Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

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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As they headed out on the Potomac River this past weekend, these fishermen looked like they had decorated their rods with little Christmas ornaments that glimmered in the early morning light as I watched them from the shore at historic Fort Washington Park in Maryland.

Potomac River

The buildings and gun emplacements at the fort are impressive, but more than anything else, I am irresistibly drawn to the little lighthouse there. Even though I was shooting with a long telephoto zoom lens, I tried several landscape-style compositions in an effort to capture a sense of the location.

Potomac River

Potomac River


The shoreline on the other side of the river was hazy and indistinct, almost like an impressionist painting, but it proved to be tough to capture that feeling with my camera. This final shot gives you a sense of what I was going for—I think a tripod might help in the future with this kind of a shot.

Potomac River


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you are a heron, how do you get  a fish down your throat and into your stomach after you have caught it? Some animals and birds of prey might tear off a bite-size piece of the fish using claws or talons. Herons don’t have that option. They have to somehow maneuver their catch within their bills until they are in a position to swallow it whole, all the time at risk of dropping their catch back into the water and losing it.

I enjoy watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) fish. They seem to be extremely focused, but patient as they wait for the optimal moment for a strike. This past weekend, I observed this heron in the waters of the Potomac River, just south of the city of Alexandria, Virginia. I watched and waited with my camera focused and ready until the heron struck and pulled a modest fish out of the water.

The heron made several adjustments to the fish’s position by making small movements with his head until it was in the ready position shown in the second photo. He them gave a little flip of his head, launching the fish into the air, and opened his mouth wider, as you can see in the first image. In a split-second the fish was gone and the heron was swallowing.

Every time I see a heron fishing, I am hoping that I will see him pull a really big fish out of the water, as I have seen in photos on other blogs.  So far I have seen the herons catch only small fish and an occasional crayfish or frog, but I hope to be ready when a heron catches a “big one,” so that I won’t have to be the one who tells stories of “the one that got away.”


heron_fish1_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.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The Great Blue Heron stealthily moved into position and leaned forward, preparing to strike. Would he pull a great big fish out of the water? The second photo provides the answer.

The catch was relatively modest, a tiny fish, dwarfed by the size of the heron’s bill. The heron obviously did not believe in the “catch and release” policy used by most fisherman for such small fish. Turning his head back a little, the heron had no trouble swallowing the little fish. He even seemed to smile a little as he did so, content that he had been successful in his fishing.

Having consumed his appetizer, the heron got back to fishing, hoping to catch a more substantial dinner.



© 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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Stereotypes of a heron’s  appearance

This past weekend I visited a pond at a local garden and encountered this interesting bird. He looked a little like a heron but had a totally different body type—he was shorter and squatter than the herons I was used to seeing. I have photographed blue herons and white herons and have a mental picture of what a heron looks like. They are tall and slender and posses a fashion model’s elegance. Could this really be a heron?

Surveying the situation

Playing and posing like a child

I was alone with the bird for quite some time for the gardens were deserted after a thunderstorm. The beautiful bird, later identified as a juvenile green heron, seemed to be unusually willing to remain as I attempted to photograph him. At times he even seemed to be posing for me. Like a child he was enjoying himself, running around and playing in the water. He definitely was not intent on adult-type tasks such as catching food.

Full body shot. Don’t I have great legs?

Is this enough of a smile for you?

It’s a green heron

I am pretty confident that this bird is a green heron (Butorides virescens). Wikipedia helped me determine that he is a juvenile because of the brown-and-white streaked feathers on his breast and the greenish-yellow webbed feet. (The adult green heron has a darker bill and a more pronounced  chestnut-colored neck and breast.) NatureWorks has some summary information if you want to quickly learn about green herons.

This grass feels really good on my bare feet.

A tool-using bird

My favorite website for information on the green heron, however, belongs to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which includes range maps and audio files. It also noted the following truly amazing fact about green herons, “The Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds. It commonly drops bait onto the surface of the water and grabs the small fish that are attracted. It uses a variety of baits and lures, including crusts of bread, insects, earthworms, twigs, or feathers.”

Ready for my close-up

Maybe the green heron should have its own reality television show, “Fishing With a Green Heron-Choosing the Right Bait. You Don’t Even Need a Hook”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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