Archive for Heron

Great Blue Heron juvenile 9/16/18

Juvenile Great Blue Herons are easy to spot with their dark gray caps and two-toned bills, unlike adults with black and white heads and an all yellowish bill. They belong to the genus Ardea, the great herons, of which there are about a dozen species found inhabiting temperate and tropical wetlands around the globe. Great Blues are perhaps the most stealthy of all the herons, wading very slowly or holding perfectly still before making a lightning strike at fish and other prey. This youngster isn’t yawning, it’s trying to stay cool in the 90º heat by holding its mouth open wide and vibrating its neck muscles in a form of panting called gular fluttering.

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Little Blue Heron 8/4/18

You don’t often see these birds since Little Blues are herons of tropical and subtropical swamps and estuaries, breeding from Brazil through the Caribbean to the Gulf and mid-Atlantic coast states of the US.  In New England we get a few every spring and a few do breed here in mixed rookeries, then a few more might show up in late summer during the post-breeding dispersal. First-year birds are all white and often confused with Snowy Egrets which are much the same size. Adults are blue with purplish necks and heads.

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Green Heron 7/27/18

Except when providing for youngsters, Green Herons are nocturnal, solitary, and secretive. But with growing families they need to forage at all hours and become more frequently seen in the daytime. They are a tool-using bird, often dropping a piece of bait on the surface of the water to attract small fish and then striking out with a quick dart. They tend to keep their neck folded in close, and like all herons, fly with necks retracted. Sexes are alike.

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Great Blue Heron 4/18/18

This isn’t my first of year (FOY in birdspeak) Great Blue Heron, I’ve been spotting a few of them here and there for weeks now, but I saw this one disappear in a marsh channel and drove up to where it might eventually stalk out of, and after a short wait I was rewarded with some close-ups. It’s an adult in full breeding regalia, its spear of a bill so yellow it was singing. Breeding plumes dangling and unfortunately in this pick its 2 black head plumes are obscured behind its neck. They are the tallest of our herons, often called “cranes” by oldtimers, and typically also the first to arrive in the spring since the north end of their winter range isn’t all that far south of here. They are expert fishers, stalking their prey in the shallows, but also snack on mice, amphibians, and reptiles. They belong to the genus Ardea, which contains the world’s dozen or so great heron species.

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Great and Snowy Egret 4/16/18

The Snowy is in the back with the dart-like black bill and yellow lores between bill and eyes, and if you could see its legs they’d be black but with bright yellow feet. The Great Egret with the small fish in its thicker and spear-like yellow bill has green lores and if I’m not mistaken that’s breeding color that will have faded by late summer. The Great is over 3 feet tall, not quite as big as a Great Blue Heron, but almost. The Snowy is about 2 feet tall. Despite the “egret” name, the Great Egret is more closely related to the Great Blue Heron (both belong to genus Ardea) than it is to the Snowy Egret.

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American Bittern 1/19/18

This was a bird stalking, and like the ice it moved glacially. What it was stalking on the ice and in the dried grasses we never discovered but it was on the hunt. The more years I spend birdwatching the more it seems to me that just about every species has these intrepid individuals that wind up not migrating to brave the winter, when all their peers are enjoying warmer winter digs. I’ve always thought of these birds as flukes, outliers, when really they are something of a norm. With some species like the Carolina Wren or the Turkey Vulture, there are many who push the boundary and every winter there seem to be a few more, while others like the American Bittern, are few and far between. But all quite possibly participating in the same process, just at different speeds.

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Great Blue Heron 12/13/17

Even in the middle of December it’s not unusual to find a few Great Blue Herons in tidal habitats along the coast. When it gets thick with snow and frozen with ice, they may disappear for awhile (probably to Cape Cod) but with a warm spell of just a few days they’ll be back stalking the marshes and any ice free waters for fish and other prey. Great Blues belong to the genus Ardea, comprising the Great Herons of the world. The one above is a juvenile, which you can tell by the gray cap which is black in adults.

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