Bringing out the Big Birds

Since no one has cried “Uncle” yet on the bird posts from the Yellowstone vacation last year, I’m bringing out another set of birds.  These are what I call the Big Birds of the water.  I actually have a better set of this particular bird from a couple of photo session in Lacon IL, but sticking with the theme, here is one I snapped on that particular trip.

This is the Great Blue Heron and to be honest, outside the Eagle, this is my favorite bird.  Not only is this a fascinating looking bird while on the ground, it has a truly majestic flight.  Along with the 72″ wingspan it has a flight form that recalls impressions of the pterodactyl.  Having stood less than 10′ from one while clearing the brush by our stream last year (recall Operation Parkify) I can assure you these birds are huge.  If I was to guess, this bird’s legs are the same length as body to head.  Obviously this particular fishing spot is a few feet deep.  It was interesting just how calming this setting was and it felt more like a painting.  And yes, that is snow in the upper left.  We were out there in the June timeframe, but snow was still melting off.   Don’t worry, I’ll zoom you in a bit.

Based on the plumage this appears to be an adult breeding male.  Interesting enough, I have never seen one nesting.  According to the field guides, they nest colonially in tall trees.  This one also has his head up pretty high which probably gives a better radius for finding  fish/frogs etc. swimming around him.  They will also fold their neck back on itself (as in pterodactyl)  which quite frankly when combined with that sharp long spear of a beak looks like a serious weapon.

Unfortunately, I did not get this in focus due to the low ISO being used for reduced noise, but at one point a bird (guessing swallow) cruised in next to the Heron momentarily distracting it.  This was the only time while watching him that a ripple appeared in the water.

You can make out the fuzzy image of the pesky swallow in the shot above.  Undaunted the Heron stiffened up again, the water calmed and soon he was back on his fishing game.  Expect to see more sets of this bird in the future.

An clever reader may have noticed I pluralized the title.  “Clearly the little swallow doesn’t count as a big bird and there is only one other bird in pictures -what gives blog boy?”  Well, it’s a bonus day because I am also highlighting another set of birds that managed to catch my attention while driving through the park.  My birding awareness must be improving.  As proof, Linda was driving through the park when this scene caught my eye.

Having never seen this particular bird before, I really wasn’t sure what I was looking at.  The legs were somewhat invisible which made it seem like a couple of ground hogs playing on the side of a hill.  Curious, I had Linda stop on the side of the road and walked back to the spot I saw them.  Still not sure, I focused the zoom and to my surprise it had a long neck and legs.   They were pretty far out there, but I’ll try to bring it in a little.

Pretty cool eh?  Hit the jump to see more pictures of these two Sandhill Cranes.

What stumped me the most is I could not find this bird in the Audobon Society Guide I specifically bought because it focused on the Rocky Mountain States.  I flipped through that thing about 20 times trying to figure out what this bird was.  Eventually I gave up, but I never had another siting the whole trip.  Once home, my other field guides were called into action.  This ended up a little difficult as well, but eventually I located the correct bird.  The range map indicated it could be found in that region so it must be a miss on the Audobon publisher’s part.  One of the difficulties was the coloring of these birds.  The adult Sandhill is more of a slate grey, but the juvis are more brown matching the two above.  I thought at first these two were very clever.  When one would bend his head down to eat, the other would pop his head up and keep watch.

Nothing like having your companion’s back.  I am not sure what their predators are, but it looked like it was going to be difficult to sneak up on them.  But alas, this early hypothesis proved incorrect.  It must have been a bizarre coincidence because eventually it was every bird for himself.

I hope you enjoyed this set of birds.  They may not be a bright yellow, but they are definitely big.  Oh, and just in case you get any ideas, actually crying Uncle will probably not stop the onslaught of bird posts.  At least while there is a 100 other birds still waiting in the queue.

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