Great Blue Heron on a Windy Day / by Todd Henson

Great Blue Heron facing into the wind

Wind beginning to raise the feathers on the head of a Great Blue Heron

Windy days are not always the most productive for photographing birds. The majority of smaller birds stay hidden in the trees or brush, waiting for the wind to die down before coming out. But you can usually rely on some of the larger birds to show themselves, offering at least some photographic opportunities. So I try to get out to the parks with camera in hand whatever the weather.

This particular day, in early September, a cooperative Great Blue Heron flew in and landed close by on a bit of vegetation in the open water area of the wetlands. Great Blue Heron can be very elegant, beautiful birds, with flowing plumage. But when the wind gets strong they can also look unhappy and awkward, with plumage and feathers blown around in all directions.

Great Blue Heron facing forward, looking unhappy in the wind

Great Blue Heron raising its head in the wind

Great Blue Heron scratching an itch. Notice the talons on the ends of its toes.

If you stick around long enough when watching birds, or any animals really, you're bound to witness various behaviors. Birds will shake back and forth, puffing out their feathers, and then begin to preen themselves. This Great Blue Heron did the same, and appeared to scratch an itch just after puffing its feathers. Notice the talons on the end of its toes.

Preening Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron opening its beak enough to provide a view of its barbed tongue

Detail view of the barbed tongue of a Great Blue Heron

One feature of Great Blue Herons I had seen before are the barbs on their tongue, very helpful when they swallow down whole fish. I did not see this heron fishing, but it did give me the best view I've yet had of their forked tongue. Look at the zoomed in cropped photograph.

Great Blue Heron are amazing beautiful birds, even when blown around by the wind, and I never tire of photographing them. Days like this are a reminder to me that photographic opportunities are always to be found. Even when the weather appears bad there are experiences to be had in nature.