Young Black-crowned Night Heron on ice – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
I’ve mentioned before that Great Blue Herons stay in the Salt Lake Valley over winter even though the temperatures get very cold and so do some of the Black-crowned Night Herons. I had just mentioned that I hadn’t been seeing the Black-crowned Night Herons when I saw this juvenile flying over the Phragmites near a pond at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area and then it landed on the ice close to some open water.
Alert juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 357mm, natural light
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons look quite different from the adults in plumage but they have the same general shape. Aren’t those orange eyes brilliant in morning light? And like the American Coot images I posted yesterday from the same session, they both have big feet.
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
I don’t see the Black-crowned Night Herons as often in the winter as I do other times of the year so this young bird was a lovely treat.
More Black-crowned Night Heron images
Great Egret Portrait – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 160mm, natural light, not baited
These two “Great” images were taken two minutes apart of two different “Great” wading birds in Florida. The first one I photographed was this Great Egret that was going into breeding plumage, those lores were pretty green but they get greener during the height of mating season. Notice that I was only at 160mm, this bird walked up very close to me. That bill looked dangerously close, glad I don’t look like any of this bird’s prey.
Great Blue Heron Portrait – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited
This Great Blue Heron was going out of breeding plumage, notice that the lores are a dull gray with a slight blue tint to them, during mating season the lores are a dark blue.
They are “Great” birds!
More Great Egret and Great Blue Heron images
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) with Earth Shadow
Fort De Soto County Park, Pinellas County, Florida
Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 640, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 340mm, natural light
When I look at this image I can recall the morning that I created this file with a great degree of clarity. The sun had not quite risen above the horizon to the east but there was a touch of pre-dawn light, the Earth’s Shadow was visible to the naked eye. I’ve always been thrilled to see the Earth’s shadow.
The wind was blowing at about 35 knots (40 mph), waves were crashing onto shore behind the dune the heron was on, grasses were bent low and the fine grained sugar sand; hurled by the strong wind, stung my exposed skin. Not the most pleasant circumstances but for some reason I felt especially invigorated that morning. I’m not sure if it was the cool wind, seeing the Earth Shadow, being outdoors immersed in nature or a combination of all of the above.
Low lighting conditions can be a difficult challenge for bird photographers who shoot in aperture priority (I do) because shutter speed drops dramatically when there is little available light.
Not too many months before I photographed this Great Blue Heron I had always hesitated to use ISO’s above 320, I had heard so many other owners of Nikon’s D200 complain a lot about the bad noise issues they had encountered using ISO’s over 320. I had listened to those warnings for awhile after getting the D200 but then decided to do some experimenting on my own. On a morning with very low light I photographed another Great Blue Heron at ISO 1000 and when I looked at the image on my monitor at home I found very little evident noise in those frames and soon became bolder at using higher ISO’s.
Sometimes it pays to experiment, stretch your skills or to push your gear’s limit a bit. I’m glad I had experimented with higher ISO’s in the months prior to the morning I photographed this Great Blue Heron or I may have walked on by the bird thinking I couldn’t get enough shutter speed, so why bother. I am happy that thought didn’t occur to me.
The Great Blue Heron images from the series I created that blustery November morning on Fort De Soto’s north beach are still favorites of mine and likely always will be.
Another Great Blue Heron image from that morning can be found here.
More Great Blue Heron images
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) portrait in breeding plumage
Fort De Soto County Park on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast
Nikon D200, f8, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Imagine that the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, pretty hot even by Florida’s standards for March. Then imagine that the humidity is about 97%. You get out of your air-conditioned vehicle to take a short walk to the beach & lagoons and before you get even the equivalent of one city block you are drenched with sweat, rivulets coming down your face and getting into your eyes. Your clothes are damp and the sugar sand is beginning to stick to your ankles because of the perspiration that is there.
Slipping quietly into the water of the lagoon helps some, the water is just a bit cooler than the air. First kneeling then moving one knee forward at a time to slowly move closer to my subject. Stopping, watching to see if the bird shows any sign of alarm or that it might take flight. Creeping forward again at a snail’s pace. Tiny pink shrimp tickle the exposed skin on my legs as a flounder that had been buried in the sand scoots away as fast as it can. The water is to my waistline but it feels refreshing considering the heat you can see simmering like a mirage off the the surface of the water. A Pipefish wiggled by just barely under the surface of the water just inches from my thighs.
I had to stop and take my bandanna from my backpack to wipe my eyes because the sweat was burning them and I couldn’t see clearly through the viewfinder. I recall swallowing a small sip of water from my bottle when I felt like pouring the entire thing over my head to help me cool off.
Then in flew a Reddish Egret; a large wading bird, who landed on the sandy shoreline which is slightly above me where I was kneeling in the salty water of the tidal lagoon. The egret was in breeding plumage, what a treat. It was so comfortable in my presence that it just stood there, changing position once in awhile allowing full body shots, close ups, landscape and portrait formats. Elegant poses, funny poses and relaxed postures.
In 9 minutes I took almost 200 shots of “Big Red” before I realized that I felt like I was melting in the heat. The sun was getting higher and I knew I had to find relief from the scorching sun. I backed away as slowly as I had approached the shoreline not wanting to disturb the egret. The egret remained there standing still on its long, thin legs.
Was it worth it to feel like a wrung out dishrag to get those shots? Or feeling that every pore on my skin had opened like faucets? Worth the sand in my clothes, scrapes on my knees and looking like something the cat had wanted to drag in but decided it was way too dirty?
You betcha. I’d do it again in a heart beat. I’m addicted to bird photography just in case I had not mentioned it before.
More Reddish Egret images