Learning to fish

A family of Green Herons has taken up residence in the pond in the backyard.  I think there were 5 juveniles hunting along the shore of the pond, which is shallow and almost completely covered with duckweed.

Adult Green Heron, Butorides virescens

One of the adults just happened to be hunting near where I was standing.  They hunt the sparse openings in the duckweed right where tree limbs and debris have fallen into the water.  Perhaps this is where fish congregate as well.

Adult Green Heron, Butorides virescens

Shooting birds through a tangle of tree branches means there is always something obstructing the view. So I removed some of the clutter with Photoshop.  Adult Green Herons are striking birds with their chestnut-colored breast feathers and dark green head and back.

At the other end of the pond four of the five juveniles congregated on a tree trunk that had fallen into the pond this spring.  Its leafy branches hid them well from view, and also provided perches close to the water for them to practice their hunting.

Juvenile Green Herons

This was as close as I could get to four of the juvenile herons, about 200 feet away across the pond. The fourth heron is behind a big limb, and three mallard ducks perched on the fallen tree trunk for their afternoon nap.

I saw one of the parents feed one juvenile only once in the three hours I stood by the pond; the rest of the time they were on their own to search for food.  Adult Green Herons usually wander away from their breeding area after the nesting season, eventually moving into Central and northern South America for the winter. However, young herons stay at least until early fall on this set of ponds, where I have found them hunting in previous years. (See my earlier post on Heron fishing.)

Juvenile Green Herons learning to fish

I couldn’t tell what this youngster on the left found, but it tossed it around, dropped it, picked it up, and finally lost it in the water. Perhaps they don’t know yet what is edible.

Juvenile Green Heron and male Wood Duck in eclipse plumage

A fifth juvenile skulked far back in the leafy branches overhanging the pond scum. A male Wood Duck in eclipse (molt) plumage floated by, opening up some of the water surface as he swam and ate the duckweed.

The typical clutch size for Green Herons is 3-5 eggs, so this pair of herons must have harvested enough food to raise a large brood of youngsters.  I wouldn’t have thought such a small pond could support this many birds, but the heavy rain and run-off from feeder ponds upstream may have added to the fish and invertebrate populations this summer.

15 thoughts on “Learning to fish

    • Oh yes, house IS way down on my list. I spend a great deal of time wandering around the garden and the way back yard where the ponds and wetland are, especially in the summer.

  1. How am I just hearing about this pond in your backyard?!?!? I find the Green Herons so delightful. One of these days I’m going to have to come to Minnesota and go exploring with you!

    • My actual backyard is only about 150 feet deep and ends at a wooded hillside that slopes down to a wetland. There are actually three ponds there, two of them dug out by the city as settling ponds to filter out the salt and fertilizer running off the streets. But the wetland is pretty extensive, running about a 1/2 mile, in between two residential areas. I call this area the “way backyard”, and it is the primary reason started this blog–even in suburbia, there is a rich diversity of life. I would be delighted to have fellow bloggers visit!! Just let me know when!

    • Thanks, Joyce. The birds seem less colorful than yours, to me. But I do enjoy the variety of things I find in the greater backyard area. It keeps me fired up to write a blog post each day!

    • I never thought duckweed was good for anything but scum ing up ponds, but some of the dabblers like the wood ducks and mallards really chow down on it.

    • You bet, those are the best birds in my opinion. Like the ones in the buckeye tree right outside the porch, where is it and drink coffee and shoot photos of whatever is going on in the tree.

  2. Your initial close-up shots of the adult green heron are phenomenal. In my experience the green herons hand out in areas that are pretty inaccessible and getting any kind of a clear shot is tough. I love that you were able to capture so much of the beautiful details of the feathers. How exciting to have young ones there too. Maybe they’ll come closer eventually.

    • Wasn’t I lucky to just happen to be standing there when the heron flew up? I was actually standing there trying to figure out how to get photos of those youngsters that I could see on the dead tree clear down at the other end of the lake. I have seen them on that dead branch previously, and I had taken photos of a juvenile hunting there once, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the heron arrived.

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