Tag Archives: great blue heron

Heron In Flight

Much of my heron photo collection is of them hunting for their lunch as they stand at the water’s edge.  However, I do occasionally get photos of them in flight.  Now I like most things that fly but I do think that the heron is not the most elegant bird when it is flying.  The long outstretched neck works for a swan or a goose but, for a heron, it seems rather out of balance.  With the large wings, it is an efficient flyer but it doesn’t have the look of a bird that is having an easy time of it.  This one was heading across Juanita Bay and over the the shore where another heron had been hanging out and, as is the way of wildlife, it was determined to drive the other bird away whether it needed to or not!

Sunbathing Heron (I Think)

This heron was standing around on Juanita Bay when mum and I were there.  It wasn’t showing any sign of hunting so I assume it had already eaten well.  The sun was out and it was pretty hot so, after a little preening, the heron adopted a pose I had not seen before.  It opened out its wings and faced the sun.  I couldn’t work out whether this was a position designed to absorb the sun’s rays or whether it provided a mechanism for cooling by maximizing the surface area exposed.  Whichever it is, it was curious.  I also shot some video of the bird which is below.

Random Heron Shots

I have spent a lot of time at Juanita Bay recently photographing wildlife.  One thing that you won’t have to wait long to see there is a Great Blue Heron.  They are a regular feature of the bay and they often come very close to the viewing decks.  Consequently, I have got a lot of shots of them.  Here is a sample of some that I have recently seen.  I haven’t got bored of shooting them but I certainly don’t rush to shoot them when they show up like I used to!

Red-Winged Blackbird Versus A Heron

The herons at Juanita Bay are not universally popular.  The red-winged blackbirds are not keen on them at all and, since it seems that the herons may have raided one or more of the nests, it isn’t hard to see why.  The blackbirds will get quite aggressive at trying to drive the herons away from their nests.  I have seen them do this on more than one occasion.  At one point, I got some video of a heron getting attacked by two of the blackbirds although it wasn’t keen on leaving its fishing spot.  Usually, though, the herons decide to move on rather than take the abuse.

Stickleback Snacks

It is possible to spend a lot of time watching a heron hunting without seeing anything happen.  Their ability to stay still for extended periods of time awaiting prey is impressive.  You hope you will get some catch at some point and that it won’t happen behind something that stops you getting a shot.  One of the herons in Juanita Bay was having some good luck catching sticklebacks.  The only problem was that it would often get other debris at the same time.

After the strike, the bill would have a fish wriggling around in it and some leaves or twigs alongside.  The trick was how to release the surplus material to allow the fish to be eaten without giving the fish a chance to head for freedom.  Clearly this is a regular feature of a heron’s life and the technique has been practiced but I watched with anticipation as it got rid of what it didn’t need and allowed the fish to be swallowed.  The stills don’t give you much idea of how much wriggling was still going on as the fish went down the throat!

Heron Head Shape Is Unusual

Photographing herons is kind of a fun thing to do since they are such a large bird and so distinctive.  Having got so close to some recently, I have got a lot more photos of them from different angles and this has included some head on shots of them.  I had not appreciated the shape of the head of the heron until getting this view.  The head is narrow, as I had know, but it is tapered.  While I thought the eyes were on the sides of the head, the shaping means that they have more of a forward view than I had realized which is obviously important for hunting for fish and perceiving depth when preparing to strike.  Head on it looks like a very different bird!

Heron On The Hunt

Herons are not known for being too happy about people nearby but the ones in Juanita Bay are very used to the people on the boardwalks and they don’t seem to be bothered about how close they are.  I had spent a fair bit of time on one boardwalk chatting to some photographers and we had discussed the heron that was over by the next boardwalk.  As we headed our separate ways, I figured I would go across to see if I could get any shots of the bird.

The light was fading fast so I was shooting at higher ISOs than I would have liked but I was pleasantly surprised that the R3 seemed to have a cleaner result than I would have expected with the 1DXII.  Technology does move on of course, but I think thinks have plateaued a bit in that area so this was a nice result.  The heron was quite close in and, since I only had the 500 with me, I had to chose my location carefully.  The eye tracking did a pretty impressive job with the bird as long as it was not looking directly at me (or away of course).

I did got with high frame rates to try and catch strikes with the food.  Unfortunately, the bird was not having a great time.  I got one strike but it was not a fish but a piece of bark.  Another “catch” provided to be a stick.  Maybe this heron is the sharpest bird in the bay.  Overall, I was pleased with the results and I was more happy about the ability to let the autofocus work across the image so I could compose how I wanted rather than based on the location of autofocus points.

Great Blue Heron Spotting

I posted a photo of a cormorant sitting on a post in Lake Washington in this post.  More recently, the same post became the resting place for a heron.  I had plenty of time to inch closer to get a better shot of the bird.  The background was rather distracting so I ended up crouching in an strange position in order to get a cleaner background.  The heron seemed content to wait for me to get the shot.