Sunday, June 14, 2009


On the second half of my sea turtle patrol this morning, I witnessed an amazing performance by these two Great Blue Herons. My only conclusion is that it must have been a mating ritual, though it seems a bit late in the season.

Rounding the tip of the island at Pensacola Pass, I saw two Great Blue Herons about 100 feet in front of me. I stopped the Mule just long enough to pull out my camera, but realized I was still too far away for a good shot. I pulled forward another 25 feet or so, fearful that I would startle them into flying away.

Suddenly, in unison, both herons looked skyward, extending their necks. I moved the camera away from my face and looked up to see what had grabbed their attention. There was nothing in the vicinity which I could see.

The heron in the first position seemed to go into slow motion, walking alway from the shoreline and toward the dunes in a march. The second heron continued looking up and fell in behind the first.

Again, I moved the camera away from my face and looked up to see what had their rapt attention. No planes, no osprey, no gulls, no other people in sight - just two herons in a trance.

Continuing their march in slow motion...

What the heck is up there, guys?

Never wavering, he just looks toward the sky in a hypnotic state.

Oops, something happened, but I don't know what.

Then immediately went back to his strange, slow march across the sand.

I would love to hear from some of my blog followers who are birders. This was a fascinating event to witness.


Lowell said...

Truly fascinating...maybe it was some kind of mating dance?

PJ said...

How cool is this? I'll look it up DJ, but it occurs to me it could have been a territorial stand off.

Barrier Island Girl said...

Thanks, PJ. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but the behavior was different from anything I've ever seen. It will be nice to share with blog viewers (including Jacob).


BaysideLife said...

Definitely looks like a mating ritual with all that posturing going on. How lucky you got to see it and capture it for the rest of us. Thanks


Barrier Island Girl said...

I wish you and your husband could have seen it, Claire. It was fabulous!

Will you be at Evenings in Old Seville Square Thursday night? The Swingin' Dick Tracys will be there so the kids will be dancing up a storm!


Unknown said...

I talked to Bob Duncan, a local birding expert and he had this to say:
I witnessed this behaviour for the first time a few months ago near our house. It is undoubtedly a courtship ritual. Both birds moved in unison with their head pointed up for a very long time, moving slowly around each other. It's not too late for them to nest, especially if they lost a first attempt or maybe even second brooding, but that's doubtful.