Great Blue Heron in a Tree / by Todd Henson

A Great Blue Heron landed in a tree right along the trail.

Great Blue Heron are common enough in this area that I’ve photographed them many times. But I never tire of them, and I’m always on the look out for new opportunities. Sometimes I don’t have to look far.

My first image of the heron shows how the eyes are able to see below. It very likely knew we were there; it just wasn't bothered by us.

We were hiking in a nearby wildlife refuge, one I’ve spent a lot of time exploring. Just as we walked under a lone tree between two wetland areas we heard a squawk and a rustle of wings as a Great Blue Heron flew over and landed atop the tree we were walking under.

We froze. Most herons I encounter here are skittish and will fly away when you get too close. As you can see from the photo shot through tree branches, we were almost directly below the heron. We slowly moved to get a better view and the heron stayed where it was, seemingly ignoring us.

I walked back the way we’d come to position myself on the sunlit side of the tree, still moving slowly to avoid spooking the heron. It proved very patient, letting me position myself and create a series of photographs. As I shot I noticed it making quiet guttural sounds, and could see its throat moving to the sounds. It was an interesting behavior, one the photographs didn’t really capture.

Closeup of the Great Blue Heron's head as it watches the nearby wetlands.

Eventually, we moved on, leaving the heron in peace. As luck would have it the heron flew off not long after we’d moved on. I turned around to watch when I heard it fly off, but wasn’t able to capture any images of it. Maybe next time.

Great Blue Heron in a tree, with its head tilted slightly in my direction.

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