Little Blue Heron (Forest Park)

August 15, 2017

Up close and personal with a little blue heron at Forest Park.

This morning, my friend Bill and I headed over to Forest Park, arriving at sunrise. It was quite warm and steamy as began our hike, similar to the shower I had earlier, but we pressed on without too much complaint. It wasn’t long before we found some baby mallards and a green heron, but I was hoping for something more interesting. About 30 minutes into our hike, we were talking to Joel, a young cardiac researcher I have met in the park before, when a little blue heron flew right over our heads. Little blue herons are known to feed in Forest Park now and then but I’ve never been fortunate to photograph one at that location, until this morning, of course.

I was sure I knew right where the little blue was heading after it flew over us, so Bill and I high-tailed it to that location, to no avail. After that, I told Bill I didn’t know where to start looking so we just turned around and continued our original hike. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed at that point.

As we tarried through the park, stopping frequently to look at late-summer vegetation, such as swamp milkweed, cardinal flower, huge hibiscus blooms along the waterway, and other colorful forbs, I kept thinking about the little blue heron we had seen. Later on, after taking a break to look at an unusual plant, I caught a bird out of the corner of my eye, at ground level, only about 25 feet away. As I swung my lens toward it, I said, “Darn Bill, I wish that green heron was the little blue we saw earlier.” Next, in unison we blurted out, “It is the little blue heron!” Well, it was “game on” after that, and the featured image leaves no doubt as to how close we were to the magnificent little blue heron.

A little blue heron (mature adult) preens from a limb at the edge of a creek in Forest Park.

The little blue heron is one of Missouri’s most gorgeous migrants, typically making an appearance in late-summer to early fall, based on my experience. They are a slate blue color with maroon about the head and neck, especially in spring. Juvenile little blue herons are actually all white, and their size makes them similar to a snowy egret, which is likely the closest relative to the little blue. In spring, juveniles begin molting to the blue color of adults and for a while take on a beautiful, patchwork plumage of blue and white. I was fortunate to photograph all three color phases at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area one summer and wrote a story about the experience in “Missouri Conservationist” magazine. You can read the story and see the different color phases here.

A look at the crest of a little blue heron as it scratches an itch.

Another look at this very agreeable little blue in Forest Park. Be sure to click on the image to see the color nuances in its plumage.

Bill and I spent about 30 minutes with the little blue before breakfast started calling via rumbling sounds in our tummies. As I folded up my tripod, we did a nerdy-birdy high five at our good luck and headed back toward the 4Runner. We were soaked to our skivvies with sweat by that time, but neither of us cared. It had been one heck of a successful morning.

Thanks for looking,

Danny Brown

Email me with questions or comments at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Take a look at my photo gallery at:  www.dannybrownphotography.com

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way!

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