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Posts Tagged ‘Great Blue Heron’

The shape of the silhouette is familiar and if the lighting is bad, you might be able to convince yourself that a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is standing in the corner of a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. I have visited the pond dozens of times, so I know that the heron is not real, but it still makes for a fun subject to photograph.

I love the heron’s distorted reflection in the first photo and the touches of green provided by a small tree to the side and the duckweed floating on the surface of the water. I was equally thrilled when a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on the heron’s head after I had moved in closer. I doubt that a real heron would have been quite as accommodating in permitting the dragonfly to perch and seem to recall having seen a Great Blue Heron attempt to snatch a dragonfly out of the air as it flew by.

Great Blue Heron

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I first got interested in photographing birds, Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) were one of my favorites. They were large, easy to find, and cooperative subjects. Rather than fly away when they sensed my presence, they would often remain in place. That tendency, I learned, was both a blessing and a curse. It is easier to photograph a bird when it is stationary, but eventually I wanted to capture action and Great Blue Herons, I learned, have endless patience—they can stay motionless for a really long time before they strike, often longer than I was willing to wait.

I still love to see Great Blue Herons and spotted this one earlier this month during a trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron seemed restless and was slowly slogging its way through the vegetation. Perhaps it was hunting or maybe it was just relocating to another spot. In any case, it was wonderful to see and photograph one of my old familiar favorites.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was sunny this morning, as forecast, but it was also windy and cold when I set out at 7 o’clock, about 25 degrees (minus 4 degrees C), according to the thermometer in my car. Most of the birds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have decided to sleep late, but eventually I started to see some of them, including this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that was wading out into the shallow waters of a low tide.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I watched as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly flew across the sky and perched high in a tree in the middle of the woods. The perch seemed precarious and the heron’s position did not appear to be at all comfortable. I honestly don’t know how the heron managed to land amidst all of the small branches—it required precision flying for the heron to pull in its wide wings at precisely the right moment as it decelerated.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Merry Christmas to family and friends who are celebrating Christmas today and Happy Holidays to all of you scattered throughout the world. Even this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) seemed to want to join me in singing earlier this week.

“And heaven and nature sing,” as the chorus to “Joy to the World” tells us, as all creatures join with the landscape to “repeat the sounding joy.”

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was a frigid and desolate day and ice had formed at the edges of the ponds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. My initial scan revealed that there were no ducks or other water birds on the surface of the water. As I looked more carefully, though, I caught sight of the familiar shape of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

The heron was stationary, huddled on the opposite side of the pond from me. I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like the heron was standing on a single leg, with the second leg pulled up under its chest feathers in an effort to conserve body heat. Great Egrets and Green Herons leave our area and head south before the winter arrives, but Great Blue Herons remain with us throughout the cold season.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking around a pond in Northern Virginia, I spotted this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing at the edge of the water. My view, however, was significantly obstructed by the vegetation that separated us. I moved a little closer and then started to make tiny movements up and down and from side to side, searching for a visual tunnel that would give me a clearer view of this beautiful bird.

Although I never did get a completely unobstructed shot, I really like this one. The image has kind of a whimsical feel to it, because at first glance it looks like the heron has speared the small tree and I was also quite happy with the amount of detail that I was able to capture in the feathers and in the eye.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is in the open water patiently waiting to catch a fish. This past Thursday, however, I initially had trouble spotting this heron—it was hunkered down among the trees at the edge of the water of a small suburban pond, probably seeking shelter on a cold and windy day. I moved close enough to get some shots and then silently moved away, being careful not to disturb the heron and force it to move from its carefully chosen spot.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched in a tree last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, calmly surveying the area, as shown in the second shot. As I drew closer, I could sense the heron beginning to gather itself.  I managed to capture the first image as the Great Blue Heron leaped into the air, preparing to take flight.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Birds seem to spend a lot of time grooming themselves and this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was no exception. I spotted it yesterday on a small island in the Potomac River, midway between Riverbend Park and Great Falls Park. I knew that Great Blue Herons had flexible necks, but I must admit that I had never before seen one contort itself into the position shown in the first photo below.

After it had adjusted its feathers, the heron stood for a while with its wings partially opened. The position looks really strange and I have been told that it is a way for herons to dissipate heat when the weather gets hot by allowing greater air circulation. In case you are curious, I took the second and third photos from exactly the same spot—for one of them I was standing and for the other I was crouching.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sunny days have been relatively rare this winter, so it is almost a special occasion when we do have one. Although it is nice to capture images of rare subjects on those special days, it is equally pleasurable to photograph the common species, like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The additional light from the sun helps to make the heron’s wonderful colors “pop” much more than they do on gray cloudy days.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the delicate and deliberate way that Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) place their large feet when walking in shallow water, like this heron that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was not as bitterly cold on Monday as it is today, but this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) nonetheless seemed to be hunkered down at the edge of a pond as it sought to stay warm at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It almost looks like the heron is wrapped in a cloak of fluffed-up feathers with only a minimum amount of its body exposed to the elements.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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Most of the time that I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is standing stationary in the water or is flying away from me. Yesterday, however, I saw herons in slightly more unusual places. One was crouching slightly as it perched on a low branch overhanging a path at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the other was huddled in a field adjacent to a small pond, half-hidden from view.

The first image is an obvious one to feature in a posting, but I also really like the way that I captured the heron’s surroundings in the second image and the heron’s yellow eye that seems to be peering out at me though the reeds.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I entered Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge early one morning last week, a layer of ground fog was hanging over the fields, giving the landscape an eerie feel that somehow seemed appropriate for the Halloween season.

As I made my way to the water’s edge, the skies brightened a bit and the fog seemed to lift a little. I was filled with a peaceful and serene feeling as I enjoyed the early morning moments with a Great Blue Heron in the distance.

morning fog

morning fog

morning fog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I suspected that this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be silhouetted because I was shooting into the light. I was going to make some adjustments to my camera settings, but it took off before I could do so and I captured a cool series of images.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I liked the way that a few details of the feathers were visible in the images and the pink and blue streaks in the background were a nice touch. I decided, however, to play around with one of the images and opened the second shot in SIlver Efex Pro 2, a black and white conversion software program that is part of the Nik Collection.

One of the filters turned the heron into a completely black silhouette—with some birds, identification would be a problem, but the shape of the heron is unmistakable here. Another filter created the effect of a pinhole camera and you can see the result in the final images. There is something about that final image that really appeals to me.

I tend to strive for realism in my photos and normally do only a minimal amount of post-processing. I had so much fun, though, playing around with the different effects you can achieve with software that I suspect I will consider doing so again in the future.

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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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
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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