In March of 2009 I spent a few minutes up close with a Great Blue Heron on Florida’s Gulf Coast photographing and observing this long-legged wading bird. I sat down in the sugar white sand and photographed it as the heron surveyed the area around it including a lagoon to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The sea breeze felt delightful to me and kept me cool even though the temperatures were rising.
While sitting there I could see the slight hints of orange in the heron’s yellow eyes which can’t be easily seen from a distance. It was also easy to see the encrusted salt on the heron’s bill and how plush the feathers on the head appeared. I wanted to reach out and touch it but I never would even though the heron was so very confiding.
Besides, that bill looked razor sharp. This heron was likely one of the pair of birds I had photographed nesting in a tree just a few months before this image was taken. The nest was a short 5 minutes walk from where I photographed it next to the Gulf.
Photographing this bird brought back memories of a day I spotted a Great Blue Heron struggling because it was caught in a trotline in the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and hurried to the Alabama side to try to free the heron. After spending 15 minutes driving north, crossing a bridge and then south to the bird’s location I wondered if the heron was going to be okay.
As my young sons and I dashed down the riverbank my ex grabbed a knife and followed us. The heron was really tangled up in the illegal trotline that was tied to the base of a small tree at the river’s edge but I knew we had to get it free or it would die. The heron surprisingly did not appear to be frightened as I walked close to it and slowly reached out my hand and grasped the heron’s sharp bill so my ex could cut away at the trotline without being stabbed by its bill.
It only took a few seconds to free the the Great Blue and when it was done I released its bill and stepped back. The Great Blue Heron squawked and flew off across the Chattahoochee River and landed in a tree while my sons and I clapped our hands and shouted hooray. That was as close as I have ever been, and likely will ever be, to a Great Blue Heron in the wild.
But with a camera and a long lens I can still be up close to these amazing, prehistoric looking birds.
Life is good.