Something More Exotic – The Green Heron

Now this is embarrassing.  Linda actually gave me grief because I chose to spotlight a “boring” (yes, that is the exact word she used) hawk in my last bird post (link here).  I was quite stunned seeing as how I thought it was a pretty cool bird even if it isn’t so rare in these parts.  It has a deadly beak, razor sharp talons and an extremely efficient killer.  What’s so boring about a Red-Tailed Hawk?  Her response – you need to feature something more “exotic” (again, her exact word).  First of all, we live in Illinois – my options are pretty limited beyond our various wildlife vacations.  Good thing she apparently missed my post with robins and sparrows (link here).

[sorry, emergency break needed – I have to go rip my Illini shirt off and throw it in the garbage (they are now losing 45-17 in the 3rd qtr at home)… be right back….sorry about that .. now back to your regularly scheduled post]

Where was I.. oh, so the pressure was on for this post.  Nothing like being called out by your number one fan.  I was actually planning on holding on to this one a little while, but due to the situation I am forced to bring it out now!  The newest entry in my bird list is …..[drum roll]

….the Green Heron.  This bird literally dropped in on us one day while we were out taking pictures in Jubilee Park.  Actually, we were testing out some glass we rented from rentglass.com.  We are considering upgrading our 200mm workhorse to a newer VR equipped version and wanted to see how it compared to our existing glass.  There wasn’t much going on at the pond in terms of birds so I was off shooting dragonflies and anything else I could find that at least had wings.  Linda was a ways back taking some shots of dirt or something (hoping for something to miraculously fly into the field of view hehehe).  All of a sudden I see a large silhouette fly by on the other side of the pond and take up a position at the very top of some large trees overlooking the pond.  It was not apparent exactly what it was – looked kind of like a Blue Heron, but it looks like someone had squashed it and gave it a much thicker beak.  Immediately I began trying to get Linda’s attention (since she was closer to it) without startling the bird.  This was basically fruitless so made my way back to her.  The bird was really to far for the 200mm so switched the teleconverter over to The Beast and went about trying to get as good a shot as possible which primarily consisted of trying to compensate for the backlight.  In general, the shots are not as crisp as I would have liked, but I’ll give myself a break with the conditions – thankfully there’s the magic of post processing.

Back at home it didn’t take long to identify the Heron – the benefit of NOT looking like a sparrow.  This particular one is likely a juvenile since the coloring is still in the brown range where the adults sport the more green/blue hues on the head and wings.  These birds are generally found in a family group or, as in this case, solitaire.  According to the National Geographic Complete Birds of North America reference, this is one of the few NA birds that employ tools to hunt.  They will place an item like a leaf or piece of bread on the surface of the water to lure fish into coming to the surface and thus right into their trap.  Guessing they are just a few evolutionary years away from developing bow fishing.  One thing I found extremely fascinating – a polite description for really being creeped out by it – was the eye placement.  Looking from the side it looks fairly normal (reference first image).  However, from directly below you can see the eyes actually appear to be sticking out from the side of the head.   This must be handy when fishing since it can watch the kill zone without bending its head down to the water like the Blue Heron.  For my loyal followers I risked thorns and swarms of mosquitoes to move in closer so you can witness this strange arrangement.

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of this interesting bird

Continue reading Something More Exotic – The Green Heron

Hollow Words and Gutless Actions

Look into the eyes of another political victim.

I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog that we have a true treasure near our house.  That treasure is the The Wildlife Prairie Park which is located in Edwards, IL.  Linda and I have been to many parks and zoos around the country and when it comes to the smaller budget outfits WPP stands heads and shoulders above the others.  Their environment is well maintained, their animals are placed in natural habitats and when it comes to wolves in particular, there is not a more lively and accessible pack.  They have plenty of area filled with trees and prairie and tend to stay visible most of the time, always providing great opportunities to snap a few pictures for your pleasure or portfolio.

It is actually very enjoyable to sit and watch the pack interaction from an overlook built off the side of their habitat.  Give it enough time and you will be able to distinguish the alpha from the subordinates and although it is difficult at first to tell all the wolves apart, you can actually start ordering them by their rank in the pack by who bothers who, who has first dibs at the food and which ones are willing to intrude on another’s kill.  Eventually Linda will drag me away from their area to go check out the other occupants of the park, but I always try and stop by before I leave to say goodbye.  Up to now, that has been acknowledgment of a temporary parting with an expectation that I’ll be back soon to check on their progress and take some pictures for the walls.

But now things have changed thanks to our wonderful Illinois politics which has managed to not only become a disgrace compared to the rest of the states but put us on the brink of financial ruin.  I will not go into the history of illegal activity by our past governors and you have probably seen stories on the recent one that was impeached and now awaiting a jury decision on ethics violations.  Instead, I would like to highlight the recent actions of the individual who took over for the impeached governor with promises to right the titanic.  Before the impeached governor decided to make a public mockery of himself on wiretaps, he cut funding to a large number of parks which included our very own Wildlife Prairie Park as well as Jubilee Park that I do most of my training runs in.  It was downstate so what the hell did he care and besides his wife thought all the roads to the hick cities were ugly and wanted wildflowers planted to keep her eyes from having to look at the filth (note to politicians and their spouses, I never forget).  However, when our temporary governor was sworn in, he promised to restore the funding gaining the trust and appreciation for all of downstate hicks.  Finally, a governor with more in the skull than a hair mop.  As of this week , this promise has become as hollow as the rest of the governors’ statements.

Continue reading Hollow Words and Gutless Actions