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Monday, April 27, 2009

I finally shot the heron! (photographically)


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The rains we've had (hail storms included) have done wonders for the grass and plants around the neighborhood. I set off Saturday afternoon, camera in hand, to search for the heron that I've seen many times before.

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coneflower

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The wildflowers were shooting up wherever the grass had not been cut. This particular flower I had not seen before. I had seen coneflowers with dark red petals (I think they're called sepals, but that's a whole other conversation) but not with yellow. It looked like it was struggling to grow faster than the grass around it.

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I have passed this tree many times on walks, but I had never seen the "squirrel" in the tree till this time. I was watching along the canal on my left, and heard a noise on my right. When I turned, there it was! Interesting that if I moved a few steps either way, the illusion was gone. If you look carefully you can make yourself believe that you can see his ears.

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As I crossed the bridge over the canal, I heard a loud noise and there was the heron! I must have startled it, but it flew back and returned to hunting for dinner. I zoomed in to the maximum, and tried to hold the camera still enough to get a good shot, but realized that I'd have to walk along the retaining wall in order to get a good one. I stalked him as carefully as I could, but this was as close as I could get. Suddenly, he took off!

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My disapointment was great until I saw where he landed. In the branches of the tree on the other side of the waterway were two herons. The sunlight was bathing the one, and the other was in shadow. This is my favorite photo of the elusive herons.
I have looked on several bird identification sites, and cannot find a photo that looks exactly like these. The closest I have come is a Tri-colored heron, but I am not sure. I will keep looking and will update when I get better information.
Thanks for stopping by!
Mike Z
UPDATE 4/27: John Malloy of the Surfbirds Backyard Bird Identification website says this is a Yellow Crowned Night Heron. He has a wonderful close-up of the bird's head and beak here. The photo is almost at the bottom of the page. Research pays off!
UPDATE 4/28: Mary Ann was kind enough to write and confirm that they are in fact Yellow Crowned Night Herons. She sent me to Cornell's web page. Thanks, Mary Ann!

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