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Posts Tagged ‘blue heron’

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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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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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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I’ve probably photographed a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) taking off dozens of times, but this is the first time when I captured the bird flying directly away from me. This perspective makes the wingspan of the heron even more impressive  than usual.

I’ve managed to violate one of the main rules of bird photography by not ensuring that the eye was in focus (or even visible in this case), but I think that it helps to focus the viewers attention on the movement and shapes of the wings of the heron in this sequence of images.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The sky was completely overcast early yesterday morning and most of the birds seemed to be sleeping in. One notable exception was this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

I spotted him in the distance flying in my direction at a pretty good speed. Normally Great Blue Herons seem to fly at a leisurely pace, but this one appeared to be in a hurry. Although the heron looked beautiful when its wings were fully extended, as in the first image, the heron appeared menacing—almost like a predator—when he was flying straight at me with legs extended.

As the Great Blue Heron flew overhead, I was treated to a great view of the underside of its body and wings, an angle of view that I rarely see, given that herons are usually flying away from me when I spot them.

I am on the fence about whether I like the white sky or not as a background. It is certainly uncluttered, but it seems a bit unnatural, almost like I was posing the bird in a studio setting.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never tire of watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and catching them in fun and unusual poses.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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It was cold and gray yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park and there weren’t a lot of people around. The Chairman of the Board(walk) decided that it was a good time to survey his marsh from a different vantage point.

I just love watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and you never know what they will choose to do next. It was unusual, however, taking photos of one using the 150mm end of my 150-600mm Tamron lens and I actually had to back up in order to fit the heron’s entire body in the frame. Shortly after I took these shots, the heron flew off a short distance, back into the water.

Chairman of the Board(walk)Chairman of the Board(walk)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On an unusually warm date late in November I came upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) fishing at my local marshland park. In similar situations I will often stop and wait for a little while to see if I can capture a shot of the heron catching a fish, but generally the heron is more patient that I am and I leave empty-handed.

This time, however, I felt unusually patient and I set up my tripod and waited. The sun was bright and was coming from the left, the direction in which the heron was initially facing. It is tough for me to remain continuously alert when waiting for an extended period of time and I did not react quickly enough to get a shot of the heron pulling the fish out of the water. I recovered rapidly and got some interesting shots of the heron with the fish that it had just caught.

Great Blue Heron

Not seeing eye-to-eye

 

Great Blue Heron

Expelling a drop of water

One of the biggest challenges for the heron is manipulating the fish so that it can be swallowed in a single gulp. Each time that the heron shakes and jiggles the fish, it runs the risk of dropping it. In this case, the heron turned away from the sun and began its maneuvers. It took some time to get the fish into position. In the last two shots, you can see the final steps of the process as the heron dips the fish in the water, presumably to make it slide down the throat more easily, and them flips the fish into the air a final time.

Great Blue Heron

Initial adjustments

Great Blue Heron

Moving into position

Great Blue Heron

Dipping the fish

Great Blue Heron

Final flip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why was this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) crouching in the water? Was he playing hide-and-seek with his heron friends? Was he seeking shelter in the shade?

The more that I watched the heron fix his attention on the eye-level branches, the more I became convinced that he was stalking dragonflies. Several times he advanced forward slowly, never once looking down at the water, but I never saw him make the rapid thrust that he uses when catching fish. It seems to me that he would get a better reward for his efforts by catching fish and frogs, but maybe he simply wanted some variety in his diet.

When I departed, the heron was still crouching and the dragonflies remained hidden.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I watched and waited as the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) watched and waited. When the crucial moment came, we both reacted and were rewarded—the heron got a fish and I got a photo. For a brief moment, each of us was satisfied.

Great Blue Heron Huntley Meadows Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The lighting was breathtakingly beautiful and the reflections were amazing when I caught sight of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) late last month at my local marsh. The heron was close enough that the 100mm macro lens that i had on my camera was the perfect lens for a portrait of this beautiful bird.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As many of you know from my posting last week, I recently came upon a dead body of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  and several of us who regularly visit this marsh have wondered if perhaps this was the young blue heron who hung around the boardwalk throughout the fall and early winter. We had previously noted that this heron was not very proficient at catching food and worried that it seemed to lack basic survival skills.

I took a lot of photos of that young heron, whom I encountered repeatedly during my early morning visits to the marsh, and decided to post a few photographs from late December and early January. I’ll never know for sure if this heron survived the winter, but these images help remind me of some of the special moments that we shared.

heron_mem3_blogheron_mem3a_blogheron_mem2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A blue heron with attitude? The pose, facial expression, and hair style of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marsh, remind me of a punk rocker. Do you think he has tattoos and body piercings too?

heron_punkrocker_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This Great Blue Heron, which I think was a juvenile, was clearly not experienced at hunting for food. Unlike his more patient elders, he seemed unable to stay in one spot for more than a few minutes and his success rate when he made a strike was not very high. He was persistent, however, and I kept hoping that he would pull a frog or some other tasty morsel out of the waters of the beaver pond.

I readied myself as he prepared for another strike and fired away as he triumphantly pulled his catch out of the water. The photo confirmed my initial impression—the big catch was just a leaf that had been floating on the surface of the water.

With more practice, this heron’s fishing skills are sure to improve or it is going to be a long, cold autumn and winter for him.

heron_leaf_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I went shooting on Theodore Roosevelt Island, a small nature preserve in the Potomac River, just opposite Washington D.C.  that is accessible by a small bridge from the Virginia side and got this shot of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). The heron took off when I got a little too close to it.

One of the interesting problems of shooting in an urban environment is that it is hard to control the background. The long shape behind the heron is a one-man crew scull. If I hadn’t cropped the image, you would have been able to see the brightly clothed rower.

heron_potomac1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Without fill-in light, a backlit subject is often in the shadows and becomes a silhouette, which is what happened in these shots of a Great Blue Heron taking off from a watery area of my local marshland park. The same sunlight in front of me also created beautiful reflections of the heron in the water, and I really like the combination of the silhouettes and reflections in these images.

This heron was getting ready to give chase to another blue heron and was squawking loudly as it took off. I watched the two herons for quite a while and this one went out of his ways several times to harass the other one and force it to search for prey in the vegetation away from the pool of water. As you can see in the second and third photos, a Great Egret was a spectator to the action, lifting up its head to observe what was going on. When things calmed down, the egret returned to its fishing until the next round of activity from the herons.

heron_silhouette1_blog heron_silhouette2_blogheron_silhouette3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When it started to rain yesterday, I pulled out my umbrella and kept shooting for a while, permitting me to get this close-up shot of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

The heron was stoically enduring the rainfall, as drops of water began to bead up on its shoulders. The wind started to kick up a little too, ruffling some of the feathers on the heron’s chest. I was afraid that my white and green umbrella would spook the heron, but I was able to get pretty close to the heron to get this shot at the far end of my 55-250mm zoom lens. If you click on the photo, you can see these (and other) details in a higher resolution image.

There are many flowers blooming in my local marshland park right now and I really like the little splashes of yellow in the background of this image.

heron_closeup1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever seen a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) attempt to do a vertical takeoff from the water? Most of the time, blue herons gain altitude with a few thrusts of their powerful wings as they move forward into the air.

This heron, however, looked like he was initially trying to levitate straight up into the air, like a Harrier jet, a jet that is capable of taking off vertically. It looked like the heron could not perform a normal takeoff because his feet were tangled in the weeds at the bottom of the little pond.  Before he could take off, he had to untangle his feet and his initial upward wing movements were intended to accomplish that task. Only then was he cleared for takeoff.

You’ll probably noted that I posted the images in reverse chronological order, so if you want to follow the takeoff process, you should start at the bottom. The first two images are more impressive as photographs, because I was able to capture the heron in the air, with the wings in interesting positions, despite the fact that I was using “only” a 180mm lens. (Some of the bird photographers that I encounter have 500mm or longer lenses.) The last two images are interesting and a little whimsical, because of the heron’s actions and the angle at which we are viewing the heron. Did you notice how skinny his face and neck look when shot from a head-on position?

flying2_blog

Click on the image for a higher-resolution view.

flying1_blog

flying4_blog

Before you can take off, you have to untangle your feet.

Before you can take off, you have to untangle your feet.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have always thought that Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) look a bit awkward on the ground, tall and gangly, but they are exceptionally beautiful in the air.

As I approached this blue heron yesterday at my local marshland park, it decided to take off. I often try to capture photos of birds in flight, though generally I’ve had only limited success.

I was pretty happy with this shot, taken shortly after the heron had taken to the air. The shaded woods make a decent backdrop and I like the blooming mallow flowers in the foreground. The focusing is a little soft, but I was able to capture some of the magnificent details of the visible wing.

heron_flying_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) seems to be a regular visitor to the beaver pond at my local marsh (and may have taken up residence nearby), but usually fishes in an area in which it is tough to get a clear shot.

One recent morning, however, I was happy to see him in a closer area and was able to get these shots. The first one has a less cluttered background, which helps to highlight the heron’s head.  Sometimes, though, I like the second one better, in which the heron is tucked into the midst of the growth and is partially camouflaged.

Do you have a preference for one of the two images?

heron1_blogheron2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was getting ready to leave the marsh on Monday, I noticed this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the other side of the beaver pond.

He did not appear to be fishing, but was perched on a fallen tree, seemingly seeking shelter from the falling rain. He was hunched over a little, like he was trying to retain body heat.

It’s not often that I see a blue heron completely out of the water (assuming I don’t count all of the times when they were flying away from me), so I was happy to get this shot.

blueheron_standing_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Earlier this week I posted a photograph of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I encountered while walking along the Potomac River here in Virginia. As I looked over the images from that day I came across another one that I really like.  The heron’s posture and his feathers make this image stand out for me, especially the way the feathers merge with his reflection in the water.

It’s probably clear to many readers that Great Blue Herons are among my favorite birds and that I never tire of finding opportunities to photograph them.

Great Blue Heron on Potomac River, Take 2

Great Blue Heron on Potomac River, Take 2

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The weather was overcast today, but I decided to take a long walk along the Potomac River. There is a bike/walking path that parallels the river and I set out for Washington D.C. from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

I stumbled upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) late in the afternoon, in one of the inlets just off the bike path that was raised above the water at that point. I have taken multiple photos of Great Blue Herons in the past, but I think that this image is my best to date. The pose is interesting and there are a lot of details. In addition the reflection is nice and the background is simple.

For me, this is about as close to a “great” shot as I can get at the moment, but this year I am hoping to raise my personal bar even higher.

Great Blue Heron in the Potomac River

Great Blue Heron in the Potomac River

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was early in the morning and I was walking almost directly east along a stream. The sun had already risen and was in my eyes, but I spotted a Great Blue Heron in the water. I was able to get a shot that I knew would turn out as a silhouette, but the heron was standing in such a way that I was pretty confident that his silhouette would be immediately recognizable. The glare caused the color to wash out almost entirely and there are all kinds of artifacts from the light, but I like the overall effect.

Great Blue Heron Silhouette

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is another shot of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who was so cooperative today in permitting me to get close to him. In this shot, his eyes are fixed intently on the water, which unfortunately was covered with some combination of algae and duckweed. There was virtually no way for him to spot any potential prey below the surface of the water. His body seems coiled, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. He remained in this position for quite some time, but eventually he relaxed and gave up the hunt. Later, he moved to the other small pond and was equally unsuccessful there.

Focused blue heron (click for a higher resolution view)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was lucky today. Normally when I have tried to photograph Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), I have had to do so at the maximum range of my telephoto zoom lens and even then would have to crop the image significantly. The result has been that my photos have not been as sharp or detailed as I would have liked.

Today was different. I was walking around the little ponds at Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historical park where I had previously taken photos of a green heron, when I startled a Great Blue Heron who had been perched in a tree. He flew off high into a tree across the pond and remained there as I followed him and tried to take some photos. I have not yet looked at those photos, but suspect that they are a little distorted, given that I was shooting almost straight up.

It started to drizzle a bit. When all of the other visitors left, the heron flew down from the tree and landed no more than 30 feet from me. He wandered along the water’s edge, periodically entering the water and staring intently at its surface, probably searching for something to eat. I cautiously approached him and he let me get with fifteen feet or so of him and I even circled around him trying to get a decent angle and background for a shot. How close was I? At times I could not use the full range of my 55-250mm lens if I wanted to capture his whole body.

Here is one of my initial favorite shots. I shot it with the lens extended to 194mm with settings of f9.0, 1/200 sec, ISO 400, and an exposure compensation of -.67. Other than a little sharpening and a little cropping, this is the way the image came out of the camera.

Indeed, I was lucky today to encounter an unusually cooperative Great Blue Heron.

Cooperative Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) look graceful when they are flying or when they are wading, but they sure look awkward and gawky when on dry land. This heron seemed to be taking a break in the shade on a sunny, fall day. I took this photograph yesterday at Cameron Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River, where I often see both egrets and heron. I do not know if they will remain here through the winter, but I hope that they do.

Great Blue Heron in the underbrush

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven never really paid attention to how birds take off. This past weekend I was photographing a Great Blue heron wading in the water of a nearby pond.  Without any prior indications, he suddenly took to the air. I happened to be in a good position to get a few shots of the different positions his wings assumed as he lifted off from the water. As you can see, I was almost directly behind the heron.

The first photo is my favorite because of the way in which the wings frame the extended legs and the barely visible head. Out of the three photos I have posted here, this was the second one shot.

The photo below shows the heron just as he was taking off from the water. The wings are blurry and are almost like a silhouette. It seems like he had to flap them really hard to lift out of the water. I like the fact that I was able to capture part of his reflection in the water.

Lifting off from the water

This final shot shows his wings in what I consider to be a normal flying position. I haven’t observed herons enough to know if they eventually pull in their legs tighter when they fly higher, but I assume that to be the case. In this photo I managed to get more of a complete reflection in the water than in the previous one.

Spreading his wings

I learned a few things when shooting these photos. First, and perhaps most importantly, I learned how important it is to be ready at all times, because a static situation can become very dynamic very quickly. Secondly, I now understand better why serious wildlife photographers have really big (and expensive) telephoto lens—it’s tough to get in close enough. Finally, I appreciate much more the abilities of those who are able to capture moving subjects like this heron with perfect focus and sharpness. My photos are not very sharp and clear, but I still found them interesting enough to want to share them.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here is a close-up of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who has just speared a fish of an unknown type. I was able to watch the whole process from the shoreline of the pond and took some shots.

I note that the photo here is not a super crisp, clear image. It is a crop of a shot that I had to tweak because of some problems getting the exposure right (reflected light off the water and shadows were both problem), but I like the fact that you can see both the heron’s and the fish’s faces.

In a posting on 24 July I showed a green heron swallowing a frog whole. I was not able to see how this blue heron consumed the fish because he carried it into a shaded area along the shoreline.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here is another shot of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I photographed 11 August 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia.

At first I couldn’t figure out why he had his mouth open in so many of my pictures. As I went over the photos, however, it looks like he may have had a stick or bone stuck in his mouth. Is that possible? Earlier in the day I watched as he speared and ate a fish and it’s possible he picked up some debris when he caught the fish (my photos of him spearing the fish turned out really dark but I’ll see if I can salvage any to post).

Eventually he did close his mouth.

Click on the image for greater details.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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