Winter’s currency

Man, winter is seriously my least-favorite time of year. There’s so little to photograph, and even the temperature isn’t conducive to other, outdoor projects. What idiot approved this season, anyway?

But today actually got into a decent temperature, clear and sunny to boot, so I did a circuit of the pond looking for photo subjects. And to be honest, they weren’t any different from the last time around, so we’re just gonna have a handful of photos to prove that I really did shoot something. Don’t be harsh.

red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans sunning itself while semi-hidden
The turtles were out taking advantage of the sun and being just about as spooky as they normally are, so most of them slipped into the water almost as soon as we hove into view, but this red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) felt reasonably safe half-hidden within a thicket of dead weeds, and I could finagle a perspective for a portrait at least. The number of red-eared sliders and painted turtles seem to be increasing within the pond, but I swear I had nothing to do with that. Well, almost nothing…

And while they’re damn hard to tell apart, it would appear that the pair of great blue herons (Ardea herodias) that we saw last time are sill around.

great blue heron Ardea herodias trying to remain unobtrusive in tree
For the first one, we spotted each other simultaneously, so it was flying off as I was bringing the camera to bear, but I tracked it visually until I knew roughly where it had landed, further along my path. Before I reached that point, however, there was a short flurry of mad croaking and two herons broke from cover, very close to one another, and sought refuge higher in the trees. This I could work with, and slowly stalked along the shoreline, circling around their positions. The first views, as above, were facing largely south and so I was aiming too much into the sun, but eventually I could almost reverse the position, even while shooting over a larger distance, and get some better light at least.

great blue heron Ardea herodias perched in longneedle pine thicket
I would have considered this the most likely place for the pair to build a nest: a dense longneedle pine on a small island overlooking the broadest expanse of water. However, in doing a little research into habits, I learned that herons tend to congregate their nests together in prime locations (which, to be honest, are very much like this one.) The only time I’ve seen a heron nest was in the Venice Area Audubon Society Rookery, and true to form, there were a lot of them there. I had put this down to the birds recognizing such a prime locale, but it appears that great blues, at least, aim for those conditions. So while it’d be nice to see them nest here, I’m no longer holding my breath.

great blue heron Ardea herodias on lookout
Mapwise, ground-level kinda thing, these two were right next to one another, but the separation was vertical by five or six meters, this one appearing to serve as lookout while the other stayed almost hidden among the branches. Again, good nesting behavior I thought, but only if we get a lot more. More likely, I should examine Jordan Lake for promising islands and start doing kayak excursions in search of heron nests.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eye on the tree that has housed the green heron families for a few years running. There’s been no sign of the greens yet, but I’m hoping to be on my toes this year and witness at least a smidgen of nesting behavior from them. Keep your fingers crossed and your socks pointing northwest!