Blog Archives

Dinner and Photo Op are Served – Daily Prompt: Served, Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside, and Cee’s Color White

The egret skulked stealthily closer and closer, unseen by the fisherman on the shore until the last minute.

Egret lunging from the shore to catch a fish.

Egret lunging from the shore to catch a fish.

The fisherman and the egret stared at each other. Clearly, the fisherman was the more surprised of the two.

He didn’t miss a beat, though, following through on the cast he had just played out with a flick of his wrist.

Soundlessly, he reeled in a small fish, and as though guided by instinct, he unhooked it and tossed it back…

Back Into the waters directly in front of the egret, who lunged after it in an explosion of white, wings-akimbo, feathers flying.

Egret flips fish into her bill.

Egret flips fish inside her bill.

Nature presents us with scenes of exquisite beauty.

When it comes to wildlife photography, so many of those experiences are never caught with a camera. Wildlife is shy and fast and elusive and unpredictable. Weather conditions don’t always cooperate. Digital film cards fill up at inopportune moments. Lens caps left on the camera inadvertently cause missed shots. Sunlight can be too bright or too dim. Insensitive gawkers scare off the wild creatures. I could go on and on.

On this day, however, the universe conspired with the egret and fisherman and served up a tasty morsel for the egret, and an unexpected photo opportunity for me there along the shoreline.

It was thrilling to watch these two interacting, fishing man and fishing bird. How I wants to be fishing with them, fish fishing instead of camera fishing. How I wanted a fish, myself, to toss to the egret like the fisherman, who was practicing catch and release. How I wanted to know the feeling of the bird coming to me for a fish, the way Border Collie Rogue gambols up for a Milk Bone at the boathouse.

Just once.

But that would be wrong.

As the Wildlife Code of Ethics says, “Never feed or leave food (baiting) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.”

Which brings me back around to catch and release fishing. I’m sure that for as long as man has been trying to catch fish throughout the millennia, opportunistic birds have been trying to get man’s leftovers. Is there ever a fishing trawler that pulls into port without a flock of birds trailing along after it’s stern? How about the gulls circling and lurking above the sea walls up and down our coasts where anglers try their luck? It’s not the fishermen’s fault – the birds are very smart.

There is a socialization between man and wild bird that has been taking place for eons, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we like it or not. Speaking for myself, I’m not sure I like it. I am disheartened when I hear photographers talk about how tame the birds are in such-and-such a place and encourage others to come on down to see the tame birds up close.

There in the cove that day, I felt torn. While the photographer that I am was thrilled by the photo op served up, I felt heartbroken to see this magnificent egret so very tame. It wasn’t the fisherman’s fault – I’m sure that egret has been panhandling fish for a long time. The egret has been lucky so far, but the risk of being snagged by a wayward fishhook from a poorly-cast line is real. The risk of being entangled in fishing line is very real, as I blogged in The Taxi Driver’s Tale.

And so I love this gorgeous, graceful egret as an artist loves all of her models, but I can’t help thinking: wild birds needs to be just that to survive safely.

Wild.

.
.

Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for both the Daily Prompt nudge and for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside prompt.

Thanks also to Cee Neuner and WordPress for the Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: White and Purple nudge.

.
.

(This took place August 19, 2013)

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

Could it be Moonlight? – Wordless Wednesday

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

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

.
.

Thanks for the Wordless Wednesday prompt.

.
.

(This took place August 22, 2013)

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

Who’s Your Daddy? – Daily Prompt: Identify and Feathers on Friday

The great blue heron saw the egret first. This was the first time they were together in the same cove. Would territorial drama ensue?

Adult male great blue heron pursuing egret along the shoreline.

Great blue heron pursuing egret along the shoreline.

The herons were out in full force that morning. Within half an hour of putting the kayak in on the lake, I saw two adult great blue herons, a fledgling great blue heron, and the first fledgling black-crowned night-heron of the season.

I settled in for a photo session with one of the adult great blues, who was relaxing on one leg atop the fallen pine trunk.

I had fired off about a dozen shots when the heron stiffened – it stayed perched on one leg, but looked alertly to the west. I followed the heron’s gaze and saw it, too – the egret swooping into the cove, then landing out of sight just around the corner behind the trees. Shifting the kayak a bit, I could see both the egret and the heron, but – for the moment – they could not see each other.

Ever since first sighting the egret ten days earlier, I had wondered how the resident herons would adjust to the egret. Would there be high drama and jockeying for territory? Would they peaceably co-exist?

The egret quickly started foraging along the shore, and I was in luck – it was headed in the direction of the great blue heron, and once around the corner, the birds would be able to see each other.

Holding my breath, camera poised, I waited for the moment of truth.

The egret looked once at the great blue heron, and then kept on plying the shoreline, closer and closer to the heron with each step.

The great blue heron looked at the egret, and then kept on perching on one leg atop the fallen pine trunk, looking calmly at the approaching egret.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

After a few minutes more foraging, the egret poised for flight.

Aha, now we’ll see some excitement!

The egret took off and flew at eye-level directly towards the heron with gorgeous long, loping wingbeats. It flew so close, passing less than ten feet directly in front of the heron.

The heron didn’t flinch as the egret landed thirty feet away on the eastern shore.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

I settled in again, taking photos of the heron and egret alternately. As I was shifting from the egret back to the heron, I saw it out of the corner of my left eye – an incoming fledgling heron flying over my shoulder, heading for the shoreline midway between the heron on the pine log and the egret on the shore.

Aha, now we’ll see some excitement!

The fledgling fished along the shoreline, ignored by the egret and by the other great blue heron perched on the log.

Meanwhile, the egret investigated a green canoe and huge pontoon boat docked at the southeast corner of the cove, and then lazily flew off across the channel and landed under the pines for more fishing.

The fledgling then took off across the channel, and landed behind a small rocky island snugged against the southern shore.

Aha, now we’ll see some excitement!

Without warning, another adult heron suddenly swooped in from the north hot on the tail of the fledgling. The adult landed at the small rock island and chased off the fledgling, which was last seen flying around the bend towards the southern lake.

The fledgling handily dispatched, the adult heron then darted across the channel, and landed on the shoreline about forty feet from the egret. The heron stared at me for a few moments, then took off running down the shoreline towards the egret, with back feathers erect and head angled upwards in a classic territorial display. Quickly it closed the gap, and came right up next to the egret.

The egret didn’t seem to be afraid of the heron, though. It continued to forage along the shore all the while the heron was approaching, and even when the heron caught up and they were side by side, the egret didn’t show alarm – the egret simply jumped-hopped-flew about ten feet and landed on a log jutting out over the water.

The heron continued chasing after the egret, closing the gap once again, and once again, the egret calmly hopped-flew a short distance away, landing on the same shore as the pursuing heron.

Eventually, the great blue heron prevailed and the egret flew off to the boat ramp docks to the west.

Was there drama? Yes, but not high drama, no aerial bird fights between heron and egret, no loud frawhnking and croaking calls piercing the air. It was rather sedate all along, and by the final encounter, the great blue heron pursuing the egret wasn’t showing much of a territorial display of erect feathers at all.

And what of the adult great blue heron that had been perched on one leg on the pine log while the other adult was off chasing the fledgling and egret? She remained perched on one leg on the log the entire time.

Great Blue Herons, from left: adult female, fledgling, and adult male.

Great Blue Herons, from left: adult female, fledgling, and adult male.

Coming full circle back to the topic for this daily prompt – identify…

The events that unfolded this day helped me identify which adult heron was the fledgling’s mother and which was the father.

In the sentence right above this photo, I wrote “She remained perched on one leg on the log the entire time.” The fact that this adult did not try to chase off the fledgling tells me it is a female.

The great blue heron that chased off the fledgling and the egret is an adult male.

Because this is a mated pair that nests in that particular area where the fledgling first appeared mid-July, and where the fledgling continues to frequent, I am making an assumption that the female is the fledgling’s mother, and the male the father.

Discerning the sex of great blue herons is difficult. The most-often cited tip in the literature describes the male and female as looking very similar but the males are somewhat larger. Unless you have two herons very near each other, the size difference is difficult to judge. Another tip suggests that males can have darker legs, but again, that’s relative and not universal. You can also ascertain their gender by observing mating behavior, but that isn’t recommended unless there is a way to do so without disrupting or endangering the success of their breeding. The Cornell webcam is a safe resource for that sort of observation.

What I have observed first-hand over the past decade is that female great blue herons are more accepting than males of the presence of other herons. My simplistic theory is that if an adult does not chase off a juvenile or fledgling, the adult is a female; if the adult puts on a territorial display and chases off another heron, the adult is a male.

That’s my story theory and I’m sticking to it.

.
.

Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for the Daily Prompt nudge, and to Charlotte at Prairie Birder for the Feathers on Friday nudge.

.
.

(This took place August 29, 2013)

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

Going the Distance? – Ailsa’s Distance Travel Theme and Wordless Wednesday

 © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)   Going the distance? Egret ponders a winged migration alternative.

Egret ponders a winged migration alternative.

.
.
Thanks for the Wordless Wednesday nudge and also thanks to Ailsa and WordPress for the Distance Travel Theme prompt.

File under: Absolute Silliness!
.
.

(This took place August 24, 2013)

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

When you Hear Hoofbeats, Think Horses not Zebras – Daily Prompt: Name that…

WordPress has asked us today if we know the meaning of our name, and why our parents chose that name for us. I’m an adopted person and have no clue.

So, enough about me! Let’s talk members of the heron families – they’re much more interesting.

Egret head-shot for comparison: great egret vs intermediate egret.

Egret head-shot for comparison: great egret vs intermediate egret.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you may have noticed that just under two weeks ago, an egret was noticed on the lake here for the first time. My focus for the past decade has been on great blue herons, and so I wasn’t entirely sure which variety of egret is visiting us. Snowy Egrets were ruled out immediately – they have yellow feet, but this egret does not. The Great White Heron was also quickly ruled out since it isn’t found this far north. Cattle Egrets were never in the equation due to size and coloring. It also isn’t a Little Blue in breeding plumage.

It meets many criteria for the Intermediate Egret: the tip of the beak is brown, the top of the head is rounded, the gape ends fairly near the back of the eye, the neck is not longer than the length of the body, etc. That said, when comparing this egret to the many photos online, it could also be deemed a Great Egret if Great Egrets also have brown beak-tips.

I have read exhaustive descriptions of both birds online, and there seems to be some confusion, and many mislabeled internet photos, too. (Say it isn’t so, misinformation on the internet!)

So, a question for the bird experts of WordPress from Africa, Asia, and Australia where the Intermediate Egret is found in great numbers. Does this bird resemble one of your egrets?

One phrase that’s sometimes used when training physicians in the art of diagnosis is “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.” It’s a reminder to rule out the most common causes for symptoms first, before testing for the exotic or obscure.

Because my Egret is in New England, the most common label would be Great Egret, but I’m just not 100% positive.

Thanks in advance for any expertise people can share!

.
.

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

.
.

(This took place August 20, 2013)

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

Making a Beeline to You – Wordless Wednesday and Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Egret flying directly at the viewer.

Egret flying directly at the viewer.

.
.

Thanks for the Wordless Wednesday nudge and also thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus nudge.

.
.

(This took place August 20, 2013)

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

Birds Just Wanna Have Fu-un, Oh Birds Just Wanna Have Fun – Travel Theme: Play

  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Egret pondering paddle boat. How many egrets will this boat hold?

Egret pondering paddle boat. How many birds will this boat hold, anyway?

Ailsa’s requested topic for this week is ‘play.’

Whatever Ailsa wants, Ailsa gets. But be sure to file this post under pure, unadulterated silliness.

How many birds will this boat hold, anyway? I promised the whole gang a paddle boat excursion today.

Let’s see, there’s one of me, plus eight herons… Maybe we need two paddleboats!

Well, if that won’t work, we can always soak up some rays on the beach, and hey, look, the lifeguards are still on duty!

  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)  Egret just wants to have fun.

Egret just wants to have fun.

Guys, believe me, this is going to be a great afternoon.

Why look, there are picnic tables over there! Wanna see if they have any goodies for us?

What do you mean birds shouldn’t mooch people food?

The pigeons and seagulls do it all the time. Why not egrets and herons?

Guys? Guys?

Well, that’s the last time I agree to coordinate a meetup for you guys.

.
.
Thanks for the Play theme nudge Ailsa and WordPress.
.
.

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

Once You have Tasted Flight – Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree and Feathers on Friday

Egret flying.

Egret

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.     

— Leonardo da Vinci

.
.

Thanks to Sheri Bigelow and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree nudge, and to Charlotte at Prairie Birder for Feathers on Friday.

.
.

(This took place August 20, 2013)

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

Summertime, and the Fishing is Easy – Wordless Wednesday and Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Egret submerges her head to land a fish.

Egret submerges her head to land a fish.

.
.

Thanks for the Wordless Wednesday nudge and also thanks to Sheri Bigelow and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree nudge.

.
.

(This took place August 19, 2013)

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

%d bloggers like this: