Fun with Green Herons

August 2, 2017

A green heron positions a frog for its final destiny.

We have a big hill behind our house that goes all the way down to our pond. You might say the hill is my outdoor treadmill as I keep a trail mowed for walking down and back up numerous times whenever I’m inclined to sweat a little. Yesterday, I heard a green heron shriek as I approached the pond on my exercise walk. I was surprised because this was the first year in as long as I can remember that green herons haven’t nested at our pond. I assumed the heron came up from the Bourbuese River, which is only a couple hundred yards farther as the heron flies. I immediately shortened my walk for the remaining laps so I wouldn’t disturb the heron further, and made plans to set up at the pond before daylight the next day.

On arrival this morning, I noticed a critical shortage of floating logs on the pond from which herons could hunt. I looked around in the woods and found a nice branch, although on the small side. I threw the branch in the water and it sailed all the way across the pond to the west side. Because it was only about three or four inches in diameter, I thought to myself that the first heron that lands on it will probably set the branch to moving. It wasn’t long before my hypothesis was put to the test as a green heron came swooping in and landed on the floating branch causing both of them to skid across the water about three feet. Of course the heron didn’t seem to mind a bit, but I won’t go so far to say that it enjoyed the ride.

It was still a little early for shooting so I started watching a Louisiana water thrush over to my right as it fluttered among the primrose, perpetually bobbing its butt up and down as the species does. After a few minutes, I turned to check out the heron and was surprised to see that the heron/log combo had caught the prevailing west breeze and sailed back across the pond within feet of my standard turkey chair hide. The avian sailor was so close I could barely frame a shot with my 500 mm lens. I waited about 10 minutes for some additional help from the sun, which was rising behind me, and finally clicked the shutter. The result is shown below.

A green heron drifts across the pond almost to my feet at water’s edge. Lucky me!

As the morning progressed, three more green herons made an appearance. It was later in the morning when I made the featured image of one of them catching frogs to the right of my hide.

Up close and personal with the heron that drifted to me on the log I supplied before daylight.

The image above is almost full frame. I love super close shots of wildlife when the opportunity arises. I find the eyes of critters captivating. The heron’s neck looks a little washed out as I was shooting through some brush.

A green heron flashes its impressive crest from the west bank of the pond. I was shooting directly across from the east bank.

A session with green herons is never complete unless you get a shot of one of the flashing its crest. The bird above did not disappoint me.

A sunrise silhouette of a green heron at our pond this morning.

The above silhouette is probably one of only three times that I actually tried to make a silhouette of a critter in the field. Most of my previous silhouettes, some of which I’ve shared on my blog, were accidents that turned out pretty cool. When I framed this bird, I noticed the potential for a silhouette when I looked through the viewfinder so instead of overexposing to get the typical shot, I underexposed to get this one.

I always enjoy photographing green herons. They are the rowdiest of all the herons I have photographed. The let out a whip-like shriek when they are alarmed, and they communicate with a series of clucks that become louder toward the end. Green herons are hyper-territorial, even within family groups, such as I’m sure was the case here. Every time an individual finds a good place to hunt, another will interfere and run it off. Often they both fly off and the hunting spot is abandoned. As I have said here before, green herons are voracious feeders and will eat just about anything. I’m never surprised what I see in a green heron’s bill at this point.

Later in the morning after I finally came up for breakfast, I decided to cut down a few dead trees along the driveway. One of them was a hackberry with a 10 inch diameter trunk, as straight as an arrow up about 12 feet to the first dead branch. After I took the tree down, I looked at that big trunk and thought, “Hmmm, that would make a nice perch for herons and wood ducks.” A few minutes later, I retrieved the Kubota and a log chain and dragged the log all the way across the farm to the pond. When I got to the pond, I had a heck of a time rolling the heavy piece of wood into the water. Finally, it came to a stop in the water primrose so I had to strip down to my tighty-whities and wade out in the muck up to my waist to push the log farther so it would float. Well, that didn’t work as I became stuck in the primrose muck. Just as I was about to try to swim out to the middle and exit somewhere else, I noticed an overhanging elm limb that I could just reach and pull myself out of the ooze.

As I stood on the bank in my underwear, evaluating the situation, I remembered an eight-foot, two by four that I had stashed behind a tree years earlier for reasons I couldn’t remember. I found the board and headed back out into the pond. The eight-foot extension was all I needed to make the final push on the log to set it to floating out in the pond. When I finally made it back to the Kubota, I looked out over the water and found the log to be in perfect position. I’ll find out how well it works tomorrow morning.

Back at the house, I spent the next hour cleaning mud off of me, my log chain, the Kubota, and everything else I touched. I also had to retrace my steps to find my wallet that I had lost in the process. It’s a good thing it didn’t end up in the pond! Boy, did I feel good when I finally got a shower and relaxed in air-conditioned comfort. It was indeed a fun morning with herons. Well, some of it was fun anyway.

Thanks for looking,


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6 comments on “Fun with Green Herons”

  1. What a great story I so enjoy your work. Thanks you so much for sharing your talents with us. bruce

  2. Hmm…that heron seems to have been shocked by finally seeing you :D. Thank you for the great images!

  3. Great story. Thanks for sharing all of your adventures… even in your back yard.

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