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Great Blue Heron males, early in the mating season, exhibit the Stretch display.

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Early to mid-February always puts me in mind to photograph Great Blue Herons. It’s around this time of year when they begin to build their nests and start their mating rituals. Richmond, Virginia had a great rookery right near the downtown area on the James River called The Pipeline which was perfect for photographing these behaviors. (I say “had” because I understand the rookery has been declining in recent years.)

Shown above is an example of the male “stretch” behavior. Apparently female Great Blue Herons really go for the tallest guy they can find, so they stretch their necks as high as they possibly can.

This image was taken with a Nikon D800 using a Nikkor 80-400mm zoom at 400mm. The exposure was 1/500th of a second at f/8.0 and ISO 400. The image is cropped to create the final panoramic format. The sky was overcast and there isn’t a great deal of color in the image to begin with, so I created the black-and-white treatment to accentuate the contrast and form present in the image.

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