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Posts Tagged ‘confrontation’

Yesterday, I was observing a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) as he flew to a new location. As soon as the heron landed, a male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) started buzzing him, obviously feeling possessive of the territory. I captured this photo as the heron took off in search of a more peaceful fishing spot.

I love watching the interaction between different species, whether it be birds, reptiles, animals, or insects. Sometimes there is a kind of peaceful coexistence and sometimes, as was the case here, there is confrontation. Previously, I observed a group of blackbirds harassing a juvenile eagle, but this time the blackbird seemed to be alone.

One of my favorite bloggers, Sue of Back Yard Biology, did a wonderful posting recently on the Red-winged Blackbird’s sense of territoriality that is worth checking out. She called it “Angy Bird” and the post includes some cool photos that illustrate her main point.

I tend to think of blackbirds as aggressive and herons as peaceful and prone to avoid confrontation. Another one of my favorite bloggers, Phil Lanoue, who posts gorgeous shots of birds and alligators in his local marsh, has shown me, however, that Great Blue Herons will harass other birds and sometimes steal their catches, including this posting that he called “Stolen Treasure.”

Initially I was focused on catching this heron in the air, but I am glad that I kept my eyes and camera trained on the bird after he landed, for it turned out that the most exciting action was just starting.

chase1_blackbird

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The water level in the marsh at Huntley Meadow Gardens here in Alexandria, VA has been getting lower and lower as the summer has progressed. I suspect that the situation had made it more difficult for some of the inhabitants to find food and may have increased competition for the available food.

Previously I posted photos of a Great Blue Heron catching a fish in the remaining water of the pond of the marsh. Last week I had the chance to watch a series of confrontations between a Great Blue Heron and a snapping turtle. It seemed to start when the  heron grabbed a fish out of the water just as the turtle was approaching him. I had the impression that the turtle might have been pursuing that same fish. The snapping turtle made a series of aggressive runs at the heron, getting really close to the heron’s legs. I have seen pictures on-line of a snapping turtle pulling down a Great Blue Heron, so I waited with fear and anticipation to see what would happen. The heron left the water this time without any bodily injury. (I have some photos of this initial confrontation that I might post later, but their quality is not as good as those of the second round of confrontations.)

The heron eventually went back into the water and it wasn’t long before the snapping turtle came at him again. (I could almost hear the music of the movie “Jaws” in my head as the turtle made a run at the heron.) Like a matador side-stepping a charging bull, the heron awkwardly avoided the turtle who was approaching him faster than I’ve ever seen a turtle move. The heron then turned his back on the turtle and started walking away, perhaps feeling the hot breath of the turtle who continued to pursue him. Finally, the heron took to the air, deciding that he had had enough of the persistent turtle.

I managed to capture the highlights of the confrontation with my camera. I continue to marvel at the wonders of nature as I observe new creatures and see familiar ones act and interact in new ways.

Snapping turtle approaches Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron steps to the side as snapping turtle gets aggressive

Great Blue Heron walks away with snapping turtle in pursuit

Great Blue Heron decides to leave his problems behind

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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