great blue heron
All posts tagged great blue heron
Today we revisited a couple of places favored by birders: Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve, and Old Woman Creek Nature Preserve, both near Huron, Ohio. Sheldon Marsh was quiet, with Northern Cardinals peeping about, and a Great Blue Heron, nearly invisible as it stalked through tall reeds. The place was lovely to visit and gave us pleasant, green, shady wooded walking, but a bit too quiet. Later, we visited Old Woman Creek and a wonderful vantage point over a wide, open wetland. After some patient waiting, Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret provided some photo ops. Of course there are always the “ones that got away.” Still, I got a couple of “keepers.”
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website, “Old Woman Creek is one of the state’s few remaining examples of a natural estuary. As a transition zone between land and water, the site contains a variety of habitats including marshes and swamps, upland forests, open water, tributary streams, barrier beach and near shore Lake Erie. The Reserve supports a diverse assemblage of native plants and animals representative of freshwater estuaries. Old Woman Creek Reserve is managed as a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Old Woman Creek is also an Ohio State Nature Preserve.”
Too quick for me was a Kingfisher’s dive into the open water to emerge and shoot into flight with a good sized fish in its beak. I got a couple of shots of the little guy speeding off with his lunch but nothing good enough to show here. The heron shown above also managed to make good its escape without my properly documenting it. Dang! Must… go… back! Will do so in another month or so.
Now Arriving: A Great Blue Heron arrives at its rookery bearing a tree stick for its nest on a gloomy Sunday in late March. Nests are pretty much complete and it was quiet, this afternoon, at the rookery. The big birds are sitting on nests, standing in the grasses below the nesting trees, waiting for hatching; then the real work begins!
This morning I was driving in the Olmsted Township (Ohio) area and felt like I could use some quiet time. A favorite place is David Fortier River Park in Olmsted Falls. As soon as I got out of my car I knew the park was the right place for me. I began my stroll along a path that leads to the falls, photographing interesting and beautiful rocks and plants along the way. As I drew closer to the falls I noticed something gray standing up from the shadowed rocks and water … a Great Blue Heron was looking for breakfast! Dressed in light-colored clothing, I felt the bird would quickly spot me and flee the scene. No, it held its position, standing in the water flowing over exposed rock. I shot many images, expecting each to be my last before the great bird’s departure. The heron stayed still, until I got a little too close for comfort. The Great Blue Heron — actually a bit small – probably a youngster — warily began to stroll away from me. It walked across dry rocks, then out to the main falls, and along the edge of the cascade. Finally it reached the end of the falls across the river from me and too far for good picture-taking. The bird felt safe and I was out of time. I headed back to the car. We had made our decisions to just walk away.
The weather was splendid today, if slightly cool for August in Northeastern Ohio. We took a little jaunt down to the Ira Road area of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to walk the wetlands boardwalk portion of the Towpath Trail. It wasn’t long before we spotted the first, and boldest, of three Great Blue Herons. This big guy was perfectly happy to stand in the shallow waters of the abandoned canal stalking prey as we watched from the nearby trail. I’ve a wonderful set of shots of the big bird staring, preening, and yawning. This closeup, however, is my favorite and possibly my prettiest shot of a heron yet.
The heron was, however, all about making a living and we as we watched it spotted something between the lily pads and, with lightning speed, struck at its prey full-force. Whatever the would-be lunch was, it got away this time, leaving the heron thrashing in the water, even appearing embarrassed as it flapped up to a log to shake off water and shame.
Within sight of the big bird I thought I saw something much smaller and less familiar but I wasn’t sure. Was it an upturned lily pad or, yes (!), a Green Heron! Typically skittish I fully expected the little thing to rocket skyward as I approached on the trail. Like it’s giant cousin, however, the Green wasn’t shy and went about its business with us watching. It had been about two years since I’d last seen a Green Heron and this was a welcome sight.
It was a great day (and photographically productive) in the soft sunlight and fresh air spent stalking the stalkers!
Until this morning, I’d never seen a Great Blue Heron basking in the morning sun. This big guy appeared to be hot and panting and, perhaps, it held its wings away from its body to cool a bit. Thing is, the Blue was in a spot of sun; that made for a very nice picture with rim lighting effects but would not have helped it cool off. Warding off swarming mosquitoes, I watched and photographed the bird for a long time. I’m sure the basking heron was watching me but seemed happy to stay on its perch and warm, or cool, or just rest. I continued my hike around Hinckley Lake, spying and imaging the basking bird through trailside understory plants. I spent a long time walking, watching, and sweating (temperature was above 80F), turning around about halfway around the lake. My normal birding spots were empty of large waterfowl which was a bit of a disappointment. As I returned to the area where I’d spent so much time earlier, I slowed my pace and began peering through the brush. Sure enough, the heron was still there! I shot a few more portraits of “Basking Blue” and continued my hike to the trailhead. Though soaked with perspiration, I couldn’t leave for home before looking for my other favorite pond creatures: dragonflies. The most plentiful of the dragonflies this day were Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) and they seemed to be everywhere along the western lake edge. One of the tiny, brilliant dragons posed for me a few times and I was pleased to record not only his image but the stain-like patch of color created by sunlight passing through his wings, falling upon bleached wood.
A vigorous walk around Hinckley Lake this morning provided plenty of “photo ops.” I got images of at least three Great Blue Herons, a macro shot of a slug (actually kind of pretty), some flowers, a butterfly, and fish thrashing about in the water apparently in the throes of spawning. The shot that was a standout, however, was also something of a surprise. I liked the way the morning sun was playing across some lily pads floating at the edge of the lake. Some of the pads had beaded puddles of water on their waxy tops and the sun outlined them in silver. The camera, set to automatically select a shutter speed appropriate to the light level, saw all that light and darkened the scene: the pads turned black, the puddles showed textures, and the pads seemed to levitate above the glowing surface. The scene, overall, looked somewhat foreboding. Perfect. The title sprang to mind and I couldn’t think of anything better… “Death Pads!”
Always looking around as I travel, a river scene I’d spied caused me to whip the little Insight into a just-big-enough gravel spot alongside the road. As I was crossing a ford over the East Branch Rocky River, I’d spotted a lone Great Blue Heron standing in the dark, slow-moving waters. The bird was surrounded by dark green foliage lining the river banks and was lit by the morning sun. All I had with me was my trusty Canon PowerShot G11, but you use what you’ve got! I hopped from the car and gingerly headed back to the ford. The heron was far enough away it did not regard me as a threat and went about the business of catching breakfast. A few shots of the heron striding across the shallow river and I turned to take a few more images of the upstream view. A beautiful morning but, as usual, I had places to go and was already running late. Sigh. Good morning!
This morning we paid a visit to the heron rookery, or heronry, to see how the Great Blue Herons were getting on with their nest building. This particular communal nesting area is within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, at the north end of Akron. It was a fine, warm, spring day with large patches of milky clouds floating in a pale blue sky. A strong breeze flowed from the west-southwest and we could see the big birds struggling, at times, to control their landings high in the naked tree branches.
The bright cloud layers made many of our photographs into silhouettes; working with that was difficult but a few nice images emerged. Still, my personal favorite shots of the day were pictures that showed off the size, power, and primitive beauty of the herons — possibly my favorite birds to watch and photograph.
During my visit to the places of my childhood earlier this month, I stopped by Delta (Ohio) Reservoir. Well, actually, now there are a couple of them… maybe even three but I don’t know the full history. There was a small pond that had pretty much gone back to nature when I was a kid; a great place for spotting turtles and trying to catch frogs. That pond may have been the village’s first reservoir. Then there was the big, deep-water reservoir where the town’s water came from. Today there is a third, much larger, reservoir immediately adjacent to the “middle” one and that middle one now is looking a bit more like a wildlife refuge than water storage area. During my visit I was pleased to see a couple of Great Blue Herons fishing the edges of the reservoir. Maybe because the surroundings were more open or perhaps these birds just aren’t used to people, whatever the reason they were skittish. I could not get nearly so close to these herons as I often could back home. Still, I caught one stalking the reeds along the eastern rim and got a few shots of a couple flights — all at a distance.
It was grey, windy, and chilly so I was getting ready to continue my car trip when I saw a jet-black silhouette — a pretty good-sized bird was swooping in. What the…. ? As it landed in the cold waters and its body sank mostly beneath the surface I realized it was a cormorant! Now I enjoy watching birds but I don’t call myself a birdwatcher. I thought the sight was pretty rare and for me, it is, though not in the greater scheme of things. Some time ago, water pollution and loss of habitat brought the skilled underwater fisher-birds dangerously low in population. Reportedly in the ’60s, the cormorants had nearly disappeared from Lake Erie (both Lake Erie and Lake Michigan are not distant from my Northwestern Ohio origins). With environmental improvements and protection, however, the cormorants succeeded in their recovery so well they are apparently now something of a nuisance! The black bird’s great numbers are blamed by some for depleted fisheries and damage to forests.
That day, however, there were only two on the small lake from which Delta draws its water. Though I was ill-prepared to photograph yet another shy bird keeping its distance so well, I gave it a try. These are my first shots of a Double-Crested Cormorant, heavily-cropped to make up for the measly 200mm telephoto lens I’d packed. I like ’em anyway.