Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Herons, herons and more herons



"The Stanley Park Heronry is one of the more awe inspiring sights in the Park in the Spring and Summer seasons. A cluster of around twenty trees has become the largest nesting site for Great Blue Herons in the region, a sight that draws many bird watchers, naturalists and visitors to the park to observe the dozens of pairs and their squawking young. The Herons will nest until their young are able to fly, leaving Stanley Park and returning the next year. The Heronry is a unique experience as these reclusive and elegant birds are never usually spotted in large groups."  Read more: Heronry http://www.venturevancouver.com/heronry-stanley-park-vancouver#ixzz1t7C4QUbg


 

The Great Blue Heron (GBH) is the largest of the North American herons.

"It has head-to-tail length of 97–137 cm (38–54 in), a wingspan of 167-201 cm (66-79 in) a height of 115–138 cm (45–54 in) and a weight of 2.1–3.3 kg (4.6–7.3 lb). Notable features include slaty flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; the neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front; the head is paler, with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; it also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangey at the start of the breeding season. Immature birds are duller in color, with a dull blackish-gray crown, and the flank pattern only weakly defined; they have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow." (Wikipedia)

The Pacific GBH's have been nesting on the edge of Stanley Park for several years very close to the built up part of downtown Vancouver. It is a magical sight with dozens of nests; the trees are immense deciduous trees. I will let the pictures tell their story.



The nesting site is adjacent to tennis courts, above is a view over those courts at some of the nests.



The herons are  watchful, sitting preening, mending nests and collecting sticks to repair nests.












I was very happy to have caught the above view of a young heron in a nest.

The heron nests are subject to predation by eagles and raccoons, both fond of heron eggs. The metal collars on the trees prevent or deter raccoons from climbing the nesting trees.


I have not been very successful at catching herons in flight, but here are a couple of pictures.




The Pacific GBH lives and feeds in this area year round. Apart from the mating and nesting season, they are solitary birds. Here are a selection of my heron sightings over the past year or so.







The Heron's neck and belly have beautiful feather patterns; the neck (shown in detail below) almost appeared to be braided grey, blue and burnt sienna colours.




Herons are often seen wading along shoreline of the ocean, ponds and lakes or in marshes; they stand motionless for long periods of time waiting for their prey to come in range and then strike very suddenly. They swallow their prey whole and can choke to death if the prey is too large.

I thought that they only ate fish, and that can be the primary part of their diet, but when fish are not abundant they also eat mice, frogs, lizards, snakes, flies, crabs, shrimp, crayfish and small mammals.

The blue heron has a harsh raspy croaky call, but they will shriek if they are disturbed or threatened. Follow this link for demonstration of heron calls.

I am fascinated by herons, they are magnificent birds.

This week I finished a watercolour painting of a Great Blue Heron which I named "Waiting Patiently":



The Travelling Wilburys "Handle with Care":

Thanks for stopping by, Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week...


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36 comments:

  1. Very enjoyable post. You got some wonderful shots of the herons. Hubby and I often see one in a creek on the way down to my brothers and also at my brother's pond, but by the time I raise my camera, it's gone. We saw lots of birds at the zoo, but not one blue heron. One of these days maybe I'll catch him. The watercolor is amazing!

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  2. It's wonderful how close you have gotten to the heronry. I'm still working on finding one I can photograph well. :))

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  3. love these images Gillian ! truly beautiful !

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  4. I love herons and am very impressed with these terrific shots of them. They are such beautiful birds.

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  5. Excellent post Gillian! You are so lucky to have an area set aside just for Herons. Your photos are fantatic, love the young heron in its nest!

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  6. your photos were beautiful, but i was secretly hoping you painted one. and it is GORGEOUS!!!

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  7. I enjoyed viewing your herons. They are my favorite birds. I hope to capture some this year in photos. Love your painting.

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  8. You captured some wonderful close-ups, Gillian, but oh my, I just LOVE your painting! The expression and colours are perfect. I'm thinking adding the reflection must have been quite a challenge. Your close-up of the "braided" neck is also a great illustration of the bright orange bill of a heron in top breeding form.

    Maybe we'll bump into each other one day by the heronry :)

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  9. Your painting at the end of this series is lovely. I like the detail of the heron’s reflection in the water and the wispy strokes of its feathers. Your artist skills really shine through in this work!

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  10. Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  11. That is a beautiful series of photos of Great Blue Herons. I wonder what attracted them to Stanley Park in the first place. Your painting, of course, is exquisite.

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  12. Brilliant images, I love the Herons.

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  13. they are magnificent creatures
    I love the photo by the fence with the blue flowers

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  14. I have not seen a heron in a group. So your blog interested me very much. It is a solitary bird. Whenever I see it, it is waiting and fishing. It looks like a philosopher in a river.
    Thanks a lot for such an interesting blog!
    Your photos and picture are amazing!
    keiko

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  15. This is such a wonderful post. I just love your photo of the Heron's. Especially the one of the baby popping its head out of the nest.. And your painting always amazing me. It is gorgeous.

    Hugs~

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  16. Great post:)!!! Love Herons and your shots are wonderful. Rookerys are very alien looking. We have several here in Tucson and they are fun to see around town.

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  17. Great post - I used to visit a heronry in the UK - a very smelly place! Is this one the same?

    Stewart M - Australia

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  18. Awesome post on the heron rookery. I love to hear the sounds coming from the rookery, really cool. Your watercolor is beautiful. The photos are wonderful, thanks for sharing. Have a happy day!

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  19. Beautiful birds aren't they? Even after all these years of watching them I still get a thrill when I see one.

    You captured them beautifully.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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  20. A wonderful post Gillian and your images are lovely... the highlight of this post has to be your beautiful painting... I may have said this before but you have a lovely talent.
    Hugs Drew xx

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  21. Beautiful heron shots, and great to have them nesting so close to your town. They are very similar to our Grey Herons, and seem to nest in the same treetop colonies.

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  22. You got some get shots. Have you seen the large heronry out by the ferry in Tsawwassen. It is amazing to see them in such large numbers.
    I loved your pictures, as usually a wonderful selection and most enjoyable.

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  23. Wow - so many wonderful shots of the herons! What an experience to see so many up so close.

    Your watercolour is just beautiful.

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  24. WoW, WoW, WoW...these are amazing!! herons, one of my favorites, i chase them all the time. i really enjoyed seeing the nesting site, i have never seen that before.

    your painting is stunning!!

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  25. Your photos of herons are wonderful but I like your water color painting best. Heron’s “waiting patiently” pose is impressive, especially in winter when I wonder if they are frozen. I've heard herons hunt by waiting motionless, peering into the water to watch for prey.

    Yoko

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  26. A most wonderful post! Herons galore! Look at all those heron nests. I am glad that they have put raccoon deterrents on the trees that have nests. How exciting for you to be able to watch the nesting process and see how the herons tend to the young ones. Fantastic photographs and painting!

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  27. I was astounded to see those nests a few years ago when a friend of mine who lives in the west end took me on a walk to the sea wall. I used to live in that area, many years ago, and the birds were not nesting there then. I love to catch sight of a heron. As you say, usually solitary creatures; though often seen in groups at low tide along the shore out at Tsawassen. My favourite of your heron photos is the last one, and your painting is lovely; really does the great bird justice.

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  28. They are impressively beautiful and large. Your water colour is wonderful.

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  29. I have been seeing herons around a lot lately but not as many as you have! Your painting is delightful. I love the soft colors.

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  30. I love that painting. It is very good. I did not know you had such a talent. :)

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  31. fascinating to know this..your pictures and watercolor are beautiful A beautiful bird, isn't it?!

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  32. What a wonderful post! I love the GBH! I would have loved to see all those nests and especially those litte fledglings! How lucky for you to see them! Great info!

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  33. Your Great Blue Heron story is wonderful. We have had colonies close to us, but on mini islands on the lakes so they are not so easy to get to or follow. I also congratulate you on capturing the soul of the Heron in your painting. I loved it. Your post and video were very impressive.

    Andrea @ From The Sol
    http://www.fromthesol.blogspot.com

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  34. AMAZING photos of the herons!!!! Thanks for the information too. I see them now and then wading in the lake close to our house--beautiful birds. Your painting of the heron and reflection was lovely--you are very talented. Mickie :)

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  35. Bellissime fotografie e video! molto interessante questo post, brava!
    Dall'Italia....ciao

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