Friday, January 11, 2013

Great Blue Heron - Nest Building

It's been a few months since I've posted anything here, but lately I have gathered some new material so finally I have some images to share.  I recently treated myself to a new camera, and the images in this post were gathered while trying it out for the first time at a couple of my favorite venues for bird photography.  

Male heron handing a twig to the female
1/3200 @f10, iso 3200, 700mm

The camera is a Canon 1Dx and I so far am very pleased with it. I was shooting a Canon 1D Mark 4 prior to this and now that camera will serve as a very capable backup.  The 1Dx is absolutely the fastest, most responsive camera I have ever held in my hands.  The speed and accuracy of focus acquisition is simply amazing, even compared to the Mark 4.  I am confident that this camera will serve me well on my coming trip to Kenya.  
1DX_0687 Male heron gatering sticks
1/320 @f7.1, iso 800, 700mm
Last week I tried out the camera at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Viera Wetlands, about 30 miles further south. There was not much bird activity at Merritt Island the first day but a trip down the road to Viera proved to be very productive. There were several pairs of great blue herons building nests, and as you have probably already realized, they are the subject of this post.                            
1Dx_0669  Male flying back to the nest
1/640 @f7.1, iso800, 700mm 
 I had observed great blue herons nest building on prior occasions, and discovered that their behavior is very predicatable. The male repeatedly flies to and from the nest, gathering twigs and handing them off to the female. The female then places each twig exactly where she wants it in the nest. This process repeats itself over and over so it is not too difficult to get in a good position to photograph it.
1Dx_0733 Male heron flying back to the nest
1/5000 @f10, iso 1600, 700mm
About every 5 minutes or so, the male would leave the nest and fly off to find aother twig.   It would only take about a minute for him to find one and then fly back to the nest. 
1Dx_0672  Male heron landing in the nest
1/1250 @f7.1, iso 800, 700mm
1Dx_ 0680   Male heron preparing to hand the twig to the female
1/1250 @f7.1, iso 800, 700mm
Typically in just a few minutes, the male is flying away again to gather more nesting material. 
1Dx_0725  Male heron headed out to find nesting material
1/4000 @f10, iso 1600, 700mm