Cause Of More Than A Few Double Takes
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Great Blue Herons have been the source of more than a few double takes by me and my friends as we drive around the southern Arizona countryside looking for wildlife to photograph. These huge birds are, after all, wading birds that are typically found near or in the shallow parts of streams, lakes, and ponds and we don’t generally encounter these bodies of water as we drive around.
So, what are these birds doing out in the middle of what at first glance appears to be a burning desert?
It’s no mystery, actually. The agricultural flatlands of southern Arizona are crisscrossed with hundreds of miles of irrigation canals. The canals attract aquatic life and the aquatic life attracts Great Blue Herons. Still, it’s often quite startling to see one of these birds out there among the saguaros, mesquite, and cholla.
There’s a small man-made lake on Tucson’s west side that is home to several breeding pair of these birds. Yesterday morning I spent a pleasant hour observing and photographing them. They’ve taken over a pair of large Eucalyptus trees on a small island in the middle of the lake. It’s breeding season right now, and there’s a lot of activity in those trees, with herons coming and going and creating a loud racket as they call hoarsely back and forth to each other.
Great Blue Herons are not heavy birds. They are all skin, bone, beak, and feathers. An adult Great Blue weighs about five pounds, approximately the size of a roasting chicken. However, these birds appear to be gigantic when they are in flight, due to their six-foot wingspans and the way in which they fly.
These birds fly slowly and majestically. They glide as often as possible and when they beat their wings it is with deep and rhythmic movements.
One of these birds in the air is an amazing sight to behold, just totally awe inspiring.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO and settings varied.