Saturday, November 29, 2014

Herons at Chapel Trail Nature Preserve

The weather radar indicated that a cold front accompanied by showers was moving slowly down the Florida peninsula, so we did not want to take a chance on being caught by the rain a mile out in our local birding patch. Therefore we decided to walk the 1/4 mile boardwalk at nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in Pembroke Pines. If we saw the rain approaching we would have time to rush back to the parking lot.

Here is the Chapel Trail boardwalk on a mild morning earlier this year:

Chapel Trail boardwalk 20140528

Chapel Trail boardwalk 2-20140528

It was a good move. Minutes after we started walking out, we spied two white herons. One was a Great Egret, and the other, an immature Little Blue Heron which suddenly flew up and roosted on the boardwalk railing. It is distinguished from the egrets by its green legs and dark-tipped bill. Its feathers are also slightly off-white. By the time it is a year old it will molt into the dark adult plumage.

Little Blue Heron immature 2-20141118

The heron scratched an itchy chin:

Little Blue Heron immature 20141118

It was so close that I had to back away to fit the entire bird in the viewfinder of my telephoto lens:

Little Blue Heron immature head 20141118

All herons have an elongated sixth vertebra in their upper neck which is attached to its adjacent vertebrae at right angles and acts like a double hinge. See a drawing of the neck bones in this earlier postThe above photo shows the resulting"Z" shape it creates. This allows herons to strike at prey with sudden force, but also permits them to preen their feathers in areas that would be otherwise inaccessible:

Little Blue Heron immature neck 20141118

An adult Little Blue Heron flew in. It also has green legs and dark-tipped bill, but otherwise presents a markedly different appearance from the immature:

Little Blue Heron adult 20141118

Almost as if providing a second movement to the theme established by the Little Blue Heron, an immature Tricolored Heron arrived and settled down in the Spike Rush:

Tricolored Heron immature in flight 20141118

Also in its first year of life, this bird had mostly rusty brown upperparts:

Tricolored Heron immature 2-20141118

Yes indeed, this really happened-- an adult Tricolored Heron then moved in, as if to show off its contrasting wardrobe:

Tricolored Heron adult in flight 2-20141118

Tricolored Heron adult 2-20141118

The adult now took center stage, flying up to the railing and once more causing me to back down the boardwalk in order to take its photograph:

Tricolored Heron adult 5-20141118

I especially liked this pose, which exhibited its plumes:

Tricolored Heron adult 20141118


  1. Awesome photos and post on the herons. Happy weekend!

  2. Amazing collection of herons! Now I know the differences.

  3. just gorgeous!!!! thanks for these!

  4. After reading your blog for a few years, I now think I know a little bit about birding. It is so educational, and the photos are beautiful!

  5. How exciting to see so many different Herons. I love the Green Legs on the one and that Tri-Colored one was so different. All are awesome.

  6. Oh my - what amazing shots of the birds! And lovely blue skies too.

  7. It's like they put on a birdie fashion show. Awesome.

  8. This looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing. I don't think I've ever heard of this spot. Those are all great birds....but your closeups of the "blue" its white juvenile feathers are stunners. Nice!

  9. Wonderful photos of the herons! They're all beautiful birds.

  10. wow- what wonderful shots of the herons! Your close-ups are incredible!!

  11. Incredible photos! So interesting about the neck bones...and I love the heron's green legs!

  12. That place looks like 'Heron Heaven'. Your photographs are outstanding. Love the walkway shot and the next shot of the Egret isn't itchy, he is practicing his Turkish dance moves!!

  13. Wow, how coincidental! I absolutely love the pic of the heron scratching, it looks so funny. You were lucky they came so close .

  14. Awesome!!!!
    I especially like the heron close ups...they're terrific.

  15. Wow.... they do get quite the kink going on in the neck don't they? Who knew?

  16. What a fun place to go for a birding walk, so many kinds of herons. What interesting shots of the different species, and information about the kinks in their necks.


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