Monday, July 15, 2013

The many poses of the green heron

There are many reasons why I like the green heron. It is very smart and is known to use lures as bait to attract small fish. It lives among the mangroves and uses the roots as a perch when fishing and this location makes the bird more difficult to spot (and I love a challenge). But probably the most appealing characteristic for me is the fact that the green heron has an endless number of shapes. I always think of the term "shapeshifter" when describing the green heron. Unlike other herons and egrets that seem to alternate between two or three poses, the green heron has quite a repertoire of shapes. Many times, we see the green heron in its neckless stout form as it rests on a branch or mangrove root. But when fishing, its long neck can extend to give the bird twice the length.

The other day, I managed to get out on Biscayne Bay between rain storms. The morning proceeded quite nicely but with challenging light conditions as clouds of varying thickness moved quickly across the sky. In addition, the  easterly winds persisted, not reaching much more than 6-8 knots, but briskly pushing into the shoreline. The low tide was not very low due to the winds and this limited the number of wading birds. Instead, many birds stayed near the mangrove shoreline making it difficult to reach them. With the prevailing easterly winds for the past several weeks, a great amount of seaweed has been pushed into the shallows. Today, there was enough of the seaweed to create islands along the shoreline where I thought I would see many birds. With the exception of a couple ibises and juvenile little blue herons, the only bird I attended to was a lone green heron.

I spent most of my time on the water attempting to photograph the little greenie as it hunted for morsels around the seaweed islands. It allowed me to come close within 12-15 ft. With challenging lighting, I captured several photos. I chose some to show here as a means of demonstrating the shapeshifting characteristic of this beautiful little bird. The wind blew its feathers and in the photo above, you can see the bird's exposed ear, a rare sight.

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