A Choice of Waters

A great blue heron waits in a saltwater marsh at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina

A great blue heron waits in a saltwater marsh at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. It’s a wonderful park that not only has ocean access and some short hiking trails but also a causeway that runs between saltwater and freshwater lagoons. There are walking paths on each side of the road so as a photographer you can choose your type of water, as can the herons and egrets that hunt here. Although my biggest surprise seeing predators move between the marshes came one day as I was photographing alligators in the freshwater marsh when a large alligator came walking across the road from the saltwater side, the first time I learned they could spend a bit of time in the saltwater before returning to their freshwater home. After that I watched my back a bit more closely, although I never even remotely had any problems with the large reptiles.

Predator v. Predator

A great blue heron pulls a large bullfrog out of the water

Bullfrogs are voracious predators and not native to the Northwest but they are also a food source for a variety of animals that have learned to eat them. This large bullfrog was I think killed by a family of otters that came through earlier, it looked like one of them had caught the frog and eaten its front legs and a bit near the back before leaving. The heron was happy to eat what the otters left, dunking the frog a couple of times in the water (birds like herons and bitterns do this at times with their prey when near water) before getting it positioned in its beak where it could swallow the frog whole.

A great blue heron holds a large bullfrog in its beak

A  great blue heron dunks a large bullfrog in the water

A great blue heron prepares to swallow a large bullfrog

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

A great blue heron holds a fish head in its beak

Great blue herons normally swallow their prey whole, I believe this fish head came courtesy of a family of river otters I had seen moving through shortly before. Although effective hunters themselves, I’ve seen herons shadow otters before to try for scraps from the on-the-move otters (and seen otters make feints towards the herons if they think they’re getting too close and might grab more than just leftovers).

Hunter in Green

A great blue heron hunts for voles in a sea of green grass

When I visited Ridgefield a week ago I decided to only shoot with the new Sony camera and the adapter that lets me attach my Canon telephotos. I was expecting to have to rely on manual focus but the autofocus did work sometimes, although not consistently enough for this to be a combination I’ll use often for photos. For these shots I used manual focus, although I was still learning how to do it. I’d normally like a little more depth of field in a shot like this, especially to keep more of the pouring rain in focus, but by shooting wide open I was able to take more of an abstract and turn the grass that surrounded the hunting heron into a sea of green.

With the heron standing tall, you get more of a sense of the large meadow it was hunting in. I had no idea herons hunted in meadows until I moved to the Northwest, but all the voles that live here are well aware.

I didn’t have time to take any 4K videos of this heron, it struck into the ground and walked off when it came up empty, but I did take a few videos of some animals sitting in the pouring rain, including a bald eagle, a white-tailed deer, and some snipe. I’ve never edited video but I’ll see if I can learn enough to put a few clips up in the next month or so.

A great blue heron stands in a meadow in the pouring rain