Per the ancient lore, part 4

great blue heron Ardea herodias touching down after posing for lovely flight photo
This week, as we follow the folders in alphabetical order, it’s “Birds.” Or “Birds 1,” to be accurate, since in order to accelerate load times and searching functions, I limit the size of each of the digital images folders to about 4,000 pics. I’ll let you guess how many folders I have for arthropods…

So with this loaner camera, I charged it up and did a few test shots with it, mostly of the little aquarium that I was maintaining, then reset the image counter to ‘officially’ start my usage, which means my numbering is a little counterintuitive – Jim had shot almost 10,000 images with it before handing it over to me, and so I have a handful of frames that were first, but numbered quite high since they followed his number sequence. After resetting the counter, I headed out into the ‘wild’ to see what could be found – this is frame 3. Frame 2, only seconds before this, can be seen here (and you want to click on that link, because it’s a much better photo, but why repost something on the blog that’s been in my galleries for years?)

This was taken while wading in my old haunt, the Indian River Lagoon, a pretty cool place for photos and the source of my aquarium subjects, while in Florida at least. The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) had honked loudly as it crested the treeline behind me, and for what reason I cannot determine – I am 99% certain it could see me clearly standing in the open shallows, so I am forced to assume it was attracting my attention to itself. This could have been for territorial reasons, in essence telling me to get lost (which didn’t work,) or there could be another, more interesting explanation.

In some areas of Florida, the great blues have learned that fisherfolk often use live bait, usually medium-small fish about 8cm long or so, like finger mullet. And often, these are collected by casting nets in shallows exactly like the one I was exploring. Once in the bucket, they’re easy pickings for sneaky herons that may dash in while the owner is far enough away trying to collect more, and I’ve watched herons come onto docks and scamper right up to the bait collection; I’ve also watched one sidle up to an empty bucket, peer inside, look around the landscape suspiciously as if trying to spot Allen Funt, look inside again, then stalk off with what I was forced to interpret as a reproachful air. Regardless of my inaccurately anthropomorphic impressions, it is entirely likely that this heron, spotting me wading, thought I might be the source of an easy meal. I’m not sure this is the best explanation, because they seem to know they have to stay undetected when stealing bait and so honking isn’t the best of tactics, but this one actually circled around me at a relatively fixed distance before landing nearby, and launched itself off again less than two minutes later.

By the way, this shot was taken on the same day better than four hours later, but I’m not sure if I was out the entire time (and if so, was likely quite sunburned by that point) or had split up the excursions. I do know that the camera had a noticeable shutter lag, so timing that one to capture the spray was more difficult than might first be imagined, and I almost certainly discarded a lot of near-misses.

And Mr Bugg, just so you know: that’s three out of the four weekly posts so far that are images from Florida.

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