Mabel and I were lucky enough to get up close and personal with a Great Blue Heron on our afternoon walk yesterday!
Ardea herodias, "Great Blue Heron" Jacksonville, FL 01/06/22
Great Blue Herons are very tall birds, with heights reaching as high as 4'5" tall! I'd always known these birds were large, but being 5'3" myself and standing so close to this guy made me slightly nervous. They use their dagger-like bill to spear fish as they wade through shallow waters. The specimen pictured here is an adult, based on the size, coloring, and prominent black stripe above the eye. Their life spans can exceed 15 years and they've been known to fight off prey as large as alligators.
Florida is proving to be an absolute gem for bird watching, as expected. Although we have found a downside...
I'm gearing up to take a wonderful photo of a bird with my longview lens on my DSLR. I'm holding Mabel's leash in one hand and steadying the camera with the other... but I can't keep steady enough with her pulling away, bit by bit. I make the executive decision to drop the leash for the perfect shot to be captured, blur-free. Just as I look at the play back on the camera, I hear a huge SPLOOOOOSH. I gasp! "MABEL!" I scream, as I walk just two feet around a thicket of trees and palm fronds to find that in those few seconds Mabel had managed to scare a sun-bathing alligator from the shoreline into the lagoon. I was able to catch it slinking into the water, turning back to give us a vexed glare. With my heart racing, I of course took immediate advantage of the photo opportunity... got the shot, then swiftly scooped up Mabel's leash and high-tailed it out of there, thanking my lucky stars the encounter hadn't played out any differently.
Alligator mississippiensis, "American Alligator" Jacksonville, FL 01/06/22