A heron's nest. That is what I was looking for.
You could hear their racket from the other side of the cove. And, when you ventured out in the morning in your kayak, you could see the herons flying in and out of a stand of pine trees that stood near the bank of the island on across the cove. When they arrived, you could hear more chatter from chicks hungry for what they brought.
That evening, I made it my goal to find the nest. After rowing out and a little patient looking, I saw it high above near the top of the tallest of five pine trees that stood on the edge of the island. And, after awhile longer an adult heron flew in and went right to the nest. Success.
At the same time, I noticed other herons nearby flying and others, still, sitting in nearby pine trees. Some seemed smaller than the adult who had flown into the nest. Results of an earlier hatch, I guessed. I was lucky to get here early enough to witness the second hatch. At least, that is what I thought.
While I was out, I captured a picture of this youngster making noise. Funny thing was, however, this was not the nest in the top of the tallest of five pines. It was two trees over. Had my first sighting been an inactive nest? Or, and I was considering this for the first time, could there be two active nests so close together?
The camera captured this chick much better than I could with my unaided eyesight. He was little more than a blur in a nest that emerged as I was watching his parent depart. So, I really first saw him with his black head bristle and claws emerging from his wing, when I went through my images later that night.
Encouraged by the picture, I headed back out the next morning hoping to see and photograph more. This time I had more time and an expanded vision of what I was seeing. I was not just looking for a nest or two. Instead, I was hoping to find out whether I was seeing was something unthinkable to me just a year earlier. Could this be a colony of Great Herons? Could there possibly be more nests?
I stationed myself first in the water where I could see clearly a nest, a third one three stories above, that sat on the top of a dead tree. It was perfect for viewing two chicks standing upright in the nest. I waited patiently for things to happen while periodically maneuvering my kayak to keep an unobstructed view.
With the aid of time and a 400 mm lens, I was rewarded with a visit from mom and dad. As you can see below, they arrived together and quickly determined that there was room enough for only two on the nest.
Here is the crash scene as it unfolded. Neither parent made it onto the nest. Time to wean these two chicks.
The time spent waiting was rewarded in other ways too. As was the time afterward rowing to other vantage points. What I found were multiple nests, many with parents sitting nearby. At least a dozen that I could count. Who knows how many more there might be deeper in the island. The two photos below are typical of what I saw.
Come to your own conclusion, but I believe we found a Great Blue Heron colony. Dozens of nests with chicks at different levels of development from the nearly full grown behemoths we saw above to chicks so little you cannot see them from 30 feet below, even with the longest of lenses.
And, I have had a practical lesson in discovery and the power of preconceptions to color perception. Last summer I was certain I was seeing a single herons nest and could not see what was really there. The herons sitting in nearby trees I dismissed as first hatch lookers-on. Instead, they were part of a nesting colony right under (or, should I say above) my nose.
With more time and a closer look this year aided, certainly, by a long lens, I discovered much more than I anticipated. And, changed my understanding of what I saw.
I think this is part of what I like about photography. It has the power to show you things you would not otherwise observe. The long lens can take you closer to your subject showing you detail you would otherwise miss. And, the whole process slows you down and gives you time to digest what you are seeing.
And, the cove? After seeing the first chick photo above, I have given it a new name. I now call it Jurassic Cove.
Next week's posting falls on the birthday of a long lost brother. We will take the opportunity to remember him and his unique sense of humor. Be prepared for George Carlin meets the advertising industry.
All photos and text copyright Clinton Richardson. These and other images from what I affectionately call Jurassic Cove are posted on our TrekPic.com website. Click on New on the homepage to be directed to the gallery.
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Clinton Richardson, has been writing and photographing for decades. His acclaimed venture strategy series is now in its 5th edition. His Ancient Selfies is an International Book Awards Finalist and an eLit Award Gold Medal Winner. Many of his images can be seen online at TrekPic.com.