I have to admit that I don’t usually go out of my way to photograph Great Blue Herons. When I’m out walking with my camera and telephoto lens I’m often approached by people with asking me if I’m photographing either Bald Eagles or Great Blue Herons (or in their words -“cranes”) when I’m focusing on something a little more interesting or harder to photograph. Today I made an exception as I saw one doing something a little unusual and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
… and landed directly in front of us. We had a perfect view of the bird as it posed for a couple of minutes at the most.
But as quickly as it arrived, it launched into the air and flew 15 meters down the shore landed, and then took off again.
I was trying to figure out exactly what it was doing and why. Great Blue Herons are the largest of the herons in North America and there didn’t seem to be any kind of predator (like a Bald Eagle or a dog) flushing it.
It was on its way back past the viewing platform that I realized what was going on.
A small flock of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) were cruising up and down the shoreline with their heads submerged and looking for fish.
The heron was following the mergansers, touching down, and looking for any fish that were spooked by the flotilla. In essence the Common Mergansers were acting as fish wranglers and the Great Blue Heron was taking advantage of their ability to herd the fish! I’ve seen mixed feeding flocks of song birds but never anything like this..
The Airpark Lagoon in Courtenay on Vancouver Island is an excellent place to do some leisurely bird watching (and heron photography if you’re so inclined). The short loop around the lagoon is always interesting and there is usually a good mix of both water birds and song birds along the way. Check it out the next time you’re in Courtenay!