Following a Young Tricolored Heron

Following a Young Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Herons are small active waders with a disproportionately long bill relative to their body size. I see them often at Brazos Bend State Park and other fave places with water. This is the bird formerly known as the Louisiana Heron but suffered a name change in the early 1980s.

Recently I had the opportunity to watch one hunt fairly close to me. 

Juvenile Tricolored Heron checks out the locale Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

Juvenile Tricolored Heron checks out the locale
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

We had parked on the road to Bryan Beach and attempted to photograph some Marbled Godwits. They were really too far for my 400mm lens and I noticed this Tricolored Heron a ways up on the other side of the road. I toted my tripod and milk crate over to see what he might do.

Maybe he would come out of the vegetation? I set up on the edge of the gravel road with my tripod and waited. My patience was rewarded.

Spearing a fish (probably a Sheepshead minnow)  Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

Spearing a fish (probably a Sheepshead minnow) 
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

This guy was hungry. I got a shot of him plunging into the water, but it is just a splash with his head under the surface. He came up with this small fish, definitely speared. He walked over to a patch of mud, manipulating the fish a bit. When he arrived on dry ground, he dropped the fish where there was no danger of it getting away....

And then gulped it down.

Close up of the gulp

Close up of the gulp

If you look closely you can see a fine thread streaming from the vegetation stuck to his bottom mandible. At first glance, I was afraid it was a fishing line caught on the fish he had found. But, the fish was way too small to be caught on a hook. More investigation (thanks, Google) leads me to believe the streaming thread was Spirogyra or some other filamentous algae. 

Exhibiting great flexibility and intensity Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

Exhibiting great flexibility and intensity
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

His concentration was amazing and he got himself in some odd positions. He was motionless in this position looking for his next victim. While we were shooting, an idiot was running up and down the gravel road behind us on a motorbike, but the heron was not fazed.

I was really annoyed, though. 

Tugging algae mats along with the fish Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

Tugging algae mats along with the fish
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

More evidence of algae mats interfering with his fishing. Most of the time he found these tiny silvery fish. 

Double dipping Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

Double dipping
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800

This time, he got TWO of the little fish, which I think are Glass Minnows

So how did I know he was a young bird? 

Juvenile Tricolored Heron standing tall Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 640

Juvenile Tricolored Heron standing tall
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 640

You can't really go by size since once birds leave the nest and are out on their own they are the same size as adults. I agree, he looks skinny, but all of them are.  He has a predominately striped neck and a lot of rusty red on his head, neck and upper back. He also has a white chin and greenish-yellow legs. 

Adult Tricolored Heron Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/320 sec. f/5.6 ISO 640

Adult Tricolored Heron
Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/320 sec. f/5.6 ISO 640

Here is a fully grown adult I saw the same day, but back around by the Intracoastal Canal bridge. He is mostly a dark-slate blue, and the reddish brown has given way to a deep maroon. The front stripes on his neck are not as prominent and his legs are now yellow. 

A lot of birds here on the South Texas Coast start getting breeding colors during the winter as they mate and raise offspring during the very early spring. The Tricolored Heron puts on a spectacular show with a blue face and bill, red eyes and pink legs. Stay tuned. 

Are you happy to see birds again after all that arty stuff? Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? And did you expect to see a Wild Turkey on my blog?

Barges and Puddles

Barges and Puddles

Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick