Thu Mar 2023

Great Blue on Shore*

If you look closely, you’ll see a second Great Blue Heron lurking in the background. It’s an adult, either standing on the shore, or in the water very close to shore. Whether it’s a male or female I can’t say because they look alike.

The star of the show, however, is a second-year juvenile, revealed as such by its overall gray color, dark crown and lack of head plumes. It has lost some of the first-year streaking on its breast and neck, while the adult’s breast plume is starting to show. Not until it reaches the age of three, however, will it acquire the dressy, formal plumage of an adult.

I believe these two have been on the pond most of the summer. Could they be parent and offspring?

There have been other great blues as well. Just a few days ago, I spotted a first-year juvenile here in our little cove, but it flew away before I could take its picture. It had the prominently streaked neck and breast I described above.

Baby herons in the nest are called “chicks,” but there’s apparently no name for juvenile herons — comparable to duckling, gosling or signet — except a British dialectal word, spelled alternatively hernshaw, heronshaw, or heronsew (from the Old French heronceau, a diminutive for heron). Perhaps we should adopt it.

This young’un in the photo is fickle, constantly flitting from rock to rock, always looking for a better place to fish. It hasn’t yet learned the virtue of patience.

As regular readers know, the small, bluegill sunfish have largely disappeared from the pond, at least for now, but all the herons we see here — Great Blue, Green, and Black-crowned Night Heron — take the bigger Largemouth Bass and catfish. Both of these species still reside here in goodly numbers, fishermen tell me.

The photos were taken late in the morning of November 9, 2012. The low, fall sunlight lit the heron like a flash-bulb, separating it from its darker background, and creating a vivid sense of depth.