Early in the Spring of 2019, the Cotton Wood Trees were not even leafing. The trees flowers were out. The thinest branches at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree are about to get tested. This bird is a 5 pound 5 foot tall fully grown Great Blue Heron. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing.
You can see the wind due to the flowers all blowing from right to left. A 15 – 20 mph gusty wind was blowing. The branches were moving left to right sometimes dramatically. 10 feet below this frame is this birds mate and nest with several eggs. This bird had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery. In this pretty high gusty winds, he had to land on a moving target. He nailed the landing as he was essentially levitating no moving and just dropping inches a second. These guys are AMAZING masters of the sky.
I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building your nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together. I’ve seen them land and take off in all situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down like a single feather.
Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
A Great Blue Heron Catching Some Wind was this bird way of starting to take off. Spreading it’s wings you could see the branch lift as the weight is lessened on it. These birds are masters of their domain. This is 50 feet up at the top branches of a Cottonwood Tree.
For a shoreline wading bird, these guys handle the high tree life roost without a miss. They make their living eating frogs, small mammals, fish and anything else they can catch around their realm. These guys are widespread in our Hemisphere from the Galapagos to most of North America. They breed up here though. They like places where there isn’t much human activity. Where they set up their rookery is quite a ways off an already remote county road. Isolated they are from humans up here.
Not many people ever notice the rust colored feathers on their wings leading edges. Also of note are their chest feathers. The birds actively shread them to make a powder that soaks up all the fish and oils from the wetlands.
I’ve spent many hours sitting and watching these birds. After the nest is built, mostly they hunt/sit on eggs. The male will bring the female the sticks and the female does the engineering. Both parents feed the young and share the 4 weeks of egg sitting. I’ve had a pretty good window on several of the nests all breeding season in 2019. I have quite a few images to finish from these encounters still. Job security I suppose😀
The Great Blue Heron Landing Head On here is a wide range spread. The species ranging to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here about 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂
These are Big backyard birds (yes I have a big backyard AND they are big birds lolol). They are 4.5 -5.5 pounds fully grown and can stand 5 feet tall with a 5 foot wingspan. I had one take some really nice KOI fish I had in a 500 gallon tank built into my deck. I had kept these Koi about 10 years outside all year. (I’m sort of an advanced aquarium hobbiest)….
That tank is heated with a trough heater in the winter. I have a LARGE choke cherry bush mostly over the deck tank. I thought it impervious to attack or being seen from above but one of these intrepid hunters saw the water under the bush. It ate about 1000 bucks worth of ornamental big KOI with each one being over a foot long. About a dozen of the (beautiful fish) disappeared I assume over a few days. I never noticed until I saw him by our barnyard pond looking for frogs the ducks might have missed about the same time I noticed he was hunting my backyard (literally). Now our back yard is sort of large at 5.5 square miles here at the ranch but we still have wading “backyard” birds hang out here.
Note: I since have regrown a dozen now 6 year old KOI in that tank currently. Waiting for the next “visit” from a Great Blue lolol. The choke cherry bush is massive overhead of the tank….better design perhaps 🙏
Heron Rookery on Ranch
Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up in the borderlands of Wyotana where these guys nest. I don’t see these birds walking around skinny lol. As a grou of 6 pairs, I’ve seen them raise usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and then head out for places unknown. .
I can’t really see them after mid May when the Cotton Wood trees they nest in leaf out. Their nests are 50 feet up the big mature trees over a lake here on the ranch. The rookery is adjacent to a tall hill such that I can get at the tree top level about 200 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the portfolio with this image. I have many more to finish. This whole winter is going to be finishing images 🙂