Our August cover photo by local photographer Ewa Jarosinska, features one of my favourite birds, the Great Blue Heron. Not often do we get such an up-close and personal glimpse of this graceful giant, but Jarosinska’s photo even captures the heron in its spectacular full mating season plumage.
“Where did Jarosinska take a photo like this?” That was the first question I asked but never expected the photographer to actually divulge such a secret. She told me, and I am assuming that I can pass on the answer…more about that later.
Thanks to their long spindly legs, Great Blues stand almost four feet tall. In addition to its notable height the Great Blue Heron also has a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. Sounds like a pretty monstrous bird doesn’t it? Add in the fact that herons only weigh 5 to 8 pounds (2.3 - 3.6 km.) we realize that lanky is a more apt descriptor than monstrous. Like most birds, a heron’s bones are hollow, a fact that further explains the surprising height-to-weight ratio.
Herons are often seen along lake or ocean shorelines wading, waiting, stalking, and spearing fish, frogs and other heron delicacies. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website has some fascinating footage of an ultra-patient Blue Heron stalking prey. The video includes an ongoing timing display confirming the slow and steady stalking skills of this bird. Some individual steps in the sequence were taken almost a full minute apart. Unlike other birds, I suspect young herons must spend as much time learning Tai Chi as they do in flight classes.
Surprisingly, the above-mentioned online stalking video culminated with the heron successfully spearing not a fish or frog but a gopher! A few years ago, a friend had told me that she had witnessed a similar live event but as engrossed as I was by the patient stalker on the computer screen, I never realized that the star of this video was in a field and not on a shoreline. The poor little gopher was even more surprised.
Many birds of this size nest along shorelines or on small, safe islands. Not Great Blue Herons; not only do they nest in trees but they do so in colonies, called heronries. If you are a nature photography buff I know you will arrive with cameras, scopes, and all the photographic technology you can carry but I would like to add one fact and one suggestion. Fact: a heronry may include as many as 200 nests. Suggestion: wear a hat!
Oh yes, I promised to divulge where our August cover photo was taken. The Otter Bay ferry terminal! I think the real photography secrets of this fine photo are, be observant and bring your camera!
Our thanks to the following website from which we gleaned Great Blue Heron data: Hinterland Who’s Who (Great Blue Heron); Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Seattle Audubon Society; Stanley Park Ecological Society