Posts tagged “great blue heron

Herons hunting on the Vermilion Lakes

During the warmer months, there are a number of great blue herons that settle around the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park.  A couple of weeks ago, I was on the shore of the second lake watching daybreak over a smoke-filled Bow Valley.

Looking across the lake, I saw ten herons spread out across a marshy spot a couple of hundred meters away.  They were a bit too far away to observe them closely but I liked watching them as they hunted, interacted with one another and preened their feathers.

An eagle flew overhead which sent all of the herons into the air.  In twos and threes they sped away while the eagle stayed on a straight line towards the first lake.  Within 15 minutes a couple of the herons returned.  Shortly after that three others alighted in the shallows of another marshy area.

There was a trail that angled towards that spot so I hoisted the big lens and tripod and wandered down.  The path died out, overgrown by tall grass, but not before leaving me less than 50 meters from the closest of the three herons there.  I set up and then enjoyed an hour watching these birds doing their thing.




A morning with a great blue heron in Bragg Creek

I spent Sunday morning watching a great blue heron hunting for fish in the shallows of a small lake near Bragg Creek.  Early on it was just above freezing which led to mist rising off, and swirling across, the water.  The heron was on the far side when I first spotted him so I took turns watching the weather and the fishing.

The day slowly warmed up a little as did the heron to me.  I stayed put in my lawn chair and around 10:30, he crossed the lake landing about 60 meters away from me.

Herons are excellent hunters and this fellow caught fish steadily while walking in the shallows.

One more flight a little while later put him back on the far side but still quite close.

He continued hunting along the shoreline there for another 45 minutes.

Towards noon, I wanted to get home and when he flew back towards the first location I’d found him, I thought that was a sign that our encounter was completed for the day.


A heron’s portrait

There are a couple of great blue herons near Exshaw, east of Canmore.  In late April, before the greening up in the grass and the trees, I found this stark and beautiful scene with one of them pausing within it for a moment.


A heron fishing in silhouette

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Walking back from the birds along the shoreline of the Bow River, I drew a line along the ponds in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.  The daylight was failing and the paths were in deep shadow.  The water reflected the southern sky where there were breaks in the surrounding forest.  In one of these bright patches, was a welcome surprise, there stood a Great blue heron, his profile silhouetted and motionless at first.

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The bird then moved slowly in the shallows and I loved watching as the hunter stalked the fish below.

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Within a couple of minutes, a strike came.  The water was pitch black to me but that did not help this fish.  The heron lifted its head out of the water with a very nice sized dinner I would imagine.

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Once finished, the heron continued to ply its trade, looking to have seconds.

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A Heron in Banff

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1754

I was in Banff for an early morning sunrise shoot a couple of weeks ago.  Following that, I spent the morning hiking and driving around looking for wildlife.  The first animal I found was this Great blue heron fishing on the first Vermilion Lake.

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1747

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1744

Following this short story of the heron in Yellowstone National Park, I thought it would be good to post another with its Canadian cousin.  I watched the heron work in the long grass on the lake edge for several minutes before it turned away from the sun and flew eastward and beyond my sight.

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1759

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1767

 


A Heron in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9157

Great blue herons are a favourite bird of mine.  I was very happy when I spotted this one fishing along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park when I was there a few weeks ago.  I found a little shoulder off the road where I could park my car and I walked back to the small bridge I had just crossed.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9123

The heron was stalking through the grass in the water, noted my presence with a slight turn of its head, and then continued.  A few minutes, three strikes and two fish later, it had moved closer and was now directly across the water from me.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9132

Whether it was momentarily full, spooked by a particular vehicle crossing the bridge or just tired of me watching, it jumped into the air after ducking under the logs in front of it in the picture above.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9143
I was in a great position to watch the strong wingbeats lift the heron.  I was already feeling lucky for first finding it along this beautiful river bend and then getting to photograph it fishing.  When it took flight and then banked overhead, I was able to get several nice flight shots and I felt my luck had doubled down on its own accord – and won!

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9147-2
Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9150

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9153


Elk River Heron

Elk River Heron flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

The Elk River runs through a southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.  Where the river spills out of the mountains into the Elk Valley, it widens and attracts an abundance of fish which in turn draws eagles, osprey and herons.  On our recent trip to Fernie I enjoyed several walks along the river and was able to watch all of these birds on separate encounters.  On the first evening my nephew Austin and I were out for a walk and watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying low along the river and land at a shallow stretch.

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

There was enough light that it worked out well to photograph him flying by and landing.

 Along the banks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

He landed nearby but spooked when we walked a bit closer so we headed home.  It was the right call not only for the bird but the rain increased from the drizzle to a downpour which we were happy to miss.

Heron landing - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2500 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

Thanks Austin – it was fun to be out birding with you!

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2000 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


Great Blue Heron at Red Rock Crossing

Great Blue Heron in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) I see are usually wading in the water or flying above it. When I was in Sedona I went down to Red Rock Crossing and was surprised to catch sight of one not by Oak Creek but in a field of tall grass a couple of hundred meters away from the water.

Heron under the red rocks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Down in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The bird was walking on a path leading up towards a ridge but lingered fairly close which allowed me to change lenses for a couple of different looks.  I really love these birds and it was a treat to see one in an unusual environment.

Walking away - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I noticed some crimson flecks on its bill and when I left the bird and went back towards Oak Creek, I figured out why the Heron stayed nearby.  I realized I had interrupted its dinner.  I left the area and returned to the edge of the clearing an hour later to find it had left but not before returning to finish the meal.


Great Blue Heron Reflected

A Heron's flight reflected - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I went to the small lake in Wild Rose on the weekend to see whether the cooler weather of the past week had scared off the pair of Great Blue Herons who summer there.  The shoreline was empty and I thought the lake had been left by these large birds until next year.  I turned my attention to the small island in the middle of the lake.  Under a stand of mixed trees at the far end one heron was standing a few metres back from the water’s edge.

Wild Rose High Four - 2013 © Christopher Martin

It stared my way for a few minutes and then resumed its previous activity – perched on one leg, standing motionless except for the occasional pull at a stray feather or similar grooming habit.  When a noise drew its attention it would stare for a bit and then continue.  I loved the colours in the bushes along the shoreline and their soft reflections.  I hoped to see the heron fly low against this backdrop so I waited.  And waited.

Great Blue Heron reflected - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Somewhere close to an hour later it finally stretched out its wings, stepped close to the water and took to the air.  It was worth the wait.  Flying low, the feet dragged in the water a couple of times as it crossed the lake.  I love watching Great Blue Herons fly, their wings are so large that it seems like they are barely putting in any effort when they fly yet they move at a good pace.

Slicing the surface - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The heron checked its flight as it arrived on the other side and started walking along the shallows.  I watched it stalk fish for a while and then I headed home to warm up.  I think it will be heading south soon.

Checked flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Fishing in the shallows - 2013 © Christopher Martin


A Heron’s Flyby

A Heron's flyby - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the last evening in the Khutzeymateen, we pulled up the anchor and cruised halfway westward down the inlet.  It felt like I was going in the wrong direction as we sailed away from this home of the bears.  We sheltered in a cove about halfway down the ten-mile inlet for the night and enjoyed a quick zodiac ride around this new area.  There were a few seals who popped their heads out of the water to watch us as we puttered along the shoreline.

A curious friend - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Ahead of dinner, I pulled up chair on the bow and enjoyed watching the day slide away.  I had noticed some birds on the shore but they were a long distance from our location so I did not keep too sharp an eye on them.  Until, one of the larger birds took to the air and made a direct line for the sailboat.  Swiftly closing the distance between us, I realized this cove resident to be Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

Coming for a visit? - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Herons are a favourite bird of mine.  I love how they fly, huge wings tracing out powerful beats while their necks hold their heads back in a seemingly laid back manner.  I see them frequently whether I’m on a lake in the mountains, near a marsh on the prairies or, luckily, on a boat in one of the most wonderful places I have ever been.

Downstroke - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Drawing near, it was clear he was curious who was staying over that night and he had decided to complete a flyby to check us out.  He flew within a couple of metres of my head, banked over the stern and flew back to the beach.  Apparently we had not raised any ire as all of the birds continued with their activities along the water before nightfall.

Passing by - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Although I have spent a lot of time watching Great Blue Herons, I have never had one circle directly around me.  I liked being their almost at his approval.  Romantically, I thought of it as an acceptance of us being in this wild place for a few days.  It was a gift to be able to end the last night with this highlight.


Fishing with a heron

Over the weekend I was in Vancouver for some photography work.  With my friend Jack we visited the wonderful birds preparing for spring in the Lower Mainland.  We spent time in the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary with Wood ducks and Sandhill cranes, the owls along Boundary Bay, Great blue herons (Ardea herodias) around the marinas and waterways in Ladner, and a few other great spots.  Although I lived in Vancouver for university, I had not visited any of these locations for wildlife before.  I was amazed by the birds and their numbers at almost every location.  I am looking forward to sharing some of the images soon.

A pause in the hunt -2013 © Christopher Martin

This Great blue heron was a highly proficient hunter and it collected fish steadily for the hour that we watched it from a bank in Ladner off of River Road.  The heron moved along the shoreline as the tide was going out and kept up its hunting pace the whole time.  Great opportunities to watch the heron’s behaviour and its technique.  I learned a few tells of when it is readying to strike that yielded some really nice images.  I’m having fun working through the collection.


Herons on the water in Wild Rose

(please click any image for a higher resolution version)

I have watched and photographed this Great Blue Heron for the snow-free months along Wild Rose’s ponds and lakes in Bragg Creek for four years.  Last weekend was the first time that I have seen her in the company of other herons.  It makes me think that these are two chicks she has raised this year.

I spent an hour watching her perched in a tree across the lake from where I had set up my camera and tripod.  I was in plain sight a couple of hundred feet from a spot where she often hunts for fish.  When I spied her in the tree, I thought I would wait to see if she flew my way.  After waiting for a while, she swooped down into the westernmost pond just below the tree so I packed up and hiked over there to see if I could photograph the hunting.  When I got there I saw her and as I approached, I spooked one of the other herons.  I thought the heron I have seen for years was alone so I was watching her as I moved closer.  Stepping onto the small berm around the pond, I saw a flurry of wings beating as a heron in the grasses near me flew up and across the pond before landing near “my” heron.  I was even more surprised when I saw the third one stalking in the water behind a stump.  All three took flight a while later and went across the main lake into the tree where I have often seen the single heron preening and watching the water.

I went back to my original spot and watched them fly together to another group of trees where they could watch for fish while keeping an eye on me.  They stayed close together and the single heron seemed to be leading their movements around the lake.  I may be wrong but it seemed like a family day on the water to me.  I had my longest lens on my camera so the best I could get was two of the three birds in one frame.  I will have to pull out the second camera with a smaller lens next time to make a proper family portrait!