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Posts Tagged ‘Great Blue Heron fishing’

I was amazed on Tuesday when I saw a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) snag a really large fish in the shallow waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron carefully made its way to a secluded area of the shore where it was hidden from view to enjoy its big catch. It might have been a bit of a struggle for the heron to swallow a fish that large, but I have seen Great Blue Herons swallow fish almost that big in the past.

I had been observing the heron for quite a while and had seen it catch numerous tiny fish as it waded about in the shallow water. Gradually the heron moved to slightly deeper water and continued to look for fish. All of the sudden the heron extended its neck and plunged its head forcefully into the water, extending its wings as it did so. The third image shows how committed the heron was as it submerged its entire upper body.

Once it had grabbed the fish underwater, the heron flapped its mighty wings, as you can see in the final photo, to generate enough force to pull the large fish out of the water. The first image shows the moment when the fish first came out of the water. The second image shows the heron as it slowly and gingerly walked to the shore—it apparently did not want to take the chance of losing its catch.

Tuesday was overcast and cool and up to that point in the day I had not had much success in finding subjects to photograph—this encounter priduced the catch of the day for me and probably for the heron too.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to watch Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Most of the time when I see them, they are standing motionless in the water, watching and waiting for prey to come within range. We both stand there, waiting for a decisive moment when the heron will strike.

When I spotted this heron last Friday, he was in shallow water, water that was much to shallow for it to be able to catch a large fish. The heron was hunched over and was making multiple strikes, but I could not tell if they were successful. From the angle at which I was shooting, the heron’s bill looked cartoonishly long and its body seemed much more compact and squat than normal.

Finally, as you can see in the second photo, the heron caught something big enough for me to see. The heron flipped the little fish into the air and I managed to capture the moment when the fish was in mid-air, just before the heron gulped it down. The positioning of the heron and the direction of the light made the heron’s mouth look a bit like that of a mini-pelican.

Later that same day I spotted a Great Blue Heron standing in some colorful vegetation that hid its lower body. Unlike the first heron that seemed to be having fun, this second heron seemed to be stern and intense as it surveyed the marshland. I really like the way that the vegetation in both the foreground and the background was blurred, which draws the viewer’s attention directly to the heron.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) snag a small fish on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Herons like to swallow their catches head-first, so the heron tossed the fish in the air several times to reposition it.

In the final photo, the heron had finally flicked the fish into the proper position and was preparing to swallow it. I am pretty sure that he was successful in doing so, although the photo suggests that his aim was somewhat less than perfect. I have tossed popcorn, M&M’s, and other tasty treats into the air and tried to catch them in my mouth and can testify to the fact that it is not as easy as it looks.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On an unusually warm winter day when temperatures soared into the 60’s (16 degrees C), this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was taking advantage of the conditions to fish in a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron struck repeatedly during the time that I watched him and appeared to be having a good deal of success, although the fish were all pretty small, like the one in the second image below.

It was wonderful to walk about in the warmth and sunshine of a spring-like day, a foretaste of things to come. As I write this posting, however, a cold rain is falling that forecasters predict might turn into a couple of inches of snow.

I personally have had enough of winter this year with an unusually snowy January and am ready for spring to arrive. I feel a little like a child in the back seat of a car during a long road trip, endlessly inquiring, “Are we there yet?

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the past I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch some incredibly large fish, but the tiny fish this heron caught on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge may be the smallest prey that I have ever seen a heron catch.

Hopefully the fish was just an appetizer and not the main course.

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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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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