This is one of Long Lake’s Great Blue Herons, probably bedding down for the night, since Great Blues do tend to sleep in trees. Down south, where our herons migrate to, this makes good sense because that way they won’t be some alligator’s evening meal.
This heron’s bed is the dead pine on the west shore of the lower lake, in the first bay south of the narrows.
If you watch the shore closely, in our lake’s most secluded spots, you will sometimes see the herons stealthily hunting. They walk, slowly, watching for fish that swim by, or frogs or small snakes. They hunt by sight, including in dim light thanks to having an extra dollop of rods in the back of their eyes. They don’t hunt by smell at all. In fact they have a very weak sense of smell–which is probably a good thing, considering the somewhat smelly stuff they eat. Fish are heron’s main food. They stab them with their sharp beaks. Then they have to make sure to swallow them head first, so that the scales and fins don’t get stuck in that long esophagus.
This Great Blue looked a bit worse for wear when we spotted it a few weeks ago. We suspect that he (or she) was in mid-molt, but we’re not sure. Speaking of not sure, he and she herons look alike and are sized alike. Herons can sort it all out. But for human observers, that’s basically impossible.
We also wondered if this individual was a juvenile. If so, it was already full size. And, speaking of size, these guys are big. They have a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.5 feet.
Here’s a look at a heron wading in the shallows in front of our cottage, looking for breakfast.
Great Blues are shy birds, easily spooked. This next one flew off and gave us a good look at the deeply bent wings in flight and those trailing legs.