Heron Catching Two Fish Simultaneously

Many photographers, when talking about how they got hooked on bird photography, will mention the thrill of capturing some unique moments. It could be a bird-in-flight, birds fighting, a parent bird feeding an offspring, an unusual posture, special lighting, or a bird hunting. This article features a selection of images of a heron catching two fish simultaneously.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

I noticed a Great Blue Heron hunting on one of the burms at the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary. These are man-made structures formed with old pine trees. They are designed to keep carp in Lake Ontario from invading the ponds and stream at the sanctuary. Water can flow through the burms allowing smaller fish and other wildlife to pass through but the burms restrict the movement of large fish like carp. Heron will often perch at the edge of a burm to fish, or will sometimes hunt on the burm itself. They often look for small snakes, rodents, or fish that they can see in the water underneath the burm.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-400

As I watched the heron it made a quick strike into the burm and its head surfaced with two large fish in its beak as you can see in the photograph above.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

As the heron struggled with the two large fish in its beak it changed its position. Luckily it turned towards me, facing into the sun, which gave me a great view of its catch. You can see that the heron has one fish impaled on the end of its beak, and the other fish clamped between its upper and lower mandibles.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

The heron lowered its head slightly which allowed the clamped fish to slide down its beak towards the impaled fish. Eventually the heron was able to use the weight of the clamped fish to dislodge the impaled fish.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

Once the impaled fish dropped off its beak the heron was able to adjust the position of the clamped fish so it could swallow it head first.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

After swallowing the original clamped fish, the heron searched through the burm looking for the impaled fish.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

Within a few moments the heron found the original impaled fish and its head emerged from the brush with it in its beak. The bird then proceeded to re-position the fish in its beak, then swallow it as you’ll see in the four images that follow.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

After the heron swallowed the second fish it waited around a bit, perching on one of the posts along the burm.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-400

It paused for a quick drink…

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-400

Then launched itself into flight – giving me other image opportunities.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 246 mm, efov 664 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450

Anticipating that the heron would soon fly off, I adjusted the focal length of my lens to allow for the wing movements of the bird.

It took less than 14 minutes from the time that I captured the first image of this heron hunting on the burm, until it took off from the post. Those few minutes made the hours I spent at the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary that morning all worthwhile…and are the reason I’ll keep going back.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6, and the Nik Collection.

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4 thoughts on “Heron Catching Two Fish Simultaneously”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Loved the 3rd to sixth images and the last one is a keeper. The details are gorgeous, especially with the grey feathers against the brown shrubbery. Was imagining I could do something similar with a J5 (nearly got one as it’s on sale here but sadly, no more lenses available, especially the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 CX lens). Keep ’em gorgeous images coming!

    Oggie

    1. Thanks for the supportive comment Oggie – I’m glad you enjoyed the images! If I had a tripod with me or a monopod I could have likely taken at least some of the images with a J5 since the heron was reasonably static. It is very difficult to find a 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm anywhere these days…even a used one. Folks that have them seem to love them and unless they are moving out of the Nikon 1 system tend not to sell those lenses. I was thrilled when I found a Nikon-certified refurbished CX 70-300 to add to my kit.

      I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past month or so doing fieldwork for a planned eBook on bird photography and I must say I’ve been having a blast doing it! I’ve got a few more articles planned that you’ll be seeing over the next number of weeks.

      Tom

  2. Great captures Tom, for you and the Heron! It is moments like these when we photograph something unique that makes our photographical pursuits so magical.

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