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June 30, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the North American herons. They can often be seen on shorelines, river banks and ponds. They aren’t likely to visit the typical suburban backyard unless you have a pond with fish.

There is a Heron Rookery along the banks of a river a few miles from my house. They nest in colonies that can number into the hundreds but this one only had about 10 nests. It’s an odd sight to see such large birds standing in trees. (Click on the photo above to enlarge it for a better view of the nests.)

In flight they tuck in their necks and trail their legs straight behind them. They can curl their neck into an S shape thanks to a specially shaped neck vertebrae. This bird was landing in one of the nests.

This is one of the juveniles. Besides being smaller in size, an immature bird can be identified by its striped throat and breast and two-tone bill. Last year when I visited the nesting area I was able to get some nice photos of the adults herons fishing.

I’ve been complaining about not much rain this year. The water level of the river is low and the muddy bottom is visible in some areas. I was able to climb down the river bank and walk about a third of the way out before I hit mud. It’s finally raining as I write this so I hope our month-long drought is over.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. Christine Harding / Jun 30 2012 2:42 am

    Those pictures are so clear. I spotted a grey heron when I walked by the river here in Tamworth early one morning, but I couldn’t get close enough for a decent picture. I’ve been visiting houses built for poor people 200 years ago and took some Snapshot pictures


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:29 am

      Because of the drought the river is almost dry so I was able to walk onto the river bed and get close to the little one.


  2. Louise / Jun 30 2012 3:28 am

    How wonderful to see that heron colony. It is odd to see large birds standing in trees. I saw an egret standing in a tree next door to my parents house last month. I’d never seen one there before- neither had they. I hope to see a rookery like that one day.


  3. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jun 30 2012 5:38 am

    I just picked up a child’s book called Henry the Heron yesterday –LOL …great shots Leslie


  4. Eugenia / Jun 30 2012 5:50 am

    Those are great shots! Their wingspan looks bigger than I’d thought.


  5. Jill / Jun 30 2012 6:58 am

    We have a fish hatchery nearby and the have had to put nets over all of their water areas because the herons were taking to many of the fish before they had a chance to grow and be released into the wild.


  6. BermudaOnion / Jun 30 2012 7:45 am

    We do see birds like that in the ponds in our neighborhood but I’ve never seen one of their nests. They are amazing! I agree that it looks strange to see them standing in the trees!


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:27 am

      Even stranger are the wood ducks… they nest in trees too. Very, very odd looking to see a duck in a tree! I haven’t been able to get a photo of one yet, but I’m still trying.


  7. nrlymrtl / Jun 30 2012 8:09 am

    We have these guys along my river too. I finally heard their mating call early this year and if you have never heard it before, or can’t see what is making it, it is rather disturbing, sounding like a cross between a warning growl of some large predator and a skill saw, all flying low towards you.


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 8:48 am

      I’ve been told they have an interesting mating ritual but I haven’t seen it yet.


  8. storygal / Jun 30 2012 9:00 am

    Love your blog for all the excellent bird photos. I didn’t know how herons could bend their necks so. Thanks.


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:22 am

      It’s pretty cool to watch them fly. They move so slowly, pull their necks in and put their feet straight back. Makes for an unmistakable silhouette.


  9. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / Jun 30 2012 9:15 am

    Send some of the rain this way, we need it!


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:25 am

      I think most of the Midwest could use a little more rain. Last night was our first significant rain in a month. All the storms kept passing us by.


  10. laurelrainsnow / Jun 30 2012 9:17 am

    The blue heron is so elegant….the first picture of the birds clumped in the trees creeps me out a little bit…lol

    Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:26 am

      The first time I saw that I couldn’t believe there were actually nesting that high in the tree.


  11. Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf / Jun 30 2012 10:39 am

    Awesome pictures — you really captured some great shots! The picture of the nests up in the trees is so cool. I had no idea they nested so high!


  12. Kailana / Jun 30 2012 11:17 am

    Wow, great photos!!


  13. irene / Jun 30 2012 11:40 am

    This has always been one of my favourite birds, although I’ve never really seen one with my own eyes. Of late I’ve kinda focussed on our local Swans.


  14. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Jun 30 2012 12:23 pm

    I hope your drought is over soon too! I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up – I saw blue herons almost every day. Two creeks met about 20 ft from our house, and there was a slough that ran parallel to the road to town. I could count on seeing them frequently in the slough when riding the bus to school. I will never forget though the day one of them went to the bathroom on the roof of our shed. You do not want to be near/underneath when that happens. It’s quite impressive in a disgusting way.


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:31 pm

      I have not experienced that yet! A large bird must make a pretty large mess relieving itself. I have been pooped on by a ring-billed gull … and I can tell you that wasn’t very pleasant. Apparently they poop in flight!


  15. Amy Peveto (@AmyPeveto) / Jun 30 2012 2:50 pm

    Those nests hardly look big enough to hold those birds. Why don’t they build them bigger so they can stretch out a little? 😉 Glad the drought might be coming to an and — they’re always horrible.

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot of the cutest dogs ever. 🙂


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:29 pm

      I’m amazed that they don’t fall out of those nests. They look like they are just a bunch of sticks.


  16. readerbuzz / Jun 30 2012 3:45 pm

    We live near the water, but I’ve never seen birds like that. They are enormous!

    Here’s my
    Saturday Snapshot.
    I hope you will stop by!


  17. Amy / Jun 30 2012 4:01 pm

    I didn’t know Herons were so large or have such long legs. I guess because I think of them sitting in trees and, as you said, it’s strange to see such large birds sitting in trees.
    I actually thought the photos of the juvenile standing in water was a picture of a different breed!

    I love reading and learning about different birds from your weekend posts and beautiful photos. Thank you!


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:28 pm

      And when they fly those legs stick out way past their tails. Glad you are enjoying the birds every week.


  18. cherylmahoney / Jun 30 2012 4:05 pm

    That wingspan is incredible!


  19. Suko / Jun 30 2012 4:09 pm

    Wonderful photos, Leslie! What beautiful birds you’ve captured so adroitly!


  20. Marie / Jun 30 2012 6:23 pm

    Amazing photos! Thanks for all of the information about them. I’ve only seen a blue heron once. It was sitting on a branch above a stream presumably waiting for lunch to swim by. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. Great find!!


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:25 pm

      I usually see them standing on the edge of the pond or the river. I always do a double take when I see them in the trees.


  21. Susan / Jun 30 2012 8:49 pm

    So impressed with how close you were able to get … they are so reclusive that it’s a touchy thing to get too near their rookeries. Love to see them in flight …


    • Leslie / Jun 30 2012 9:24 pm

      The rookery itself is on a piece of land in the middle of the river so without a boat people can’t get to them. I used a 250mm zoom lens to shoot the nests. I was able to get close to the little one in the river because of the drought… I jumped down into the river bed and walked a third of the way out to get a closer shot. The river isn’t very wide at that point anyway.


  22. Paulita / Jul 1 2012 6:19 am

    Seeing them in trees is spectacular. We often have Great Blue Heron flying overhead, but I don’t see them nesting. I think we’re just a migratory area. Here’s Mine


  23. sim@chapter1-take1 / Jul 1 2012 12:57 pm

    I agree with Paulita…it’s fantastic seeing them up in the trees. This was an amazing post!


  24. jmchshannon / Jul 1 2012 10:18 pm

    What beautiful pictures and such majestic birds. Thank you so much for sharing!



  1. Weekend Birding: Great Blue Heron Nest | Under My Apple Tree

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