Waders & waterfowl highlights of 2016, part 2: herons

In Part 1, we looked at waders (some of whom, like avocets and phalaropes, float) and shorebirds. In Part 2, we turn to a favourite of mine and many folks (though not my wife’s for some unfathomable reason), the Great Blue Heron.

great-blue-heron-range-cornell

GBHEs are found across Canada, the USA, and Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and parts of northern South America. But in Canada, they are normally found year round only in BC and along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Whether their distribution will change as climates warm remains to be seen. The Okanagan Valley is one of the few non-coastal parts of Canada where we can observe GBHEs even in winter. Since coming here, I’ve gained even more respect for these large, almost prehistoric looking birds and their ability to adapt to varied environments. We have quite an assortment; I’m able to identify a few individuals by their favourite hangouts and differences in behaviour….

the-neighbourhood

Where I see GBHEs mostly—Belmont Ponds and Thomson Marsh. Michaelbrook Marsh, located off the top right quadrant of the map is frequented by herons from these areas, too. Munson Pond, about a kilometre away, as the heron flies, is home to several individuals who seem to spend most of their time watching the lake from perches high above. Click to enlarge.

Great Blue Heron
Sir Ralph of Belmont Ponde on his logge, facing the sunne in the west….

 

Let me show you a few shots of these guys/gals (I can’t tell the difference) who never fail to grab my attention whenever I come across one. Let’s begin with Sir Ralph of Belmont Pond. People either praise or vilify my inclination to “name” the character birds I encounter, but in this case, I’m blameless, or almost so, for the name ‘Ralph” had been given by the residents on the Pond to this wonderful specimen before I arrived. But the name feels right, and, in my infinite wisdom, I’ve added the knighthood—I think he’s earned it and  hope you agree.

Click image to enlarge in new tab.

Featured fotos of Sir Ralph:

Other GBHEs I’ve photographed this year: Click images to enlarge them.

hider-the-buzz-bomb-3
Hider the GBHE of Thomson Marsh West. Very different behaviour from Sir Ralph’s stoicism.

“How do I know one GBHE from another?” is a legitimate question. I do see herons flying from one location to another, certainly, and  I understand the issue. Based on their behaviour,  however, I suspect some who act similarly within relatively close proximity to be the same bird, but I can’t be sure.

Hider is so named because, unlike Sir Ralph who has no problem with public performances, Hider likes to snuggle in among the reeds and cattails so that he’s just barely visible, a difficult trick because he’s a large one. In the flight shot above, he’s asserting his right to dominate the far west corner of Thomson Marsh, and a wee Hooded Merganser is fleeing without squawking any protest!

Great Blue Heron
This fellow is a frequent visitor to Michaelbrook Marsh, not far from Belmont Ponds. Could he be Sir Ralph on vacation? Behaviourally, he’s very similar!
Great Blue Heron, Ottawa River
GBHE heading for Parliament from Mud Lake, Ottawa, ON, taken on our autumn trip there.

In December, at -5ºC,  a somewhat small Great Blue I hadn’t (to my knowledge) seen before showed up one afternoon in Thomson Brook on the northeast side of Thomson Marsh where there was still some flowing water. I’d already been alerted to his/her presence by another photographer who’d marvelled at how close he’d been able to approach. I arrived at the spot probably 20 minutes later and (s)he was still hunting and willing to be observed. I was able to get several shots including savouring his/her sushi appetizer….

One regret I have from late 2016 is that I was unable to observe the Green Heron that unexpectedly visited Rotary Marsh along with a couple of out of season/out of place passerines, a Lucy’s Warbler and a Least Flycatcher. I found and photographed the Lucy’s but couldn’t locate the other two. Still, my visit to the “far end of town where the trickle-grass grows” was not in vain, as I got excellent looks at some ducks that appear in Part 3 of this series, and this lovely Great Blue, too!

Great Blue Heron - Rotary Marsh

 

Below: a Green Heron from another time and another place, just because it’s fun to recall…. A note to those who’ve never seen one, Greenies are much smaller than GBHEs, and much more colourful! Click image to enlarge in a new tab.

green-heron-at-langley-bc
Green Heron at Brydon Lagoon, Langley, BC, 2014, helping rid the marsh of invasive bullfrogs….

Part 3 introduces some ducks, and coots ….

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