A Green Summer Afternoon

July 22, 2021 – After reading a post a week ago by photographer Linda Murdock on a juvenile Green Herons, I had to go see if I could find one. It was right where she had seen it a few days earlier, in the marshy verge beside the boardwalk at Cullinan Park.

Juvenile Green Heron with raised crown fusses at my camera
1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400 (it should probably have been 1/3200 and ISO 1000)
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR
(Click on any photo once to enlarge in a new window, and a second time to zoom in; dismiss that window to return here.)

He held this upright walking posture most of the time I was watching him, deviating only when he thought he’d spotted some prey. His little underpants are still covered with baby down, and his neck, chest and belly are heavily streaked for excellent youngster camouflage.

Alert juvenile Green Heron
1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Like many warm-blooded babies, his head is overly large for his body; he will grow into it as he attains small adult size this year. The plant growth has been chopped and mowed to clear out the water hyacinth, an invasive plant, and other water weeds that will choke the shoreline if left unchecked. It makes a nasty-looking stew for photo backgrounds, but apparently is a great grocery store for the birds.

Gotcha… or not
1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Here he is pulling strenuously against a tough water weed root. He had stretched his neck out as far as he could, until his bill reached the place where the little root is connected to the bulk of the dead plant. He snatched the jellied morsel, then pulled it towards him. (I’m not showing you that moment, since his head and neck were behind BOTH of those intervening green reeds.) But as much as he pulled, he couldn’t get it to release from the threadlike root, so he finally let it go. You can see that his neck is doubled back on itself for leverage. I’m guessing whatever it was didn’t taste very good, since he didn’t go back and try again to pick it free.

Juvenile Green Heron standing on tippy-toes hunting for dinner
1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Dragonflies were everywhere – my photos are full of fuzzy fliers dodging across the view. This blue one tempted him from just out of range, but flitted away before he could catch it.

Adult Green Heron considers a dragonfly appetizer
1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250 (late afternoon rain clouds rolled in… and back out again)
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

An adult Green Heron much further away, off the opposite end of the boardwalk on a floating island of water hyacinth eyed the same type of dragonfly, and, though he didn’t get this one, he did not go hungry. This is a significant crop, since he was so far away, but it was helpful to see both the juvenile and adult birds on the same day, in the same lake.

Nailed it!
1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

The adult birds are darker across the back and shoulders; the green is still visible in strong sunlight, but the birds appear slate gray under overcast skies. Their neck and upper sides are deep mahogany showing only a narrow bit of striping down the center of their throat and chest. And in these two shots above, you can also just barely see the dark gray back plumes of the adult. For additional images of adults, you can look at a post I did last summer featuring adult Green Herons, here.

Juvenile Green Heron showing beautiful green iridescence
1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

During the late afternoon, the bright sun was easing lower in the sky. I was able to squat on the boardwalk and shoot through the railing with my shadow pointing directly at him in order to get this image showing the vivid greens in his back, wings and crown. I love the quilted effect of the black and green on his back, and the brown, tan and green on his wing feathers.

We are currently 6 inches over our average cumulative rainfall for this time of year. The steamy heat continues, and the air fairly dances with mosquitoes, gnats and dragonflies. Fields and trees are still lush, the greens of summer are still radiant. The shriveling heat of August hasn’t reached us quite yet!

14 thoughts on “A Green Summer Afternoon”

  1. I’m not very familiar with these birds but have often thought “green” heron was a bit of a misnomer. With your pic of the juvenile’s iridescent back, though, I can finally see how aptly named they are! Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree! For years now, I’ve been thinking, based on the shadowed views I’ve gotten, that some bird namer had an over-active imagination… and I so enjoyed getting the proof otherwise!

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  2. So glad the juvenile AND adult were hanging around the front part of the lake the day you went. We have been back a few times and only seen the adult for a short time. We are fortunate to have such a great resource as Cullinan Park close by! Great images and contrast 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So nice to see these green herons on the spot you excpected to find them. Nice shot of the youngster as well as the adult bird.
    We have 3 kinds of herons in Belgium, but not the green herons. Greetz, Rudi

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a cute young green heron you got there Sam. I haven’t seen a young one in the wild yet and appreciate the full coverage both in shots and description. Think I like the second shot the best and I never have a problem with natural backgrounds for these types birds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He does have a proud strut in that second photo 🙂 Backgrounds are a mixed blessing… the noisy ones give a good sense of the bird’s true environment, while the beautiful blurred ones make the bird stand out. I could definitely improve mine by more judicious use of f-stop, and lower camera angle. Thanks for stopping by, Bri.

      Liked by 1 person

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