Learning to Fly- Great Blue Heron Chicks & Neighbors


C’mon, let’s fly!!

Being an observer of Florida’s avian nesting season is nothing short of privilege! The often rambunctious process of raising, especially feeding, chicks seems a distillation of the general cycle of life which happens in just a couple of months from egg to fledgling. This post centers around a pair of siblings nearly ready to go off on their own, their nest and neighborhood. You can see bits of fish matter on their bills which tells me that they are still being fed in the nest as you know adult fishermen herons catch and swallow their fish whole.

One of my favourite aspects of watching the young of this majestic species is the development of the young wings from skeletal appendages with sheath covered pin feathers to the fully feathered strong graceful wings of the adult. Here there is quite a bit of practicing going on learning to fly and gaining lift off the nesting platform. Because I’d still call them teenagers, they seem more inquisitive than definite, still attached to the nest. Not for long though. Click PINFEATHERS for a view of developing wings with pin feathers from a previous post.

This series shows the sibling pair of Great blue herons but also some wider angle shots of the neighborhood. Mostly featuring wood storks but you can also see anhinga chicks and adults, a cattle egret, and a cormorant in the tree too. A nesting colony is by no means exclusive to one species although there seems to be a phased aspect to it as they do not all mate and lay eggs at exactly the same time though there is overlap with the young of different species in neighboring nests. I find the Great blue herons nest a bit earlier than the white egrets or tricolor herons for example.



~ by Judy on February 27, 2020.

28 Responses to “Learning to Fly- Great Blue Heron Chicks & Neighbors”

  1. Awesome photos Judy, what a site to see all those birds in one spot and all those wings flapping about. The Herons are so unique with those long, long legs and giant wings. Great post.

    • Time and time again, they never fail to amaze! I find it soothing just watching something so beautiful. Yeah, it can really get kind of feisty around a nesting colony with all the arrivals and departures , territory defending and chick caring. They come and go by ‘lift’ not ‘Lyft’….ok corny joke!!! 🙂

  2. Delightful. I feel privileged to witness these moments. Thank you, Judy

  3. Beautiful shots. We talk about teenagers “leaving the nest” and here we have real “teeangers” praticing their moves before they leave. Wonderful.

    • We do seem to use analogies from birds in ways that refer to comfort and being cared for it does seem. The very word nest is imbued with everything nurturing. And the parents work very hard taking turns with nest building, egg sitting and food getting. So birds or humans grow up and leave the nest. And, and I suppose both species then become empty nesters. Though for birds is only for a season. It is fun to watch a nest from build to raising young. The is such a commonality in the curiosity and energy of all young. Thanks for taking a look!!

  4. Of course both pages are on the screen; I have admired them at home, have refreshed them so I can leave a smoke signal, and I will send this and keep them on the screen to admire at home – soon, as soon as I send this, pay my bill at the restaurant and walk the 50 steps to my apartment!

    Lovely, just lovely! These images/your talent deserve so many more views!

    • I love the smoke signal analogy! Kind of personalizes the digital in such an earthy way. Both pages? Did you go and check out the pin feather image on the link? I really haven’t had such a good opportunity for a shot with that detail in a long time. Birds wings are fascinating structures.

      Thanks for the lovely compliment on the images. These are actually from a year ago I think and neglected for awhile, but viewing them makes me realize I haven’t been out to the rookery in all that time and need to go and see about the nesting season of 2020!! Every season despite its similarities is a new thing full of beauty and surprises. I always enjoy your visits!!

      • If there were ever a guardian angel of those herons, egrets, anhingas, etc, it is you! honestly, i think that part of your destiny is to link the avian world with others.

        Si, it was an old link/post but still a lovely one – and the artist is so talented. i loved the image of her in the small ‘john’ boat w/the little motor. long ago in Mississippi and Louisiana, ‘my’ boat was small one with a 15-horse motor, and oh, how I loved my outings.. I miss that boat!

      • Gosh what a great thing to say and it could only come from someone who equally finds pleasure in witnessing the great diversity of bird life in our respective environments. You encourage me to try and up my game and observe and capture their lives even more!! While I suspect it is not as easy being a bird as the beauty of their wings might make it seem; nonetheless, to be able to fly!! I had flying dreams when I was a kid; I’d just jump up into the air and launched and aloft no problem. I did love those dreams!! Where did they disappear to?

        So glad you took the trip to my old post and even better visited Sandy Scott’s site. I thought she was pretty marvelous. I really liked her drawing on the modified arm/wing subject. I didn’t use it as it’s mine or in the public domain but I think its ok to put the link…did you see it? Great lesson–


        I need to get back to your recent posts as I am always blown away by your art and your sincere love for the people of Ecuador.

      • I had dreams about flying too.. it was ‘hard work’ to stay above ground, but if not, it was a very slow descent. I always wondered what those dreams might have meant!
        With all that’s happening with the virus it is so nice for people like us to be able to spend quiet time in nature.. so healing in so many ways…

  5. I couldn’t decide why these photos seem different from many of your images. I’ve decided it might be the color, plus the fact that these birds aren’t hidden away as so many are. And the fourth photo really brought a smile. It has a very distinct Noah’s ark feel to it, probably because of the paired birds.

    I didn’t realize that so many species could be found in a single colony — that’s really interesting. And I love seeing the wood storks. I haven’t seen any since my two or three day ‘glimpse’ of them this year, but I’m glad you can show this side of their life to us.

    The swallows suddenly were back today. I can’t remember exactly when they arrived last year, but it was in the first week of March; they’re as regular here as they are at Capistrano. I’m starting a very rudimentary sort of record keeping, so I can have a way to go back and check the date of first arrivals and first blooms as time goes on.

    • In truth, I’d worked on these with a different monitor and realize that they are not adjusted quite the way I like. I really like the series and am redoing the adjustments. In fact, my son who is marvelous at photography was keen on working on that top image and so gave it a go from the capture shot using Lightroom and I liked his color rendition much better. So once I redo the set I’ll swap them out and repost. I like things to look they should with a restrained hand. Not that overdoing for artistic reasons doesn’t have its place. Gotta solve my monitor dilemma as it does get me in trouble from time to time. And your keen eye noticed. 🙂

      Yeah, I’ve never been around any nesting area that didn’t have a variety of species vying for a nesting spot in a colony. Sometimes they steal from each other. I remember one shot I have of a cattle egret harvesting twigs from the abandoned nest where some anhinga chicks had already fledged. It was cute…and the house was vacated anyway. And, sometimes the competing birds will harm the eggs and/or chicks of a neighbor. The dainty Louisiana herons I’ve observed are not so dainty when it comes to other species eggs. I saw one after a green heron egg with the green heron parent screaming from a nearby branch. At first I thought the green heron was invading the Louisiana herons space but it was the other way around. Yep, survival of the fittest starts very close to home and even in home with siblicide too.

      Keeping a log as the seasons change each year is a great practice. I’ve know nature buffs who do that and have journals of many years to track. Its a great exercise and I probably should do something like that. Right now I have only image capture dates and that’s far from comprehensive. I think it gives a sense of continuity and harmony when birds come back for their season.

  6. This is a wonderful time of year in Florida to observe these magnificent birds as they court, build nests and raise youngsters!

    Your photographs are terrific! The colonial nature of the herons, egrets, cormorants, anhinga – sure makes for a chaotic experience trying to isolate your subjects. But what fun!

    Thank you, Judy, for sharing this glimpse into a portion of the “circle of life” of our fabulous water birds.

    • Oh so glad you stopped in to take a look. Yeah, it can be totally chaotic and beyond my trigger speed to capture at times. You describe it well in ‘colonial nature’ as a nesting colony is home to many. It is fun to watch them react to each other and their territorial expressions. I guess the only non fun thing I witnessed was a sibling rivalry event which was almost siblicide described HERE if I can attach the link ok. Ok I think its there. LOL!! I am such a wiz at this!! Right!!

      I am familiar with Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island. My parents lived in Merritt Island and Black Point is only about 30min from there. I took my Dad a couple of times and he was very patient while I explored the place. I need to go back for sure. Guess you can tell I saw your post. Wanted to say…did you check out BioLab Road while in that area?

  7. beautiful!!

  8. hope you are doing well. Lovely to read your beautiful journey underwater and the Nikonos camera, almost a decade and half before even i was born. Something of learning about the momentum here. Your light in-sync-ed with nature and language tells how many dives you have taken and how much water from varied rivers and seas you must tasted. I wish you well and hope to converse, learn along the way.


    • What a beautiful note Narayan! While those days of exploration often do seem a bit lost in time, I remember everything as if it were yesterday. Some memories have a brilliant life and do not readily fade. Diving in the Pacific and South China Sea was particularly powerful and beautiful. I am so happy that something here touched you to write. Today I spend more time in front of Photoshop than in the wild but every opportunity is cherished and the spirit soothed by the natural world. LOL!! I like your sense of tasted…as I totally have tasted many salty waters along the way. In the Philippines we found the cure for that canned cling peaches…so good after a day of salt.

      • To read this word and nest to it spending time on ‘photoshop’ actually gave me a sinking feeling. I cant tell you how many evenings where i felt i had done amazing, breath taking work i.e editing but by the time its evening or something, rather than feeling uplifted and motivated with finishing such work, it actually feels like sucked out of all vital energy.

        But i can imagine all the beautiful noons and evenings sunsets especially around the sea, having spent a good lot times on India’s vast coastline and rivers.

        Water always is refreshing. Thanks Judy. Was lovely to read and imagine your experiences. also your images are connected with the one, nature.


      • You are not alone in the evenings with Photoshop. While it is fun to use a digital darkroom to ‘develop’ your images and make them fit your vision or look just like the way it looked to you in the field, the process can have its challenges. Sometimes you can spend hours on an idea and end up kind of flat!! But, there will be the ones that soar…so keep learning. Probably best to spend more time out shooting than in front of the computer though. LOL!! Wishing you many beautiful sunsets along many beautiful coastlines. I imagine India’s are magnificent to see.

      • Thats the best time undoubtedly in the field, but the learning only comes while sitting, seeing, looking, thinking, only while editing- so thats the most precious as well. Wishing you as much dives and salts too.

        They say water carried magic, that comes true the southern most part of the coastline as it makes almost a V, making it a triangle where three big seas meet. Also it comes to the people who makes places at last; carry their own distinct culture every some kilometres so it is something to experience – in water and outside may on bike along the sea 🙂


  9. Judy I love this photo and am looking forward to reading more from you. The past year has been beyond challenging but I hope you and yours are well and that spring will find you out in nature again soon. Take care. Best, Babsje

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