Born White, Turning Blue

The Little Blue Heron is born as a stark white bird, and it gradually develops those vibrant slate blue feathers as it matures. If you were not aware of that color change, you might wonder about the identity of this unique bird when you see it in the Everglades.

This juvenile Little Blue Heron shows some blue feathers coming in around the neck. The bill is taking on its blue hue as well. The white branches underline its ghostly visage in the swamp. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

Standing on one leg, the heron rests the other while silently watching the water for fish. “Little” is a relative term, as it can grow to 29″ and have a wingspan of 41 inches. It is only “little” when compared to the tall “Great Blue Heron,” that can stand 4.5 feet high.

Is Blue Your Color?

The Great Blue Heron stands out in the marsh with its blue feathers, long and sharp beak and distinct yellow eyes. I love to bike in the Everglades to get a close look at these elegant birds.

Examine the delicate neck feathers of this Great Blue Heron. The yellow eye and beak stand out with their complimentary color. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

This Great Blue Heron (below) shows his breeding plumage. The male bird wears the eye catching “dress” to attract a mate.

In profile, this Great Blue Heron shows his crown feather and delicate neck plumage. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

From Florida to Pennsylvania…

I’m delighted to spot the Red-Winged Blackbird. I learned about this beautiful bird on early morning bird tours on the Royal Poinciana Golf Club. Then, I recognized the same beautiful species in flight three times this month in Western Pennsylvania.

This red-winged blackbird sings a morning song in Naples, Florida. I have also spotted this distinctive bird near Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

Bird watching in Pennsylvania is especially challenging when the leaves are out on the trees. In the morning, you can hear numerous birds singing, but when you look for them, all you can see are hundreds of leaves in the trees.

I’m not complaining, for all this greenery is gorgeous! With the April and May showers, the lawns are as green as the west coast of Ireland and the trees are bushy with fresh green leaves. As I write today, the azaleas are in full bloom, and the rhododendron are up next. Happy Spring!

Green Heron, Turn Around

Want to know a fun fact about the Green Heron?

  • The Green Heron is one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It often creates fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish. (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)
The Green Heron is a short stocky bird, compared to other herons. I found this one at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at the water’s edge.
As I watched silently, the Green Heron turned around for another view in the sunlight. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples, Florida.

Anhinga and the Bottle Brush

Just like every good movie has a great actor and strong supporting actor, every great Nature photo reads the same way. This female anhinga is a regal and fascinating bird with striking feathers and an unusual ability (for a bird) to swim underwater. But this contrasting and colorful setting, the bottlebrush tree makes this image sing.

Female anhinga perches in the Bottle Brush tree, lakeside, in Naples, Florida.

As I adjusted my ISO to 1250 and focused on the bird, my friend Cecil said quietly to me, “That’s the money shot.” Thank you, Cecil.

Nature Photography Contest

Today I have submitted three photos to the Royal Poinciana Golf Club’s annual nature photography contest. All photos submitted to the contest must be taken on the grounds of the Club. Last year I won second place! My favorite submission this year is the morning light on the Great Blue Heron.

I photographed this Great Blue Heron around 7:15am on a Bird Tour at the Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
On a morning bird tour of the RP Golf Course, I also observed this female osprey landing on the nest, while her partner cries out.
My third submission shows a rare sighting on the golf course: two bobcats hissing at one another. The light was very low, and the long exposure reveals some motion blur. I was grateful to have seen them and taken a photo before they slipped away seconds later.

I will let you know if one of these images is a winner this year!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!

Great Blue Heron is up and away, spreading those enormous blue wings and stretching out its long body. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.

The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.