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Posts Tagged ‘Ardea herodias’

Sometimes you cannot get your subject to cooperate in posing and sometimes it simply does not matter, especially when you are focused primarily on capturing the mood of the moment, rather than the anatomical details of the wildlife creature.

On a recent early-morning trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted a distant Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched in a tree. The heron was facing away from me and appeared to be basking in the sun, trying to warm up a little after what had been a frigid night. The morning light was beautiful as it illuminated the interlocking grid of branches—in many ways that light became the main subject of this image.

There is a kind of abstract feel to this image that I really like, though it is quite different from most of the photos that I normally take. Somehow it recaptures for me the serenity of that early-morning encounter in a way that a detailed close-up shot would not have been able to do.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the waves rhythmically struck the rocky shoreline, the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly moved forward, all of his attention focused on one small spot. It was lunchtime on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and this heron was hungry. I watched and waited and finally the heron struck the water with a mighty thrust. When he pulled his bill out of the water, it was empty.

The heron paused for a moment and seemed pensive, wondering perhaps if he was looking for lunch in all the wrong places.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At the edge of a small pond a solitary Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) hunched over, trying to stay warm on a frigid winter morning last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From a distance, it looked like the heron had wrapped itself in a shaggy winter coat.

The heron did not move from its single-legged pose as I passed, but seemed to be tracking me with its half-opened eyes, judging that I did not represent a threat.  There was no need to expend its precious energy in avoiding me.   Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The fish was modest in size, but the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) had waited so patiently to catch the fish that it was determined not to lose its prey. As the heron adjusted the fish in its mouth, it turned away from the water, so that if the fish somehow escaped its grasp, it would not be able to swim away.

A few seconds later the heron tilted its head back and swallowed the fish. The heron took a quick drink of water and went back to fishing, probably hoping that it would be able to catch a main course to go along with the tasty appetizer that it had already consumed.

I watched this little drama unfold this past Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Both the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and I were trying to keep a low profile as we crouched down and stalked our respective targets. I am not sure what kind of prey the heron saw, or thought it saw, but I was happy to be able to capture this shot of the heron through the vegetation earlier this month at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Normally I like to try to isolate my subject, but in this case the background and the foreground help to tell the story and I am not bothered by the fact that the heron is partially hidden.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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And so the new year begins. In many ways I feel like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, alert and wide-eyed, but hunkered down alone on the sidelines, cautiously waiting until it is safe to engage more fully.

The Great Blue Heron in the second image was the final bird I photographed in 2020—I captured this image yesterday afternoon. This heron appeared to be fishing, standing motionless for a long time, watching and waiting and hoping. Perhaps there is a lesson for us here as well as we begin 2021. Patience has been in somewhat short supply this past year and we could all use more of it this year.

Happy New Year to all of you and to your loved ones.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I am not sure what caught the attention of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), but the heron was intensely focused on something on the shore for quite some time recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps it was thinking back to warmer days, when it might have been able to snag a frog or even a dragonfly, but, alas, the weather has turned cold and those creatures are no longer stirring.

Eventually the heron gave up on that spot on the shore and re-focused on fishing, hoping for better luck.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch fish. Often they will stand still for long periods of time and then strike suddenly and violently. Catching a fish, though, is only half of the battle for the heron. The heron must then maneuver the fish into position so that it can be swallowed head-first.

During a trip last month to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I observed the whole process and was able to capture a series of images, including these three. It looks like the heron speared the fish initially, leaving it either stunned or possibly dead. I admire the boldness and skill of the heron as it flipped the fish into the air, as you can see in the middle photo, as part of the positioning process. Eventually the fish was correctly positioned, as shown in the final photo, and a split second later, the heron tilted back its head and the fish disappeared down its throat.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was watching a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the shallow waters of low tide on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the heron seemed startled when it sensed my presence and took to the air without warning. I had the presence of mind to react almost as quickly and captured a short series of shots that I have presented here in reverse chronological order.

When I first spotted the heron it was looking off into the distance with its neck fully outstretched—I was amazed at how far its neck extended, as you can see in the final photo. I watched the heron as it walked along slowly scanning the water as it searched for fish. It was quite windy and the water seemed really choppy, which probably made things more difficult for the heron.

I captured the middle shot just after the heron had taken off and you can see water drops coming off of the heron’s feet if you zoom in on the image. I was most shocked that I managed to capture the image of the heron with outstretched wings—the heron got really wide really quickly and I was almost zoomed in too closely. I actually cut it even closer than it appears and I added a bit of additional water to the left and upper image edges of the shot to create the image that you see.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is hard to appreciate the length of the wings of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) when it is standing in the water. When it takes off, however, the heron extends its wings fully and the sight is amazing, especially when the heron is flying away from you. This Great Blue Heron that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge initially was standing on a small sandbar, but took to the air when it detected my presence. It started out heading away from me and gradually turned to my right as it gained altitude.

In case you are curious, the wingspan of a Great Blue Heron is 65.8-79.1 inches (167-201 cm), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. Wow!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Some birds are with us for only a season or two before they migrate to new locations. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), however, stay in our area throughout the year and I can generally find one if I look hard enough. When I spotted this one recently at Huntley Meadows Park, it was perched on a single leg on a wood pile near the edge of the forest.

The heron was in the process of preening and if you look closely, you can see what I think are tiny feathers in its long bill. I noticed that the heron’s eyeswere only half-open, almost like the heron was still half-asleep as it prepared for the new day.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year, the vegetation is thick and the leaves are still on the trees, so it is hard for me to spot birds. Of course, it is a bit easier when the birds are large in size, like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted amidst the reeds and lily pads this past Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The heron did not show any signs that it was actively hunting, but with herons, it is hard to tell—they will stand for lengthy periods of time in a single spot and then strike suddenly and violently. As a photographer, it is tough for me to have that same amount of patience and vigilance. After a reasonable amount of waiting, I will often move on, as I did here, and leave the heron peacefully in place.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the pandemic continues, I encounter signs everywhere reminding me of the importance of social distancing. Most of them are quite straightforward, but some of them attempt to convey the message creatively, like this large banner that I encountered last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

This photo shows only the text in the top one-third of the banner and does not include the image of a Great Blue Heron that filled the bottom two-thirds of the banner. The bottom line message is simple—Be like the Great Blue Heron and practice social distancing, but the literal bottom line that made me laugh. You may need to double-click on the image to read the text in fine print, but I am sure that it will put at least a smile on your face if you do so.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

social distancing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The shape of the silhouette is familiar and if the lighting is bad, you might be able to convince yourself that a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is standing in the corner of a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. I have visited the pond dozens of times, so I know that the heron is not real, but it still makes for a fun subject to photograph.

I love the heron’s distorted reflection in the first photo and the touches of green provided by a small tree to the side and the duckweed floating on the surface of the water. I was equally thrilled when a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on the heron’s head after I had moved in closer. I doubt that a real heron would have been quite as accommodating in permitting the dragonfly to perch and seem to recall having seen a Great Blue Heron attempt to snatch a dragonfly out of the air as it flew by.

Great Blue Heron

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I first got interested in photographing birds, Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) were one of my favorites. They were large, easy to find, and cooperative subjects. Rather than fly away when they sensed my presence, they would often remain in place. That tendency, I learned, was both a blessing and a curse. It is easier to photograph a bird when it is stationary, but eventually I wanted to capture action and Great Blue Herons, I learned, have endless patience—they can stay motionless for a really long time before they strike, often longer than I was willing to wait.

I still love to see Great Blue Herons and spotted this one earlier this month during a trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron seemed restless and was slowly slogging its way through the vegetation. Perhaps it was hunting or maybe it was just relocating to another spot. In any case, it was wonderful to see and photograph one of my old familiar favorites.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was sunny this morning, as forecast, but it was also windy and cold when I set out at 7 o’clock, about 25 degrees (minus 4 degrees C), according to the thermometer in my car. Most of the birds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have decided to sleep late, but eventually I started to see some of them, including this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that was wading out into the shallow waters of a low tide.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I watched as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly flew across the sky and perched high in a tree in the middle of the woods. The perch seemed precarious and the heron’s position did not appear to be at all comfortable. I honestly don’t know how the heron managed to land amidst all of the small branches—it required precision flying for the heron to pull in its wide wings at precisely the right moment as it decelerated.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Merry Christmas to family and friends who are celebrating Christmas today and Happy Holidays to all of you scattered throughout the world. Even this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) seemed to want to join me in singing earlier this week.

“And heaven and nature sing,” as the chorus to “Joy to the World” tells us, as all creatures join with the landscape to “repeat the sounding joy.”

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was a frigid and desolate day and ice had formed at the edges of the ponds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. My initial scan revealed that there were no ducks or other water birds on the surface of the water. As I looked more carefully, though, I caught sight of the familiar shape of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

The heron was stationary, huddled on the opposite side of the pond from me. I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like the heron was standing on a single leg, with the second leg pulled up under its chest feathers in an effort to conserve body heat. Great Egrets and Green Herons leave our area and head south before the winter arrives, but Great Blue Herons remain with us throughout the cold season.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking around a pond in Northern Virginia, I spotted this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing at the edge of the water. My view, however, was significantly obstructed by the vegetation that separated us. I moved a little closer and then started to make tiny movements up and down and from side to side, searching for a visual tunnel that would give me a clearer view of this beautiful bird.

Although I never did get a completely unobstructed shot, I really like this one. The image has kind of a whimsical feel to it, because at first glance it looks like the heron has speared the small tree and I was also quite happy with the amount of detail that I was able to capture in the feathers and in the eye.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is in the open water patiently waiting to catch a fish. This past Thursday, however, I initially had trouble spotting this heron—it was hunkered down among the trees at the edge of the water of a small suburban pond, probably seeking shelter on a cold and windy day. I moved close enough to get some shots and then silently moved away, being careful not to disturb the heron and force it to move from its carefully chosen spot.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched in a tree last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, calmly surveying the area, as shown in the second shot. As I drew closer, I could sense the heron beginning to gather itself.  I managed to capture the first image as the Great Blue Heron leaped into the air, preparing to take flight.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Birds seem to spend a lot of time grooming themselves and this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was no exception. I spotted it yesterday on a small island in the Potomac River, midway between Riverbend Park and Great Falls Park. I knew that Great Blue Herons had flexible necks, but I must admit that I had never before seen one contort itself into the position shown in the first photo below.

After it had adjusted its feathers, the heron stood for a while with its wings partially opened. The position looks really strange and I have been told that it is a way for herons to dissipate heat when the weather gets hot by allowing greater air circulation. In case you are curious, I took the second and third photos from exactly the same spot—for one of them I was standing and for the other I was crouching.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sunny days have been relatively rare this winter, so it is almost a special occasion when we do have one. Although it is nice to capture images of rare subjects on those special days, it is equally pleasurable to photograph the common species, like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The additional light from the sun helps to make the heron’s wonderful colors “pop” much more than they do on gray cloudy days.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the delicate and deliberate way that Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) place their large feet when walking in shallow water, like this heron that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was not as bitterly cold on Monday as it is today, but this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) nonetheless seemed to be hunkered down at the edge of a pond as it sought to stay warm at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It almost looks like the heron is wrapped in a cloak of fluffed-up feathers with only a minimum amount of its body exposed to the elements.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After several unsuccessful attempts, this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) pulled a good-sized fish out of the waters of a small pond on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A few second later the heron had the fish correctly positioned and swallowed in a single big gulp. I thought the heron would take a break to digest his meal, but it returned immediately to fishing.

Great Blue Herons have an amazing amount of patience. They will stand immobile for extended periods of time and then strike forcefully into the water without any notice. When I am observing a heron, it is always a challenge to remain alert and ready. Often the heron’s patience exceeds my own, but fortunately that was not the case on this particular day. I was lucky too that the heron did not turn away after it had caught the fish, which allowed me to capture some of the action.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the time that I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is standing stationary in the water or is flying away from me. Yesterday, however, I saw herons in slightly more unusual places. One was crouching slightly as it perched on a low branch overhanging a path at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the other was huddled in a field adjacent to a small pond, half-hidden from view.

The first image is an obvious one to feature in a posting, but I also really like the way that I captured the heron’s surroundings in the second image and the heron’s yellow eye that seems to be peering out at me though the reeds.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I entered Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge early one morning last week, a layer of ground fog was hanging over the fields, giving the landscape an eerie feel that somehow seemed appropriate for the Halloween season.

As I made my way to the water’s edge, the skies brightened a bit and the fog seemed to lift a little. I was filled with a peaceful and serene feeling as I enjoyed the early morning moments with a Great Blue Heron in the distance.

morning fog

morning fog

morning fog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I suspected that this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be silhouetted because I was shooting into the light. I was going to make some adjustments to my camera settings, but it took off before I could do so and I captured a cool series of images.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I liked the way that a few details of the feathers were visible in the images and the pink and blue streaks in the background were a nice touch. I decided, however, to play around with one of the images and opened the second shot in SIlver Efex Pro 2, a black and white conversion software program that is part of the Nik Collection.

One of the filters turned the heron into a completely black silhouette—with some birds, identification would be a problem, but the shape of the heron is unmistakable here. Another filter created the effect of a pinhole camera and you can see the result in the final images. There is something about that final image that really appeals to me.

I tend to strive for realism in my photos and normally do only a minimal amount of post-processing. I had so much fun, though, playing around with the different effects you can achieve with software that I suspect I will consider doing so again in the future.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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