Heron’s Day

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Most Great Blue Herons tolerate the human presence within a certain range. A few are very sensitive. I saw a rare pair of them the other morning on the north side of the park. The moment my head poked over the embankment, they took off. But this one in the video couldn’t care less. It had settled on the rip-rap by the Virginia Street Extension. I approached very slowly and set up my tripod gear at the top of the embankment. The bird never gave me a glance. I followed the bird and filmed as much as I cared without any sign of anxiety from the heron.

When done, I had more than 30 minutes of footage. The edited video makes it seem as if the bird was fairly active, always doing something, or about to. That’s not the reality. I cut out nine tenths of what I had. Most of the time this bird stood still or moved very slowly. If I didn’t edit out those freeze-frame passages, who would watch it?

During the time I observed it, this heron pounced on a fish in the water three times, and missed three times. It didn’t get breakfast that day. It had chosen a pretty good spot. Pelicans and cormorants work this area, and I saw a fisher pull out a sizeable striper there the following day. But this heron had no luck. That’s a day in the life.

One of the scenes in the video is a closeup on the heron’s eye. It looks to me as if this bird has some limited mobility in the eyeball. As a rule, birds can’t move their eyeballs; there isn’t room in the skull for the required muscles. Birds have to move their heads to change their field of view. But it seemed to me that this heron could wiggle its eye just a little.

Another short sequence on the eye shows a slow-motion edit of the bird’s blink. Here you can clearly see the nictitating membrane moving from side to side across the eye, from front to back. The eyelid above the eye doesn’t come down. The membrane does all the work. I’ve visited this feature before; see “The Heron’s Blink,” Oct 24 2020.

We’re seeing more Great Blue Herons in the park this month than usual. That’s great news.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

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2 thoughts on “Heron’s Day

  • Your bird observations have taught me so much and given such pleasure. Thank you.

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