A Great Blue Heron plays to the camera at Milliken Park
Patience is a virtue, and often when Bob and I are birdwatching, time is of the essence so patience goes out the window. On one “quick” visit to Milliken Park in Toronto, to check the progress of the recently-hatched Trumpeter Swan cygnets, what actually stole my attention was this Great Blue Heron. Bob left me to my stakeout while he enjoyed the company of the 2-week old cygnets.
I was comfortable leaning on the railing of the observation deck overlooking the placid water, and the only sounds to fill the air were those of the water fountain spewing a heavy spray to my rear. I forced myself to be patient even though the hour was nearing noon because I was determined to catch the Great Blue Heron stabbing a fish for its own lunch. I was successful, but the photos were less than stellar because the minnow in the Heron’s beak was so tiny.
Usually in my haste to snap a photo, I forget to check the shutter speed and how it corresponds to the available light. On this day, I remembered to constantly check that information because the sun kept disappearing under a cloud and then unexpectedly the sky would brighten again. When the Great Blue Heron decided to take flight from the furthest western edge of the pond, I had to back off the zoom because the Heron flew right towards me.
Not being familiar with this Great Blue Heron at Milliken Park, I did not know what behaviour to expect…its favorite spots to fish, where it preferred to strike a pose or simply pull up for a rest…so when it completed a very small circle and made to land on the pond directly in front of me, I was ecstatic! Here, it looks like the Heron is almost walking on water.
Thankfully, there was sufficient distance between the Heron and myself so that the wooden railing of the deck did not become an obstacle around which to photograph.
I was mesmerized when the Great Blue Heron lightly ruffled the surface of the water as it settled down in front of me. The impressive wingspan seemed expansive at such a short distance.
It was unclear to me whether the Great Blue Heron was standing with its feet on the bottom of the pond, which is not that deep, or whether the Heron had plans to float along gracefully like a swan on the pond’s surface. It sure looked like it was trying to imitate one of those elegant birds.
You can imagine the surprised look on my face when, out of nowhere, the Great Blue Heron took to the air again and landed on the railing about 15 feet to my right! I was wishing that Bob was nearby so he could see this, but he was round the south side of the pond admiring the baby Trumpeter Swans.
I was grateful for the light breeze that ruffled the Great Blue Heron’s feathers adding a degree of motion and texture to my photograph.
Bob and I have photographed Great Blue Herons on several previous occasions, but by far, this specimen was the closest and most cooperative of all of them.
There was only one other photographer sharing the observation deck, and his movements to attain a better vantage point caught the attention of the Great Blue Heron.
The Great Blue Heron was put off, and I thought, there goes the end of that photo session, but the Heron had other plans.
Directly behind me, the pond stretches to the east, and the Great Blue Heron could have disappeared around the bend or into the cover of bulrushes,
but instead, it pulled up short just the other side of the observation deck and spent a good while preening its feathers.
It was at about this time that Bob and I decided we really must head for home, and the Great Blue Heron returned to the western end of the pond to resume fishing once again. I was thrilled with my photos on this particular day.
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