Monday, August 13, 2012

THE GREEN HERON - An intimate view - and more

Click on photos to enlarge.
This blog entry focusing on the green heron will be the last one to do so.  There are a couple reasons for this decision.  The first reason is that readers can become bored constantly being bombarded with the same subject.  I've been writing about and posting pictures of green herons fairly regularly lately.  Secondly, I've photographed them thoroughly and there isn't many unique pictures I can capture, although the shots in this entry are extraordinary, at least to me.  In the beginning the green heron has been difficult for me to find, observe and photograph until I read about them and discovered their priorities in the wild.  I now have them pretty well figured out and know all their favorite hang-outs on this lake.   The one thing that eludes me is where they nest.  I can find a green heron now at any given day or time but, I absolutely can not discover their nesting sites.  I will eventually find them and when I do I will post pictures here on the blog.  My passion for this bird is due to its uniqueness in the way it goes about its daily life.  It hunts as if it is motivated by thought process.  Of course that is not the case.  They are sensitive to every particular that surrounds them and they are superb hunters and adapt to any situation.  I had the pleasure of watching one hunt today.  The pictures are posted here in this entry.   I've also posted other shots of favorite birds here also.  If they continue to make themselves available for photography then, I will accommodate them.  I just will not seek them out as I have an amazing collection of all the birds available to photograph on Douglas Lake.  With that all being said, I'll move on with today's entry.

I was scheduled to run on exactly the same water I floated over yesterday.  Its the least productive part of the lake for what I need to accomplish.  Shade went along yesterday and it was hard on her as there are few places I can beach the boat to let her off for a break.  Me too.  The shoreline on both sides of the lake is owned by everyone.  Private property.  I had to figure out how to get out of the house without her.  I hate to fool the dogs with treats and run out on them.  They give me their hearts and minds and I find it hard to trick them.  That is something I will not do.  I'd simply take the direct approach and be up front with them.  Shade knows the agency uniform shirt and when she sees it she knows we're going out.  If she gets out the front door of the house I will not get her back in.  She will wait beside the truck door.  If I go out to entice her back in, she will follow me back to the porch and then run under the porch steps and hide.  Its a losing battle.  She was waiting for me at the front door, tail wagging wildly.  I simply said "no.  Shade no."  She walked to the wall behind me and sat down.  Her ears dropped as did her tail.  She was crushed.  There is nothing she would rather do than go with me.  I opened the door and simply walked out and left her sitting there.  I hate that.  I've never had a dog who could read me like Shade does.  Not even the golden dog was in tune with me like Shade is.

I was on the afternoon shift and left for the lake two hours before my start of work.  I wanted to motor across the lake to a cove that was thick with green herons.  I wanted to really focus on them one more time before stopped the continual search for them.  I turned off the main lake into the cove and shut off the engine.  The electric motor was dropped and I moved silently ahead slowly.  There were flooded trees in the center of the waterway and I wanted to sneak up to them and bury the big boat right in the center of them.  The boat fit between their trunks perfectly and I made sure I had a great view in all directions.  Green herons started to fly about and land on the shoreline and in the trees.  One particular green heron alighted in a pile of drift wood on the shoreline.  He hopped from place to place until he discovered a log that was satisfactory to him.  He moved along the log slowly keeping constant watch down on the water's edge.

He moved very slowly and cautiously.  He was definitely hunting.  He had no idea I was present.

Above:  A large fly flew precariously close to the heron's head.  The bird stretched his neck out to insert its head in the flight path of the fly.  The fly, however, changed course. 

He resumed patrolling his area, eyes fixed ahead of him.

He suddenly moved to action with a flurry of feathers and half flew and half jumped down near the water.  He stayed back from the water's edge but his focus was on the water.

All of a sudden his head shot down to the water and he pulled back dinner.  I captured him on his initial attack where his bill is in the water but, I didn't get a shot of him actually extracting the minnow.  Amazing speed!

The shot above shows him with his bill in the water and no doubt has the fish.  Look closely at the next picture.  He has actually speared that fish with both upper and lower bill sections.  Amazing!

The amazing thing here is that this whole conclusion started with the heron walking down the log and looking "straight ahead."  How did he see the fish way down at the water line?  He had to see it with the eye on the side of his head.  How in the world do they focus on something with one eye.  He actually saw that fish in the water located on a different (lower) plane than he was on.  Amazing!

He snapped his head to the side and wiped his beak with the fish still speared against a stick to pull it off his beak.  He picked it back up and swallowed it down whole.  The movements were lightning fast.  Too fast for me to get the step by step process with the camera.

 And there goes the fish down his throat.


 He jumped back up to a higher spot on the log and shook himself while ruffling his feathers.

 Below:  Note the partial cresting of his head plumage.
He was back up on his log and resumed his patrol, every feather in its place.


These photos are actually a study in how this bird moves, how it acts when hunting and the sharpness of its sight, to name only a few topics.  I personally am very satisfied with the collection of photographs I've accumulated during my study of this interesting heron.  Its time to move on to another species.
It was time for me to get on the move to my area of the day and start to rove around the lake.  I would keep my eyes open for opportunities that held photographic merit.
 Well, if hes going to pose for me I'll go ahead and take his picture.

Another osprey for my collection of thousands.

I noticed a great blue heron dragging something up the bank.  It was a huge fish.  He was really struggling with it and was in a rush to get it back away from the shoreline.  As it turned out he was trying to hide somewhere with it.  He could barely handle it.  He tripped and caught his feet on logs as he made his way to the trees.   I don't know if he picked up a huge dead fish or if he caught it and pecked it apart.  Herons don't usually eat carrion.  The reason for his rush to hide soon became apparent.  


He almost made it to hiding with his prize.  Two thieves of the lake arrived on the scene and took the heron's treasure away from him and drove the great blue off.  The strong always prevail.  There was quite a squabble back in the thicket that I could not see.  I did see the great blue heron fly off. The interlopers were turkey vultures, big and powerful.

I didn't expect to run into any critters today on this part of the lake.  I almost didn't take the camera.  I'm glad I did.  I've often said that I wish I had better equipment but, I guess I do alright with the commercial grade stuff.  I know my photographs will never win any awards and I don't take photos for that purpose.  These memories are forever and they're my memories.  I do want to post photos that are acceptable and interesting to folks, however.  When people look at my images I would like them to think I take decent shots.  I don't even have photo software other than free stuff from the internet so, I guess what you see is as good as it is going to get.  I will say this:  the critters are all taken in the wilds and a lot of them aren't easy to photograph.  For that I am proud of my work.  I'll throw a couple more photos up and then I'm out of here.  Hope you found something interesting on this blog entry today.