d share them here. Since I don’t, I’ve posted four of my own photos here of the same Great Blue Heron he saved that day.

What a magnificent creature she is.

And what a hero he is.

.

Thanks to Cee for her FOTD: Flower of the Day Challenge. The flowers blooming in the top photo are Pickerel Weed. Canada Geese at the lake seem to find them very tasty. I like the color combination of lavender flowers and the green heart-shaped leaves.
.

The amazing Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Getting Away. Rusha Sams from her blog Oh the Places We See is the host this week. Getting away to the lake is always a good use of time. Some days like the day of the fife are more eventful than others.

Check out Rusha’s beautiful Getting Away photos here: Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 157: Getting Away .

,
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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

Beginnings With Beautiful Great Blue Herons

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

Great Blue Heron Preening – babsjeheron

Life spreads itself across
the ceiling to make you think
you are penned in, but that
is just another gift. Life takes
what you thought you couldn’t live
without and gives you a heron instead.

On the Meaning of (excerpt)
Linda Back McKay

The Next Best Thing: Poems

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.

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, the beginnings of my love affair with Great Blue Herons. Those first images seen through an antique spyglass are etched indelibly in my mind, and in my heart. It was the day I met my Muse, the Heron:

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “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
by William Stafford
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford

.

Here are some great resources for birding/photography ethics:

The Jerk – ABA Blog by Ted Lee Eubanks

ABA Code of Birding Ethics

Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. The Herons bring joy.
.

Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!

The amazing Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Getting Away. Rusha Sams from her blog Oh the Places We See is the host this week. the ancient spyglass I borrowed got me away from the 21st century, back to a much earlier time.

Check out Rusha’s beautiful B&W photos here: Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 157: Getting Away .

,
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
.
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
.
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
.

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.
.

.
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.
.

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

PSA: Great Blue Herons Need Their Space

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

Great blue heron poised in the Charles River – babsjeheron

If the Great Blue Heron can read this, you’re too close.

It bears repeating: If the Great Blue Heron can read this, you’re too close. Every so often going back a decade or so, I feel compelled to caution folks that Herons need their space. In the past few weeks, I have seen several photos of Herons that had obviously been flushed by photographers. Flushing a Heron is not good, it is a rookie mistake – even if it makes for a dynamic photo. In fact, birding ethics organizations from Audubon to the US Fish & Wildlife Service almost all universally say avoid flushing birds. Don’t get too close.

People who know me know that my motto is “Walk softly and carry a long lens.™” It is important to give wildlife an extra-wide margin of personal space to not endanger them. I take precautions to remain hidden from their view, including use of telephoto lenses and natural-cover hides.

In taking hundreds of thousands of photos over a couple of decades, I can count on two hands the number of times I was within 10 feet of a Heron who could see me. Half of those times happened when I was hidden under a tree canopy and the Heron didn’t see my kayak and dropped down to land literally next to my boat. And one time was because I stepped in to protect the Heron from fishing lines.

This is a critical time in the life cycle of Great Blue Herons, when chicks are learning to fly so they can fledge, or if they have already fledged they are learning survival skills that will prepare them for migration in a couple of short months. This is the time of year when Herons can frequently be spotted, and when novice birders or photographers put them at risk by getting too close. Interrupt a feeding adult Great Blue, and the chicks may go without a meal. Interrupt a feeding fledgling could ultimately mean life or death for the bird.

As a photographer, ask yourself:
Did you get that perfect shot, but flushed the fledgling in the process?
How long will your friends and family remember your photo?
How long will the fledgling remember the meal he missed or the calories he wasted fleeing you? 
Maybe only that single meal, those much-needed calories were his tipping point between life and death.

The post below was an earlier PSA rant about endangering Herons. Please humor me again.

“… Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves.”

Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder,”
In “A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories

Great blue heron fledglings practicing 24 hours before they fledged.

Great blue herons practicing 24 hours before they fledged.

The sleek kayak had been tugged up into the shrubbery on the hillside just south of the keyhole bridge. No, wait, make that a sleek kayak and a custom canoe nestling there in the bushes. How odd.

I had noticed the same two paddlers the day before, farther north. How could a person not notice their high-end boats and expert-looking water skills?

Fast forward a day, and there were those boats again, cruising the southern waters.  The two men beached their custom-made canoe on the tiny nesting island. I quickly paddled my kayak over and explained to them about the great blue heron nest and the eggs that were due to hatch within the next 10 days. They replied, “OK, we’re outta here,” and left right away. Success!

Keyhole tunnel portal to the southern waters.

Keyhole tunnel portal to the southern waters.

I should have expected that something was afoot when I noticed a white flag hanging off the promontory southwest of the keyhole tunnel the next morning, it wasn’t there the day before. I should have connected it to the two expert paddlers, but didn’t grasp what it foreshadowed.

The next morning, I was enroute to the secluded shady hide along the western shoreline, thinking to pull in and read a book while munching a bagel for breakfast, when I noticed a man in a red kayak heading for the island. I wanted to warn him off, and so spun my kayak around. As I was about to aim towards him, a red canoe came out of nowhere, making a beeline for the island, the woman in front paddling harder and faster than I’d ever seen in a canoe.

I intercepted them, positioning my kayak in their path and they started to curve around me back towards the island. By this time, the man in the red kayak had meandered around the island and maybe 20 yards to the south, not threatening the island, so I focused on the red canoe and explained to the woman that they needed to steer clear of the island due to the nesting herons and chicks that should be hatching soon. She got the message and she and her partner gave the island and nest a wide birth and paddled in the direction of the east shore. Whew.

Next, I paddled south of the island and to the shady hide on the opposite shore,  and turned around to face the island before settling in, when I noticed a green canoe perilously close to the east side of the island, within a foot of the shore, ducking under some tunnel-like branches and then exiting and paddling farther east.

Curious about their odd behavior, I got out the binoculars and saw something hanging from one of the lowest branches on that side of the island. There was a flash of red, and I remembered seeing it Saturday afternoon when I had dissuaded the two men in a canoe from hanging out there – the two who said to me “we’re outta here.” I thought it was red from the baseball cap one of the men was wearing yesterday. But maybe it wasn’t that at all.

By this point, the man in the red kayak had circled the island and was coming around the north side, very close, too close. I paddled up to him and explained about the nesting herons and incipient hatching. He took off his baseball cap, craned his head and neck backwards to look straight up into the trees at the nest, and then back down. He gave me a level gaze and laconically drawled “Well, I need to rest my kayak in a stable spot for a few minutes,” and pulled out a snack and settled in. Aaarrrgh, he was virtually at the base of the nesting tree, his red kayak shining like a beacon that the adult herons couldn’t possibly fail to notice.

I paddled back towards the west because there was now another green canoe heading straight for the island. I paddled alongside and explained to the young woman in front that they needed to steer clear of the island due to the nesting birds, and – to my relief and gratitude – they headed much farther south.

Then, I circled the south side of the island and ducked into the tree tunnel and saw the red thing. There was a plastic ribbon sash circling a low branch, the red ends flapping down about six inches. Suspended from a white cord was a sort of rectangular card with a large number written prominently on it. The cord was wrapped around the neck of the top of a cut-off white plastic milk-bottle with the another number hand-written on it, such that about five inches of the milk-bottle top was suspended mid-air about three feet above the surface of the water. I thought maybe it was a trap for mosquitoes – they sometimes try to detect virus-carrying mosquitoes with traps, but an open-bottomed milk bottle wouldn’t be a very effective trap.

Putting one and one together, I deduced that it was some sort of scavenger hunt.

A scavenger hunt using the nesting island as a way station.

I was, and still am, horrified.

Even though I had explained to the men who placed the scavenger hunt apparatus in the shrubs about the federally protected herons sitting on eggs in a nest on the tiny island, they chose the island as part of their game. Even though I explained about the eggs about to hatch to the man in the red kayak, even though he looked directly up at the heron’s nest, he still chose to park his boat on the island shore for his snack.

I cut down the offending dangling plastic red sash and the milk bottle apparatus, and as I pulled it into the boat I noticed some sort of red plastic fob dangling from the bottom, sort of like a very large clothespin or something strange. I had no idea what it was, probably a weight to keep things from blowing in the wind, and I pulled that into the kayak too, and stashed it all behind the seat back with my sneakers and socks. In that instant, in my own small way, I understood what Greenpeace might feel like.

I then quietly, nonchalantly paddled southeast a bit and circled back to the front of the island. As I was doing this, a silver-haired couple wearing circa 1960 vinyl PFDs proclaiming Boy Scout Troop NNNN was bearing down hard and fast on the island in an ancient silver aluminum canoe. I explained to the woman that they couldn’t approach the island because of the nesting birds and eggs due to hatch and I thought they were paying attention to me, but I was mistaken. They were heading closer and closer as they circled around to the back of the island.

In the meantime, I paddled up to the snacking man in the red kayak still beached on the island, literally to beseech him to leave before the heron abandons the nest. While I was trying to talk to him, the silver canoe came upon me from behind and rear-ended my boat. Outrageous lack of seamanship on a 700-acre body of water. I asked them to get away from the island and again explained about the nest and what would happen if they got too close for too long and the adult herons abandoned the nest.

My heart was in my throat again and I paddled away from the island, heading west. I turned the boat around, and the lunkheads in the silver canoe were still there. I boldly waved my left arm in broad sweeping strokes motioning them all away from the island. And I kept on motioning them away.

The silver canoe then came right up to me and the woman asked me “Did you see the remote?”

I had no idea what she was talking about and so honestly said “no.” It was only after they paddled away that I realized that the red plastic fob on the end of the milk carton string behind my seat back must have been the “remote,” whatever a remote is.

Father great blue heron has fled the nest and watches anxiously from the tall pines.

Father great blue heron has fled the nest and watches anxiously from the tall pines.

I paddled to a secluded spot on the northern shoreline of south lake and relocated the milk carton and dangling fob on the branch of a different bush, far enough from the island to not be a concern for the herons, but close enough to their original placement to not make a huge difference in their little game.

As I raised the binoculars,  I could tell by then that the adult heron was not in the nest. Would the adult return? All I could do was watch and wait. 

I lost track of time, but it seemed an eternity. 

I headed west a little bit more, turned around, and there in the sky was the adult, making a nice big circle and a perfect landing on the nesting tree! He quickly got back into position on the nest and hunkered down.

By this point in the afternoon, the silver canoe was gone, the red kayak was a fair distance away, and I needed to head back for the day, and so I turned my kayak towards home.

Just then, a middle-aged woman in a tiny tan kayak with a big black dog wearing it’s own adorable PFD passed by. I remarked about her cuddly first mate and she said he couldn’t wait to get out of the boat.

I then realized that they were going very fast, straight for the island. I called to her and said you can’t go the island, there are nesting herons with chicks due to hatch soon and she replied, “I’m doing an orienting weekend. I need to get to the remote.”

And on she paddled towards the island, as my blood ran cold. I could only imagine the havoc her dog would cause romping about the island floor.

If you’ve been following this blog, you already know that the eggs hatched, the two heron chicks fledged and they have both successfully migrated, fall and spring, and found their way back to their home at the lake. I am in awe of how they did that.

Photographer gets too close to a great blue heron nest while the nestlings are being fed by an adult.

Photographer gets too close to a great blue heron nest while the nestlings are being fed by an adult.

Between mid-June, 2012, when the above story took place, and August 12, 2012, when the herons fledged for good, there were many – too many – instances of human encroachment at the nesting island. The father heron in particular would leave the nest, and watch anxiously from tall pines across the channel.

Whenever I noticed people landing on the island, or venturing too close and jeopardizing the herons’ survival, I’d try to educate them, and often shared my binoculars to let them see the beauty of the herons.

Fellow photographers were often the worst offenders, so eager to get closer and closer to get that “perfect shot” of the baby birds.

What is the cost of people being careless or disrespectful in nature?

If you’re a nature lover, birder, photographer, boater, whatever, take a minute and read Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder,” and imagine that instead of a  butterfly, it’s a great blue heron.

And after your next nature outing, how would you answer these:

Did you and your children have a wonderful nature walk, but did the fledgling flush as your toddler squealed and clapped in delight at seeing the pretty birdie?

Did you and your group have a great afternoon orienteering, but did the mother heron veer away while taking fish back to the chicks because you ventured too close to the nest?

Did you and your friends have a fun time waterskiing, but did the father heron abandon his brood when your boat circled the nesting island too close one time too many?

Did you get that perfect shot, but flushed the fledgling in the process?

How long will your friends and family remember your photo? The waterskiing, orienteering, that particular nature walk?

How long will the fledgling remember the meal he missed or the calories he wasted fleeing you? 

Maybe only that single meal, those much-needed calories were his tipping point between life and death.

Read “A Sound of Thunder.”

Imagine that instead of a  butterfly, it’s a magnificent great blue heron.

Don’t be “that guy.”

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Here are some great resources for birding/photography ethics:

The Jerk – ABA Blog by Ted Lee Eubanks

ABA Code of Birding Ethics

About the tagline of this post, it’s a bumper sticker I’d love to see:

“If the Heron Can Read This, You’re Too Close”

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Thanks to Cee for her FOTD. I don’t know the name of the flowers but can imagine the fireflies flittering about just after sunset.
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The amazing Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. A recent Lens Artist challenge from them focused on Spots and Dots. Frankly I’m not sure if my fireflies are spots or if they’re dots!

Check out the Lens Artists’ beautiful photos here:

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 148: Spots and Dots .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 148: Spots and Dots .

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 148: Spots and Dots .

From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 148: Spots and Dots .

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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
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