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Posts Tagged ‘Ardea herodias’

I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch fish so big that I was sure that they would not be able to swallow them, but I don’t think I have ever seen one catch fish as small as the ones this heron was pulling out of the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Great Blue Heron was standing on the shore rather than in deeper water. As I watched,  the heron periodically would catch and swallow one of these tiny fish and then return to scanning the water. It struck me that it would need to catch a lot of these little fish to make a satisfying meal.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The muted tones of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) seemed to be a perfect match for the gray water and skies this past weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron almost seemed to be playing hopscotch as it made its way along a series of posts and then extended its wings for balance when it reached the final post.

If you closely at the water you can see a lot of floating debris, caused by runoff and tidal surges from recent heavy rains—we have had well over double the normal amount of rainfall during the month of September.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was exploring Riverbend Park yesterday, I looked out into the Potomac River and spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing on a small, rocky island in the middle of the river. Although I see Great Blue Herons pretty regularly, I invariably stop to observe them. This heron seemed to be particularly cheerful and appeared to have a smile of its face or maybe it was singing to greet the new day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), like this one that I observed at the Botanical Garden here in Brussels, look and act a lot like the familiar Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) of North America, but are a little smaller and slightly different colored. Shortly after it caught this big fish, the heron let it go or it somehow managed to escape—maybe they have a catch-and-release policy at this location.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies over Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy yesterday with ospreys carrying sticks for their nests. A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) joined in on the action and carefully checked out a lot of sticks before choosing a perfect one.

A few seconds after this photo the heron flew off to an as yet unknown nesting site.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early this morning I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a distant part of a pond that I was exploring. I was worried about blowing out the highlights of the heron’s face and bill, so I deliberately underexposed the image. As a result the background became a bit darker than it was in real life and gave it a dramatic quality that I really like. The reflections of the heron and some of the background elements add a lot to the “artsy” feel of the photo.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Composition does not get much more simple than this—a single subject with its reflection against an uncluttered, almost monochromatic background.

The skies were heavily overcast this past Friday and rain fell intermittently on me as I walked along the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds seem to have taken shelter from the inclement weather. One hardy heron, however, had waded out into the shallow waters of the bay and I was thrilled to be able to capture this image of it. I see Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) pretty often, but will always stop to observe them. Sometimes I am patient enough to see one catch a fish, but most of the time the heron’s patience exceeds mine.

Recently I have been watching a lot of videos on pencil sketching and watercolors and it struck me that the shadowy reflection of the bird in this photo could have been rendered using one of those techniques.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were really busy yesterday now that much of the ice has broken up and is melting. This heron caught a fish so big that it really seemed to be struggling to gain altitude as it flew away.

Temperatures in our area have been below freezing for almost a month and I was starting to get worried that the Great Blue Herons would starve. Somehow, though, they manage to survive. I did not actually see this heron catch the large fish. I first caught sight of the heron when it flew with the fish to a section of floating ice in the distance and tried to manipulate the fish into position.

Eventually it seemed to have decided to head for solid ground and I captured this shot just after the heron had taken off from the ice. I tracked it in the air as it flew to a little island in the middle of the bay, where I hope it was able to finally swallow the fish.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure why this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was sticking out his tongue at me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—maybe this is how herons wish each other Merry Christmas.

I have gotten glimpses of a heron’s tongue before, but there is the first detailed look that I have had. I am amazed at the way that herons are able to swallow their prey whole and imagine that the tongue has to be tucked away somewhere within its mouth when doing so.

When I look at this image, it looks like the heron is singing, perhaps bringing tidings of comfort and joy and wishes for peace on the earth.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was watching a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  at pretty close range from the boardwalk today at Huntley Meadows Park, I wrongly assumed that his nonchalant attitude meant that he was not fishing. He struck quickly and speared a pretty good-sized fish and immediately turned his back to me and headed for the shore. Partially hidden by the vegetation, the heron consumed his catch.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you start your mornings? This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) faced into the morning sun for quite a while last Friday as it stood amidst the foliage atop a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron looked around a bit before deciding it was finally time to start its morning grooming routine.

The light was especially beautiful that morning and the heron was either unaware of my presence or simply did not view me as a threat. After I took some shots, I continued on my way and the heron remained in the tree and continued its morning preparations.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) looked to me like a stealth aircraft as it flew low over the water from one side of a small pond to the other on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

 Great Blue Heron
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A White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) seemed curious about the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched on a log, but the heron remained impassive and did not react as the deer passed behind it early Saturday morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Peaceful co-existence—we could all use some more of that in our daily lives.

peaceful co-existence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I’ve seen crows harassing hawks and eagles, but I’d never seen a crow being chased off by another bird until this past Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, when I witnessed a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying after what appeared to be a crow. After the heron caught up and forced the crow to depart, the heron appeared to be squawking a few words of warning not to return.

heron and crow

heron and crow

heron and crow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) decided to try out a new vantage point at Huntley Meadows Park on Monday and surveyed potential prey from atop the boardwalk. Although the heron looks to be contemplating diving into the water, it eventually jumped into the water feet first.

I love trying to capture birds in motion, but am happy to settle for images in which there is a kind of tension and anticipation of action, rather than a more static pose.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it’s cold and windy, the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park often like to seek sheltered areas at the edge of the water. Unlike the heron, I stayed out in the open and was buffeted by the strong winds as I tried to capture this profile shot of the heron.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The water levels are really low in many parts of Huntley Meadows Park and it seemed like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was looking over mostly dry land as it surveyed the landscape this past weekend.

The banding of the colors in the background add some visual interest to the image, without being distracting. I was standing at the edge of a dried portion of the marsh and that permitted me to take this shot from a low angle, looking slightly up at the heron.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a tree, it is roosting in a protected location and napping. Early one morning this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, however, I spotted this alert heron perched on an exposed dead tree, looking like it was playing the role of a sentinel.

I initially caught sight of the heron from a distance and followed a path in the treeline that let me get almost underneath the heron for some shots. The sky was overcast and there was not much light, causing the background to appear white and the images to be almost monochromatic.

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I will intentionally use a slow shutter speed when I am panning a moving subject to blur the background and give a sense of motion, but that was not the case with these photos—I was shooting in aperture-priority mode and simply wasn’t paying attention to the shutter speed that the camera was giving me. In all three of these images, the shutter speed was 1/100 of a second, which is really too slow for handholding my 150-600mm zoom lens.

As the old saying goes, though, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. I really like the way the background was rendered and am not at all bothered by the somewhat soft focus on parts of the moving heron.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Why were the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) prancing about on Saturday with their heads tilted upward and their wings displayed? Surely this was some kind of elaborate courting ritual.

As Tina Turner famously sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” Apparently this is how these herons defend their feeding territories. Really? According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of my favorite sources of information on birds, “Great Blue Herons defend feeding territories from other herons with dramatic displays in which the birds approach intruders with their head thrown back, wings outstretched, and bill pointing skyward.”

If only we could be so dignified in expressing our differences instead of squawking loudly and aggressively at each other.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

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Some birds seem to explode out of the water when they are taking off, but Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) often seem to gently lift off with almost no splash at all. The Great Blue Heron at Huntley Meadows Park were really active early yesterday morning, frequently flying from one location to another. They seemed to be more intent on socializing with each other than with finding food. In a future post, I’ll look more closely at that behavior, which might be related to courting, but today I’m focusing on one heron’s gentle liftoff.

I’ve watched herons take off hundreds of times, but this is one of the first times that I have been able to capture the moment of liftoff from the water. In this little sequence of three images, you can see the heron rising up, leaving the water, and gradually gaining altitude. The stillness of the early morning helped create some wonderful reflections,  a nice bonus that adds some additional visual interest to the images.

heron liftoff

heron liftoff

heron liftoff

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I never get tired of watching the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park. Quite often they ignore me and focus intently on catching a fish. I marvel at their patience and persistence.

During one recent encounter, though, I had eye-to-eye contact with a heron. The heron looked right at me and seemed to be sending a distinct warning message that it was not going to share the small fish that it had just caught.

I backed off and let the heron enjoy his fish appetizer in peace. It was gone in a quick gulp and the heron went back to work and I moved on in search of more subjects.

Great Blue Heron

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At first glance I thought that this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was getting ready to swallow a flying bird, but then I realized it was “only” a small, freshly caught fish that the heron had tossed into the air last week at Huntley Meadows Park.

A split-second later, the fish had disappeared.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure what this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was doing when I spotted it this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, but it looked to be admiring its most recent manicure.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Fog hung over the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park early Friday morning, making the walk on the boardwalk a little eerie. When a spooked Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) took off right in front of me I was scared almost witless, but had the presence of mind to get this shot.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a shot that I took shortly after the first one that gives you a sense of what the boardwalk looks like as it makes it way through the wetlands of my favorite marshland park.

fog2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Late Saturday afternoon I was exploring Cook Lake, a tiny urban fishing lake adjacent to a water park in Alexandria, Virginia. I accidently spooked a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that flew to a fallen tree on the shore. The lighting was beautiful and the heron struck a pose that I can only describe as heroic.

I never get tired of photographing Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea Herodias) are so motionless when they are fishing that they look almost like statues. The Great Blue Heron that I spotted this morning at the edge of a pond at Green Spring Gardens actually was a statue that looked pretty realistic from a distance.

I’ve noticed that dragonflies are not fooled at all and I sometimes see them perching on the heron.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A Great Egret (Ardea alba) and a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) started goofing around yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park when I was trying to take their photo together—I think they are great friends. They looked like they were posing for a selfie.

I cropped the image to a square to make it easier for them to post to their Instagram pages.

great friends

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you want to be when you grow up? I wonder if these ducklings were dreaming of growing to be as big as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) when they swam toward its reflection yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park.

growing up

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How many large fish can there possibly be in the tiny man-made pond at Green Spring Gardens? That was my initial thought when I stumbled upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) intently focused on the water at one end of the pond. I crept as close as I could, acutely aware that I had a non-zooming macro lens on my camera, and watched and waited.

I was somewhat surprised when the heron finally made a strike and was amazed when it pulled out a large fish. Almost immediately, the heron headed for dry land, probably fearing that it might drop the fish into the water. Playing it safe proved to be a good choice for the heron subsequently did drop the fish onto the ground. I am not sure if it was an accidental drop or if it was an intentional maneuver to grab the fish, but the heron had no trouble retrieving the fish.

It took a little while for the heron to position the fish, but once the fish was in place, the heron swallowed the fish in a single gulp. The heron then stretched out its neck and I could almost watch as the fish made its way down the neck and into the heron’s stomach.

Great Blue Heron

Pulling the fish out of the water

Great Blue Heron

Heading for dry land

Great Blue Heron

Initial positioning

Great Blue Heron

Dropped fish

Great Blue Heron

The end is near

Great Blue Heron

Trying to swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I didn’t really intend to photograph birds this weekend and had my macro lens on my camera. As I was walking around Hidden Pond Nature Centerhowever, I came face to face with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and actually had to back up a little to take this shot.

My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron and can serve pretty well as a telephoto lens in certain circumstances, though normally when I am planning to photograph birds I will use a longer lens. Sometimes you just have to shoot a subject with the lens on your camera at that moment. I had a zoom lens in my camera bag, but suspect that the heron would have flown away before I would have been able to switch lenses.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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