Great Blue Heron flying over the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6. 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 260mm, natural light
Great Blue Herons are year round residents in both Florida and Utah although conditions during the winter months can be starkly different for these large wading birds in the two locations and climates. Florida during the winter can be cool but comfortable.
The Great Blue Heron above was photographed as it flew over the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.
Great Blue Heron hunting voles in winter – Nikon D200, f7.1, ISO 400, 1/2000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
Winters in Utah can be harsh, bitter cold and the ground can stayed covered in snow for weeks. Some times the freshwater freezes and the Great Blue Herons can no longer find food from the marshes, ponds and streams so they hunt for voles instead. The Great Blue Heron shown above was stalking voles near snow-covered vegetation at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. I remember having numb hands when I took this image, it was that cold!
This photo was taken at the end of December of 2008 at Fort De Soto County Park in Florida where the Great Blue Herons were already building nests by that time, can’t imagine that happening here in Utah. Note the blue lores that both of these birds have, that is a sign that they are in breeding plumage. The setting sun gave this image that golden glow of “sweet light”.
By the way, I unknowingly stepped into a fire ant hill when I took this image, thankfully I realized it right away, moved, brushed off the ants and continued shooting images.
Great Blue Herons in Utah do seem to have a tougher life but they appear to deal with it quite well. I spotted this heron a few weeks ago as it preened on the snowy banks of a small stream. We’d had lots of snow that week and there was over a foot of it at Farmington Bay WMA.
Great Blue Herons in Florida have to deal with extreme weather too because tropical storms and hurricanes can batter all of the birds with high winds, driving rains, pounding waves and loss of habitat. This Great Blue Heron was chasing off a rival for some prime fishing grounds in a territorial pursuit.
Great Blue Herons survive in both locations because they are adaptable and if they can’t locate their normal prey they will find another.