Jordan Lake Dam, Haw River: Great blue herons are very territorial, and are that way from the moment they fledge from the nest. Each bird wants his share on the shoreline … and will fight to maintain control of the area. The fledgling great blue heron tried to land on the shore of the riprap. He was promptly flattened by a subadult great blue heron – about 1 1/2 years-old – who had a stake on that piece of property. The ensuing fight was loud and quite aggressive on both sides. The fledgeling is the one whose head is mostly a mottled brown and the subadult has a lot of white on his face and the beginning of the black striped cap of an adult. Neither bird seemed worse for the fight as the fledgling, for the moment relinquishing thoughts of acquiring the piece of shoreline, headed for the opposite side of the river. It finally got quiet on the riprap.
The sun was hot and bright. The Haw River was running gently. A great blue heron fledgling was fishing … sometimes he got his fish … sometimes he missed. Practice is both the key to the catch and the key to getting the fish from the front of the beak to inside the beak and down the throat!
Jordan Dam, Haw River: How does a great blue heron go about swallowing a fish that is bigger than his own head and throat? Remembering that birds are living dinosaurs and therefore closely related to reptiles, I think the birds work at relaxing the muscles of their jaw and throat until they can work their way around the fish. You will see several pauses while this fledgling heron goes utterly still – I think that is when he is resting and allowing his muscles to stretch. That’s my take on the situation. He also occasionally dips the fish back into the water to keep it wet and maintain its slipperiness. The whole episode took more than 10 minutes … I have put up only the last part of the heron’s work. As to the trash, I wish people were more careful about the environment and took their trash out with them.
The fledgling great blue heron is alert and watching for fish. The turtle is watching for food too. I sometimes think that the turtles wait for the herons to drop tidbits and they can share a meal.
Jordan Lake, Haw River: Great blue herons are actually gray, until, just until you see them, literally in the right light. Such as finding this fledgling great blue heron this morning in the shadows of the banks of the riprap as the sun had fully cleared the horizon. Azure blue air, water and heron!
Mom osprey was set to grab the fish and bolt for her nest. The fledgling great blue heron, being very inexperienced, tried to get the fish too. A mature great blue heron would not have made the attempt. Mom osprey would not have challenged an adult great blue heron. The fish won the face-off. This time.