September 4, 2013 —
Herons in our region can be found just about anywhere there is water. Lakes, ponds and rivers all have the potential of providing good habitat for herons as well as other aquatic bird species. Herons are hunters, and their diet consists mostly of fish, with some amphibians, insects and even small mammals rounding out the fare. Herons are somewhat shy of humans and will fly off if approached too closely by persons on foot, or in watercraft. During an early evening in August however, two of the more common species of heron made an appearance on the river and provided some close looks for the people at the Lackawaxen boat access area on the Delaware River just before sunset.
First to make an appearance was a green heron. This crow-sized heron, much smaller than the often seen great blue heron, was spotted barely 50 feet from a videographer whom I was helping to locate eagles to film. This immature green heron appeared to be very focused on foraging for prey along the river bank and did not pay any mind to the small group of people nearby; we kept our distance and did not make any sudden moves. Green herons are masters of stealth when looking for prey in the water and will stand motionless until an unsuspecting fish gets too close and is captured by a quick thrust of the heron’s bill. In the wild, green herons can be easily overlooked if they are perched in trees as they often do when not foraging. Their dark color and small size give them the ability to be inconspicuous.
About 20 minutes later, the larger of the afternoon’s heron duo came into the boat launch area and provided some close looks for a few people still at the access area. It was a great blue heron that had come to forage after being previously spotted on the far side of the river, and it did not seem to be perturbed by the people in the parking area. The great blue heron is the largest of North American herons and is usually easy to spot. They are also stealthy hunters of fish and other small critters that have the misfortune to come within the reach of their long bills. An excellent video taken of this bird, taken by Christopher King, can be found at vimeo.com/72869933.