Readers’ wildlife photos: Heron does its business (and lagniappe)

Most of us have, at some time, been hit by bird poop released in mid-air.  Well, we can be thankful that excreta didn’t come from a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias): as these photos by Stephen Barnard show, that bird really lets go when it’s flying.  If you ignore the scatalogical aspects, these photos really are quite beautiful.  Stephen’s remarks:

This is why Great Blue Herons are sometimes called shitepokes. Right after I took these photos I saw a trout with a fresh heron wound.

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When I wrote the photographer that I thought the photos were “lovely,” he responded with this note and sent another nice photo:

Lovely isn’t the word I’d use, but remarkable in a way. Some comments I’ve gotten on Facebook are “skywriting in Arabic (right to left)” and “pooparazzi shot”. If you pick just one photo I suggest the second one. It got more “likes” on Facebook Birders than anything else I’ve posted. By the way, the Facebook Birders and the Wildlife Photography Facebook groups have some great photos, and lots of them. You might check them out. The combination of digital photography and the internet have made possible a golden age of photo sharing.

Here’s a nice photo of a Song Sparrow [Melospiza melodia] the same morning.

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43 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    This is the first time craptacular can be used as a compliment! Nice pics Stephen!

  2. Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Chem trails!!

  3. Diane G.
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Somewhere the NSA is trying madly to interpret that…

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, I don’t think the herons are in a position to deliver that message to the NSA in the more personal manner that would be most appropriate.

      b&

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        True.

        Well, crap.

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          …in their general direction?

          b&

          >

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Did that heron clear that with the EPA?

  5. Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I once had a client tell me she was “addicted to that her-on.” I told her it wasn’t advisable to inject a migratory bird into one’s bloodstream. (drum roll)

  6. Lee
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Was told a long time ago that if you walk under their nests-they are communal nesters-in a rookery that you will get dumped on. Not sure which end of the bird the stuff comes out of though.

  7. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    This is a Google Earth view of the rookery. The white spots are nests. You don’t want to hang out under there.

    heronnests

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Looks like there’re white streak trailing eastward from the nests. Is that a result of prevailing winds, or preferred landing approaches, or…?

      b&

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:25 am | Permalink

        Maybe on take-off? Lots of birds lighten their load that way. Whenever I’ve flushed ring-necked pheasants, they let loose. It’s even possible it would distract a predator in those crucial seconds getting airborne.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          Yes, robins do it too. I rescued a robin and raised him until it was time for him to migrate & he’d poo all over your hand just as he was going to take off. Blech!

        • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          Come to think of it, even hummingbirds tend to let loose as they accelerate away from a feeding spot….

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

            Oh yes! Thanks for reminding me – I have noticed them doing that – just little squirts! :)

          • Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Seeing as humming birds feed exclusively on nectar, their poop must smell sweet!

            • Stephen Barnard
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

              Hummingbirds also eat insects. They’re an essential part of the diet.

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t know that, it was never mentioned in a beautiful documentary about humming birds which I recently watched.

                One learns something every day!

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

                Think about it. Could any bird survive on sugar water — no vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, oils or fats? Some estimates are that insects represent 60-80% of the hummers’ diet. I’d love to get a stop-action shot of a hummer nomming a spider. (OK, not an insect.)

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

                Nectar is far more than simply sugar water:

                http://www.bb.iastate.edu/necgex/Nectar.htm

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                This is an informative, well written piece on hummer arthropod predation. (It’s where I stole my facts.

                http://www.wildbirdsonline.com/articles_hummingbirds_eating_insects.html

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                I have trouble giving credence to someone who doesn’t know the difference between capitol and capital…

                http://grammarist.com/usage/capitol-capital/

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

                If someone mistakes capitol for capital, but is otherwise apparently knowledgeable and passionate about a specialized area of knowledge, like hummingbirds, that destroys their credibility in you eyes?

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

                It makes it difficult for me to give them credence is all I said.

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                I made a typo in that reply, so I’ll give up trying to convince you that hummingbirds eat arthropods because you wouldn’t believe me. I’m also a rather poor speller, and could easily mistake capitol and capital.

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

                Kindly point out where I stated that I don’t believe you? All I said is that I found it difficult (therefore not impossible) to give credence to someone who doesn’t know the difference between capitol and capital.

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

                This is not the documentary I recently watched (on a French TV station), but it nonetheless must be very beautiful:

                Hummingbirds – Magic in the Air (HD)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

                They like to eat spiders. They also use the webs for the nests.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:20 am | Permalink

              their poop must smell sweet!

              Not necessarily. Do you have lime trees where you live, with their attendant aphids? Park the car under the tree, let it get covered in sugary aphid p**p, and take a sniff. I’ve not got a terribly good nose (I have to take several sips of a good malt before I can identify it ; devastating!), but I could never smell a thing. On the other hand, touch the paint work and you’ll have to peel yourself off!

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Great view!

  8. Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    (pssst… scatological and not scatalogical)

    It reminds me of this little video I made back in 2007, in Geneva, and uploaded to YouTube:
    :D

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      You are a woman of many talents.
      :D

    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      This is why I won’t eat seafood

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

        Studying the anatomy of shellfish of various phyla was enough to convince me that eating shellfish wasn’t a good idea. (Living about as far from the coast as possible without levitation was another encouragement.)
        See that mussel? Of you’re going to eat it, you’re either going to eat, essentially, a gut full of mussel poo, or it’s sex organs. Or both. The mussel muscle is minor.

    • Dennis Hansen
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:04 am | Permalink

      Great video. Swiss-shit is cool; I love the way the swans on Lake Zurich make neon-green clouds that trail behind them!

  9. Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    This is why you don’t stand too close to ostriches – picture someone pitching a bucketful to get the general idea.

  10. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    As an erstwhile computational physics geek, I see this as a study in fluid dynamics, illustrating the transition from laminar to turbulent flow.

  11. microraptor
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I think my car was once bombed by a pelican.

    They were fairly common in the area I was living at the time and the only other bird around big enough to leave a splatter that size was a great horned owl.

    Seriously, it blocked out most of my windshield.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:31 am | Permalink

      Nah. It was just God targeting someone nearby who was an abomination unto Him. More often than not He misses, so don’t take it personally.

  12. Dennis Hansen
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    What a great shot! It is a mixture between an aerial and an earthbound ballet. Mmm, faeces, mmm (sorry, seed dispersal biologist bias kicking in).

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:30 am | Permalink
    Right after I took these photos I saw a trout with a fresh heron wound.

    Caused by the beak, claws, or just blunt-force trauma from impacting poo?


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