Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Prehistoric pre-dawn Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons can look and sound like pterosaurs from Jurassic Park. Because they are common and approachable, they are favored photographic subjects. Depicted in every imaginable pose, flying, standing, wading, hunched down, stretched out, roosting, nesting... I had to think twice about putting more photos of them on these pages.

This one visited our lawn.

Great Blue Heron 20110207

We saw another Great Blue Heron catch an exotic Plecostomus species in our back yard. I took the closeups through our back patio window. It flew across the lake and had it half-swallowed in a little more than five minutes. I was surprised how quickly the fish went down despite it poisonous spines.

Great Blue Heron with Plecostomus 20111117

Great Blue Heron with Plecostomus 2-20111117

My all-time favorite is this image of a Great Blue that caught another exotic fish (a Jaguar Guapote, native to Nicaragua), this time at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.

Great Blue Heron Catches Cichlid 20090528

Down the hatch!

Great Blue Heron Ready to Swallow 20090528

Seen in Answers.com:

Q. Is a great blue heron a reptile?

A. i dont know but im sure the answer is yes

A. Look like a prehistoric bird to me

From the Birds and Blooms Blog:

Re: identify this prehistoric bird?

… and all of a sudden, this “thing” looking like a prehistoric pterodactyl made very loud wild noise as it flew down from a treetop straight at me!

Indeed, there is fossil evidence that herons have been around at least since the Miocene epoch. A 14 million year old specimen was recovered in the Observation Quarry in Nebraska, and Great Blue Heron fossils found in the Western Hemisphere date back 1.8 million years, to the Pleistocene epoch, about the same time when the first human fossils were discovered. (Reference: The Great Blue Heron, by Robert Butler, UBC Press, Jul 1, 1997).

This Great Blue chose a "goose roost."

Goose Roost 2008_10_27

Recently, I posted an image of a Great Blue Heron that suddenly decided to use the new duck decoy that floats the intake of our sprinkler system as a convenient fishing platform. Well, it's baaaaaack! There it was, in the pre-dawn semi-darkness, just outside our back patio door. I took several hand-held photos through the window, not expecting any to turn out very well. I was right!

The images were soft and badly back-lighted.

Great Blue Heron on decoy 4-20120302

I stepped up the contrast and saturation and the bird was silhouetted against a background of living color.

Great Blue Heron enhanced

The bird was so near that it did not fit into the frame unless it lowered its head.

Great Blue Heron on decoy 3-20120302

I had to back up when it extended its neck.

Great Blue Heron on decoy 20120302

Conveniently, a Pied-billed Grebe swam by, disturbing the still water.

Pied-billed Grebe at dawn 20120302

Ken Schneider
Miramar, Florida and North Aurora, Illinois


  1. This is a wonderful post Ken, love the heron standing on the back of the goose!

  2. Ah, one of my favorite photographic subjects. Great photos, Ken.

  3. Great series Ken, and you're right I never get tired of them, and thay do look like they're from the past. Boom & Gary Of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. Your first photo is absolutely exquisite! I enjoyed all the others, as well as the info. In my neck of the woods, I wouldn't exactly say they are approachable, however! Getting a good photo is a real challenge. Well done! Most enjoyable.

  5. wonderful post and super photos. I love you identified the fish it caught.

  6. Great series Ken. These serpentine strikers do seem to harken back to a time when things were bigger and more lethal, even when perched atop a decoy Mallard.

  7. Very cool photos series Ken. I loved the images for all sorts of reasons.

  8. Estupendas fotografías. Saludos.

  9. Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Your images are outstanding! It is too difficult to select a favorite, as they are all wonderful. Very cool post!

  10. This caught my eye as I left comment on your most recent post. These are super good! I never see so much of the black feathering on the wings of the Great Blue Herons in KY.

  11. I think these photos are terrific, don't ever think twice about posting ones of the Great Blue Heron, I enjoy all of them. And the ones of the Heron standing on the decoy are really funny!

  12. Fantastic photos and what a hoot with the heron on the "duck's" back! I can never get enough of these birds so post all the pics you want! Love the color saturation!

  13. Amazing captures here! I intially noticed your "heron eating Nicaraguan fish" photos. So the heron can really get that whole fish down all the way okay?? I can't help but pity the poor pretty fish alittle here, if eaten, does it get swallowed down wriggling the whole way as well?!


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