The Great Blue Herons of La Playa

 

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     As avid recreational sailors, we have spent a lot of time on San Diego's bays and coastline, marveling at the abundance and diversity of marine and bird life that make their home here. Photographing and learning about these creatures has been a wonderful part of our time on the water, especially in the case of the Great Blue Herons of La Playa. 

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Montage2blgMontage2blg      When we moved our boat to Shelter Island last year it was a treat to start seeing Great Blue Herons wading in the shallows and hunting from the docks of the marina in the late afternoon. These are big birds, up to 4 1/2 feet head-to-tail, with a 6-foot wingspan, so it can be a bit startling when you come upon them unexpectedly, for both of you.  When disturbed enough to take flight, they'll squawk loudly in protest, in part from the effort it takes just to get their gangly bodies airborne. Flight Montage3blgFlight Montage3blg      Because of their size, I had always assumed that these birds nested on the ground in a nearby marsh or lagoon. So I was surprised when I saw one perched in one of the giant trees that line the shores of the bayfront neighborhood of La Playa, across the channel from Shelter Island. Over the recent holiday weekend we had the opportunity to anchor about 100 yards from their rookery and photograph them periodically through the weekend. 

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     So what's a rookery? It's a breeding colony of birds that nest high in the trees. But in this case it is more specifically called a heronry. This is one of three giant trees  that line the shore at La Playa, each part of this heronry. 

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Jonathan Franzen is a novelist and fellow birdwatcher.

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J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 27 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:

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