When a Great Blue Heron’s instinct to fly off is obeyed, his wings literally appear to grow out from his body as they come unfurled before straightening completely to gain more lift.
The amazing, powerful-looking connection of bone structure to body and wing is apparent, here (ABOVE). Also visible are the stout, brownish-yellowish upper legs and the long, black skinny lower legs to which are attached stick-like feet that allow this bird to walk steadily in the water as he searches for fish.
Out-of-camera photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg
The Great Blue Heron has an amazing take-off sequence. A wingspan of 77 to 82 inches flaps him into flight.
Involuntarily hitting the shutter on my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS with 40X Optical Zoom in different times — quickly, normally slowly, and abnormally slowly — I captured pictures of a Great Blue Heron in a patterned sequence of take-off and resulting flight.
(ABOVE): This is an incredibly lucky shot! The heron has used his skinny, long stick feet to push himself slightly forward and out of the water. (See the water dripping heavily down below him.) His wings are in the first take-off motion, with most of the wings in a flapped down position from which he is about to swing them upward to gain more lift.
(ABOVE): In the second flight sequence, the heron shoots his wings fully upward and folds his eight stick feet (four on each leg) closely together in preparation for lifting himself into full flight. His head and neck remain high, here, and his legs are dangling while his feet shake off water.
(ABOVE): Low over the river and pulling in his rudders (legs and feet) straight behind him, the heron has fully launched himself out of the water (third sequence) in a forward push. To give himself momentum and speed, he has lowered and leveled his wings.
At every take-off from the water, the Great Blue Heron uses the same basic three-part sequence to become airborne.
The Great Blue Heron (BELOW) is a shadow in the sky above the bridge in Napoleon, Ohio. Notice how his long, long neck is pulled into an “S” as he flies high. The heron’s equally long legs and stick feet fly straight out behind him as he glides along.
(BELOW): When he lifts off, the Great Blue Heron displays beautiful, incredibly huge wings of purple-blue edging and relatively small, fan-like tail feathers.
(BELOW): Pigeons that live under the bridge give their own impression of shades against the sky. They regularly give a fly-by show around and under the bridge as a troupe.
(BELOW): The Great Egret shares fishing space with the Great Blue Heron. They rarely argue on territorial water rights.
(BELOW): Notice the Great Blue Heron’s head is straight up, and that’s because he/she just watched the Great Egret fly over his/her head and land in front of him/her.
Turkey Vultures, or “buzzards”, as the ones (BELOW) are easily recognized on the ground for their red, bare-skinned heads. But in high flight, they display silver-gray outer flight feathers and black feathers in front, while their white, short beaks are more visible than their red heads. Highly predatory, Turkey Vultures flap and soar in circles above prospective ground prey.
(BELOW): Geese fly above the Maumee River at Napoleon, Ohio.
We are lucky enough in our small town of Napoleon, Ohio, to have a big river — the Maumee River, which runs all the way to Toledo and Lake Erie — and to be able to enjoy some big birds that frequent the waterway. Napoleon is cradled North and South of the river and is located between Grand Rapids, Ohio, (east) and Florida, Ohio, (west).
In late Summer and early Autumn, we can photograph Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons, both pictured below as I captured them “fish-hopping” in the Maumee.
The top picture is a Great White Egret (black legs, yellow peak) shown rising into take-off from the water with just one wing showing. As you can see, he has an amazing wingspan!
The second picture shows the long, long neck both these big birds possess. The length is very handy for catching fish under water. This photo also demonstrates an apparent gray-blue color of a Great Blue Heron at standing rest.
In the third photo, a Great Blue Heron shows darkened colors as they appear in low light while he prepares to land at his favorite fishing spot.
Gliding over the river in brighter light in the fourth picture is a Great Blue Heron displaying his full wingspan and true colors of white feathers with bluish-purple trim.
In the last two photos, you can see how both birds pull in those long necks during flight. Observe the heron’s (top photo) yellowish-black legs extending beyond his short tail feathers and the egret’s (bottom photo) all black legs.