Meanwhile, Back at My ‘Office’

Juvenile Green Heron ~ Butorides virescens

After reading that green herons nest in a variety of locations, including willow thickets, mangroves, dry woods, and open marsh, I smiled at the list-maker’s omission of ‘marinas.’

Some weeks ago, after noticing white splatters on the concrete around my preferred parking spot at work, I realized birds were roosting or nesting in the trees surrounding the marina. Eventually, I found three relatively small nests in the large oak overhanging my car. Given the nests’ size, and the nature of the squawks coming from birds hidden among the branches, I assumed they belonged to green herons.

Despite scanning the branches every day, it took a while to find the three juvenile herons exploring the world around their nest. Photographing young birds in a leafed-out live oak isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but their appealing expressions made the effort worthwhile.

According to the Audubon website, green heron chicks begin to roam near their nest by 16-17 days after hatching, and make their first flight by 21-23 days, so it won’t be long before these youngsters are testing their wings.

One day, I discovered the birds doing some scanning of their own: no doubt waiting for a parent to bring food. Eventually, one walked down a branch into a bit of a clearing; oblivious to my presence, it continued to watch and wait.

Before long, a parent arrived. Clearly more aware of my presence than the youngsters, it may have been waiting to feed them. Because green herons feed by regurgitation, the absence of a fish in its bill was no surprise.

Adult green heron

The second smallest heron nesting in the United States — only least bitterns are smaller — green herons are among the most widespread of the heron species. The oldest green heron on record, eight years and eleven months of age, was banded in Texas in 2013 and rediscovered here in 2021.

Two trees down from the wandering juveniles, I found this green heron nestling; perhaps in the future it will be the one to break that record.


Comments always are welcome.

59 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Back at My ‘Office’

    1. It was late afternoon without a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining directly into the trees, so there were issues with strongly dappled light. Still, I wasn’t about to pass up photographing those young’uns. Now I need to get to the other side of the marina where the great egrets, black-crowned night herons, and more green herons are nesting, and see what I can do there. The great egrets are much farther away, in the tops of larger trees, but there are a lot of white plumes being fluffed up.

      By the way: the ground beneath the mixed heron and egret nests was littered with beautiful blue egg shells. How do you tell the difference between the egrets’ eggs and the herons? When I looked online, several species seemed to have similarly colored eggs.

      1. I would love to see the eggshells! All About Birds gives dimensions and color info for the eggs of most birds:

        Great Blue Heron ~ 2.4-3.0″ long x 1.8-2.0″ long, pale blue fading slightly with age
        Great Egret ~ 2.2-2.4″ long x 1.6-1.7″ wide, pale greenish-blue
        Green Heron ~ 1.3-1.7″ long x 1.1-1.4″ wide, pale green to bluish

        While their color descriptions aren’t the most precise, the sizes would appear to be well distinguished.

    1. Even after I’d found the birds, tracking them through the branches was difficult; their camouflage is far more effective than I’d imagined. I’d find one, focus, and then it would seem to disappear into thin air. Sometimes the movement of the branches played a role, and sometimes the bird moved an inch one way or the other, but I suspect a real predator would have had an equally hard time finding them.

      You’re right about that gawkiness, but it’s rather endearing. I think shooting from directly below the birds contributed somewhat. The image of the one walking the branch doesn’t seem quite so awkward.

    1. Life outside the egg certainly is different. Beautiful blue eggshells were scattered on the ground beneath some trees: as neatly opened as can be. The impulse to come ‘out of their shells’ surely is strong for these babies, but it’s fun to imagine their first impressions of the big, wide world.

    1. I often get to see juvenile herons once they’re out of the nest, but this was a special treat. Now I’m eager to see if I can get a few photos of the pretty white egret chicks once they’ve grown up enough to be seen in the treetops.

  1. Your angle of perspective makes the eyes very startling and amusing. Your patience was well recorded. I hope you didn’t get too much of a crick in your neck. Linda.

    1. No crick, Derrick. After reading your comment, it did amuse me to consider that it was necessary to ‘crane’ my neck in order to photograph the herons. Once I saw the results, and did my own laughing at those silly expressions, it certainly was worth it.

    1. I hope I do get to see them fly. I suspect that I won’t see the initial take off, but will know they’re flying when they appear in different nearby trees. I’m sure it won’t be long, now. Last year I got to watch a pair of doves trying to coax their young out of the nest in a different marina. Two took off with a degree of eagerness, but one lingered for a couple of days, until the parents stopped bringing it food and hunger overcame its reluctance.

    1. Ah, yes. The old cost/benefit analysis. While parking in a different spot could mean fewer droppings, it also would mean no shade for the car during the day. It’s easier to wash off droppings than to cool down a car! On the other hand, the car hasn’t been hit yet, while your intrepid photographer… Let’s just say that white stuff on the camera wasn’t mildew.

  2. such a goofy looking bird. I think that must have been what I saw on my way to the grocery store down the county road. it was walking in the ditch and I got just a quick glimpse of it. I know it was a smaller heron.

    1. I’d bet that you saw a yellow-crowned night heron. They’re a common sight in ditches around here. They often will walk while hunting; the green heron tends to perch and wait. The juvenile yellow-crowned has the same sort of feather patterns as juvenile green herons, but there’s a size and shape difference that helps with ID.

    1. No, I almost never take my camera to work with me. When I was leaving work, I took the time to look around and see if I could spot the babies, and when I did, I drove home, got the camera, and went back. I live only two or three miles from this marina, so it took no time at all, and I was lucky enough to find the birds still visible when I got back.

    1. No, I still park in the same spot, and I’ve yet to be ‘hit.’ If I am, washing a car beats getting into a hot car at the end of the day; I’m partial to parking in the shade. On the other hand, I never look up with my mouth open.

  3. Herons–of all sorts–are just gorgeous and their chicks, worthy of any Dr. Seuss story. These are great captures–well done! South of my house, but on the same street, a neighbor has two sets of nesting Yell0w-crested Night herons. I can’t really see much now, as the trees are completely leafed out, but these returning parents provide lots of entertainment for the neighbors. I’ve occasionally had Great Blue herons and Green herons at my pond (fishing expeditions!) but not nearly as much as I’d wish.

    1. Have you ever seen one of your green herons using a ‘tool’ to fish? They’ll use twigs, feathers, and bits of debris as ‘bait,’ dropping them into the water to see if they can attract a fish. I’ve only seen it a few times, but seeing it made me a believer. I wasn’t sure all the reports were real, but they are.

    1. Ponds are great attractions for herons, that’s for sure. I came across this useful bit of advice for urban gardeners with ponds: put a length of PVC pipe into the pond, so the fish have a place to escape the predators — and we know who those predators are! Some have fur, but most have feathers.

  4. What a fantastic find and experience! I alway love seeing chicks and juveniles and comparing them to the adults. I also always love watching their behaviors, which you’ve described beautifully here. I hope you get many more opportunities with these birds. Nice work getting some great views in a difficult setting.

    1. I see far more juveniles than chicks, so this was especially fun. We’re awash in mallard babies now; they swim right out of the egg, so they’re not hard to find — especially given their loud voices. It seems there’s always one that wanders off from the group; listening to mother and baby ‘talk’ to one another until they’re safely reunited is one of the most common sounds when I’m working. I speak passable ‘mallard’ now, so there have been times when I’ve helped a young one find its way back to its family.

  5. Baby birds are so hilarious – the faces they make and how they are all about ME ME ME. Apparently our phoebes couldn’t get it together to start a family this year – someone worked on the nest, but no eggs were laid. Maybe later in the summer.

    1. I laughed at your reference to that self-obsession of the babies. There are two starling nests near another of my projects in a different marina, and while neither nest is visible because of where they were built (on top of a dock piling and in a utility box), there’s no doubt the babies are there. When the parents arrive with another insect for them, the uproar is considerable as the kids jockey to be the one to get the goodies.

  6. What a set of goggle-eyed tykes. I wonder if that yellow V under their bills is a “cue” to trigger the parent to feed it.

    1. I have read that there are certain cues for the parents, just as flowers provide ‘guides’ for pollinators, but I don’t know whether that’s the purpose here. It’s a great question; I’ll look around, or ask one of my knowledgeable birder friends. One thing I did notice while I was hanging around was the silence of these young; some are much more vocal with their demands.

    1. I suspect that young tree-dweller was trying to figure out why that big creature down below wasn’t moving away, like most of them do. There’s a lot to figure out for any youngster; no doubt the same holds true for birds!

  7. This is an exceptional post and one that I have enjoyed very much. Green Herons breed here too, but a little later than in Texas as you might imagine. I have no idea why, Linda, but I am no longer notified of your blog posts. I have tried to “re-enroll” twice but without success. The only thing I can think of is that WordPress remembers my old email address (discarded after I got hacked), even though I always now enter my current address:

    1. David, I went in to look at the user information on file for you, and sure enough: your ospreynest email still is linked, although your website isn’t listed. My hope is that if you completely unsubscribe, and then re-subscribe with your new email and the URL for your website, that should do the trick. It also will allow people to click on your name to visit your site. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.

      I was so pleased to find these youngsters. Yesterday, I caught one of them hopping from branch to branch and flapping its wings in the process. It won’t be long now! Also, on Sunday I was able to see a Cerulean Warbler in some wax myrtles at a local refuge. I never would have spotted it, or known what I was looking at, but some birders had collected, and pointed it out. It’s quite a pretty thing!

  8. I’m still giggling over their expressions, Linda! Good for you, finding them and capturing their baby pictures. You didn’t say, but I find myself wondering whether the adults are overly protective of their wee ones. It would appear they didn’t find you a threat!

    1. I suppose it helped that they were 30 feet above me, tucked into branches so thick they had protector from humans on the ground as well as the hawks that live in the neighborhood. I was so intent on trying to get decent photos I didn’t notice their expressions until after I looked at the photos on the computer. I suspect that the angle helped to emphasize those eyes!

    1. I knew that even adult black-crowned night herons could take on this sort of appearance when photographed from below, but these images were real treats. Their eyes look almost owl-like: so big, round, and cute.

    1. Yesterday, I saw them again, out on the branches. They were flapping their wings, so they’re clearly in the process of trying out their ‘flight equipment.’ It won’t be long now before they begin to explore farther afield.

    1. My work place is filled with unexpected entertainments. Yesterday, I watched a great blue heron catch and eat a very large fish, and an obviously inexperienced (or impatient) female mallard laid an egg right on the dock, next to me. I did get a photo of that, and of the mama. After looking at the egg, she wandered down the dock, found a bit of shade, and took a nap.

  9. Now THAT is a fabulous place! And the photos are terrific, as always — it looks like they were all posing just for you and probably know you are giving off “safe” energy. Just another day at the office, right? So, are you washing the car daily or just sitting it out for a bit?!

    1. I haven’t had to wash my car yet for “that” reason, although it could stand a general tidying-up. Right now, if I avoid parking under the nests, things are great. Once the babies and their parents begin spending more time away from the nests and out on the branches, it won’t be so easy to predict the next target!

      I found today’s baby at home: a tennis ball sized possum in my platform bird feeders. I think they’re pretty darned cute, too, and they’re more than willing to pose for photos.

    1. They’re so fuzzy-headed! Looking at the way the light reflects off all that down, it wouldn’t surprise me if that doesn’t help to camouflage them. The adults’ sleeker profile and darker colors make them much easier to spot, even though the size difference between the juveniles and the adults isn’t particularly dramatic.

  10. In theory, green heron range should extend up here during the breeding season, but I’ve never seen one here. Fun that you have them within steps of your routine path.

  11. It’s a special day when one locates newly hatched birds. Their curiosity is fun to observe and soon their flying practice will add a new level of enjoyment if you’re lucky enough to see it.

    Another thing that makes a day special is someone sharing wonderful photographs of young Green Herons with the world.

    Thank you.

    1. The young ‘uns clearly are getting ready to fly, if they haven’t already. Instead of three large, relatively contained white splotches beneath the nests, there are scattered bits of white beneath the entire tree canopy. Someone’s out roaming the branches!

      Yesterday, I got to watch a female mallard lay an egg under a deck chair on the dock next to me. I think I need to enroll her in a remedial egg-laying course (no credit for practicum). After dropping the egg, she looked it over, waddled down the dock, found some shade, and took a nap. Since the force of the fall cracked it, I sent it down to the crabs; she didn’t seem to care.

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