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Great Blue Herons Guest…Pink Flamingo?

Great Blue Heron Fledgling in Territorial Display - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron in territorial display by boat garden – babsjeheron

A favorite location for photographing Herons is the sunken boat garden shown in the above photo. Each year, the property owners plant something different. One year the boat contained tubs of cherry tomatoes that looked delectable when fully ripe, the bright red of the fruit promising sweetness. In other years, the focus is flowers, like the gladiolus you see in the top photo.

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

This square image shows only a smattering of changes to the boat garden that I have photographed over the years, including the variety of flowers and even the paint job to the boat, itself.

Boat Garden Through Years - babsjeheron © 2022 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Boat Garden Through Years – babsjeheron
Top Left – 2009, Top Right – 2011, Middle Left – 2011, Middle Right – 2015, Bottom Left – 2017, Bottom Right – 2018

To the south of the boat garden is an idyllic area of the shoreline: two hammocks suspended out over the water look so inviting on sweltering August afternoons. Next door is a tableau of Adirondack chairs gathered near a fire pit, and I can imagine lounging in a hammock while dinner sizzling nearby teases my senses. While my favorite elements of nature are always the wild and untrammeled ones, this section of the shoreline is a place I’d love to inhabit for an evening or three, lazing in one of the hammocks, with fireflies twinkling around the flowers and the scent of dinner wafting from the grill. And a Great Blue Heron, there would be a Heron there, too.

Great blue heron exploring the shoreline near suspended hammocks - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron exploring the shoreline near suspended hammocks – babsjeheron

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

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

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

All was not lost, I thought to myself, maybe the Heron would do something photogenic by the hammocks or the Adirondack chairs and fire pit while the light was still good. I shifted my focus in that direction and waited for the Heron to catch up. Totally unaware of the fledgling Great Blue Heron beside the boat garden stalking him with increasing speed and determination, the yearling Heron plied the shoreline. Perhaps it was his curiosity about the fire pit on the lake-front beach that led him to put his guard down?

Great Blue Heron yearling investigates a fire pit - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron yearling investigates a fire pit – babsjeheron

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

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

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

Fledgling great blue heron taking flight near boat garden - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Fledgling Great Blue Heron taking flight near boat garden – babsjeheron

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

What a thrilling experience that day, to see a very young Great Blue Heron assert dominance over an older and larger Heron.
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And when I take photos like this, I often wonder if the property owners have any idea about the Herons’ visits that make their beautiful stretch of shore even more lovely.

The one very odd boat garden installation over all of the years has no plants, just this solitary Plastic Flamingo.

Plastic Flamingo in Boat Garden - babsjeheron © 2022 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Plastic Flamingo in Boat Garden – babsjeheron

I have sometimes wondered if that Flamingo was intended as a “scarecrow” figure, to keep the Herons away? I hope not.
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Once again, the Great Blue Heron diving beneath the water’s surface is gracing gallery walls.

TCAN One-Woman Show January 2022 Lobby Wall With TCAN Reflection © 2022 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

TCAN One-Woman Show January 2022 Lobby Wall With TCAN Sign Reflected; TCAN Stained glass art by Carol Krentzman, framed by Jay Ball

TCAN One-Woman Show January 2022 Front Lobby Trio © 2022 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

TCAN One-Woman Show January 2022 Front Lobby Trio

My Great Blue Heron photographs are 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.

Since 2001, the Center for Arts Natick has been housed in the circa 1875 historic Central Fire House, where the Summer Street Gallery provides an opportunity for accomplished visual artists in the region to have their work prominently displayed for TCAN’s diverse and loyal audience.

The Center for Arts Natick believes the arts are essential to a complete human experience and to the creation of a vibrant, healthy community. TCAN serves the Boston MetroWest region by increasing opportunities to experience, participate in, and learn about the arts. To this end, TCAN strives to present arts programs of the highest standard that are available to everyone. TCAN dedicates its resources to providing community access to diverse arts programs, reducing barriers to attendance, and building appreciation through arts education.

If you’re in the Boston or Metro West area, please stop by to see the Great Blue Herons. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.

The gallery is open whenever the box office is open, so please check hours here.

And who knows, maybe I’ll see you there one day.

I’d like that.

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Cee Neuner, Debhie Smyth, Becky B, and the community of Lens Artists encourage the entire international network of photographers and writers. Please click the links below to see the beautiful offerings from these wonderful photographers.

The focus for this week’s Lens Artist challenge hosted by John is “Change.” This post chronicles many changes to the picturesque sunken boat at the lake.
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Thanks to Cee for her FOTD: Flower of the Day. I wish I knew the names of all of the flowers in my photos.
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Thanks to Becky for her The Square Odds challenge. Is that Pink Flamingo odd or what?

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Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday. Sometimes Known as Sir Paul’s Cathedral.
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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 185: Change .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 185: Change .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 185: Change .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 185: Change .
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From John Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 185: Change .

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Natick Center Cultural District logo

Natick Center Cultural District logo

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 a half and they need your love more than ever.

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The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Click here and here to learn more!

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

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick – Current one-woman photography show through February 2022
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Natick Town Hall – Current group exhibit thru June 2022
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Five Crows Gallery in Natick – Represented since 2013
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Audubon Sanctuary
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Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.
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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2022 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick, Pink Flamingo
Read the rest of this entry

Beautiful Great Blue Heron’s Predator-Prey Life and Death Struggle

Great Blue Heron yearling fishing in the reeds - babsjeheron  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron fishing in the reeds – babsjeheron

Never eat anything with a face?

Does that apply to Great Blue Herons, too?

(Frequent readers of this blog know that some posts are Art-with-a-capital-A, and some are my personal photojournalist observations from the field. This post is not capital-A-Art, although the Great Blue Herons are decidedly works of art in and of themselves as far as I am concerned.)

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

Predator and prey: Great Blue Heron catches Chipmunk.

“And the Great Blue Herons? They’re a study in Patience and Grace.” I’ve often said that. In fact, it’s a tag line for this blog.

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

Great Blue Heron about to swallow Chipmunk.

But we need to remember that they’re not just graceful creatures, they’re also fierce predators. The top image in the right-hand sidebar is a potent reminder of the Heron’s power: Great Blue Herons average only 5-6 pounds, while the Pike she has landed could weigh around 4 pounds. It was an epic struggle for her to catch and consume that Pike.

Not only are Great Blue Herons fierce predators, they are also opportunistic feeders. I have observed them eating a variety of prey besides fish – eels, crawfish, turtles, dragonflies, frogs, grubs, and plants – but until that day, I had never watched a Heron catch a mammal.

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

Do you suppose she has second thoughts about swallowing?

One minute, she was fishing in a small cove amongst the reeds, and the next? Striding down the shoreline, then striking out into the shrubs in one smooth, efficient movement.

The life or death struggle was no less epic for the Chipmunk than it was for the Pike, but for me, despite the instincts of a pro photojournalist, there was a vast contrast in the emotional charges of the two events. What I felt for the unfortunate Chipmunk was stronger and deeper than what I felt for the Pike, and I was repulsed by the Chipmunk photos – by my own photos.

Yes, these sorts of predator-prey struggles are the way of Nature, the circle of life. There are some things, however, that cannot be unseen once the photographic genie is out of the bottle. I never could easily watch those nature videos of lions taking down Elands in the African savannah. I cannot post here the dozens of crystal clear images of the Great Blue Heron capturing the Chipmunk, even though they would add to our understanding of Heron behavior.

I cannot unsee them…

Did I ever mention that no two days kayaking at the lake are the same?

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Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya all encourage the community of photographers and writers. Please click the links below to see the beautiful offerings from these wonderful photographers.

The focus for this week’s Lens Artist challenge hosted by Amy is “Celebrating.” Great Blue Herons like many wild creatures are often hungry, and any meal can be a cause for celebrating. For the hapless Chipmunk today? Not so much.

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Thanks to Cee for her Cee’s FOTD. I have no idea what those flowering reeds in the lead photo are called.
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 177: Celebrating .
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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 177: Celebrating .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 177: Celebrating .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 177: Celebrating.
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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 a half and they need your love more than ever.
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Natick Center Cultural District logo

Natick Center Cultural District

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The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Learn more!

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

Please watch this space for news of my upcoming Winter 2022 gallery show for the month of January at TCAN.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
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Natick Town Hall
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Five Crows Gallery in Natick
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Audubon Sanctuary
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Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.
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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, Kayaking, 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.

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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.
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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. 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 .

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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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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”

.

.
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.
..
.
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 .
.
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 .

,
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

Great Blue Heron’s Guest…Insect? (Not Art Nbr 28)

Fireflies glimmering after dark on a summer's night.

What’s that glimmering after dark on a summer’s night? – babsjeheron

In the mood for something with a mysterious, otherworldly vibe?

What are those mysterious amber spots at top left? The otherworldly yellowish crcles blurred in the foreground? The vivid yellow dots suspended mid-frame?

Growing up, we always had swarms of fireflies each summer. It had been decades, though, since I had seen them last, when suddenly one summer, there they were – twinkling in the woods separating highway from the reservoir.

My heart skipped a beat, and my inner child skipped in joy.

As children, we captured them in mason jars and watched them twinkle, before releasing them.

As an adult, I captured them on film – using real film and an old Konica on a tripod, standing in the breakdown lane of Route 9, scooting out of the way whenever a car rounded the bend.

The things I do in search of the mysterious.
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And did you know that Firefly swarms can synchronize their flashes? They’re even more mysterious than I thought.
.

Obligatory Great Blue Heron:

Great blue heron exploring the shoreline near suspended hammocks.

Great blue heron exploring the shoreline near suspended hammocks – babsjeheron

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While my favorite elements of nature are always the wild and untrammeled ones, this section of the shoreline is a place I’d love to inhabit for an evening, lazing in one of the hammocks, with fireflies twinkling around the flowers. And a Great Blue Heron, there would be a Heron there, too.
.

.
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.
..
.
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 .
.
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 .

,
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.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

Great Blue Heron’s Guest…Flower???

Magnolia

“I have always trusted pink,” Audrey Hepburn

From Blossoms

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

~ Li-Young Lee ~
From Blossoms (excerpt)
Rose (New Poets of America)

.

You were expecting maybe a Heron today?
Just something a little different for Cee’s FOTD and (Not entirely) WordlessWednesday.
.

© 2004-2021 Babsje. (Http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Magnolia in B&W

Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

James Wright
A Blessing (excerpt)
The Branch Will Not Break

Magnolias

Magnolias

They say that scent has more power to elicit past memories and emotions than any of our other senses. The scent of magnolia blossoms transports me back just as surely as a photograph would, and I am enraptured all over again.
.
.

Yes, I know they’re not herons. Here’s an obligatory Heron photo …
.

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

Great Blue Heron in small pond with flowering grasses – babsjeheron

/
/
Thanks to Cee for her FOTD Flower of the Day Challenge.
.
,
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.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

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