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.
Photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg