Today is a rainy day in Southwest Florida, and I’m packing up for my own migration back to Pennsylvania. I’m definitely sad to leave. Looking back on my photographs in the Everglades, I found another series of three photos of the Great Egret lifting off from the swamp, showing its beautiful wings outstretched.
On my recent visit to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I challenged myself to photograph the Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron in flight. Both wading birds are large and beautiful while standing still or wading in the shallows, but their look is entirely different when they take flight and display their enormous wing spans.
My friend Caroline, who accompanied me on this 15-mile bike trip, noticed the exquisite silence around us as we observed the birds and watched them fish and eventually take flight. I needed to keep my lens focused on the bird, as without warning and without a sound, it would take flight. If I looked away, I would be too late to capture take-off. Freezing action and maintaining focus on the egret in flight was a serious challenge!
Here is a series of three photographs taken in quick succession. I enjoy the brilliant feathers from each angle.
Bird photography gets really fun when you are trying to capture unique behavior. This Reddish Egret I observed on Sanibel Island, Florida had some cool moves. I was amused by the head tilt that began his feeding dance. In this image, it looks like he is given the duck some attitude.
I drove three hours roundtrip last evening to Sanibel Island, hoping to observe and photograph some birds during low tide at the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. It seems you never find what you expect to find — the white pelicans or the roseate spoonbills — but lucky for me, I met a big bird that was new to me: the Reddish Egret.
The medium-sized heron is not too common, categorized as “Nearly Threatened,” and this bird wore a transmitter on his back. Some naturalist is keeping track of his movements. I enjoyed watching the unique way the Reddish Egret fishes by wading in shallow water and using his wings to shade the prey right before spearing it. With my 600mm Tamron lens, I had a close look and spent about a half hour tracking it as it moved about in the shallows. Of course, I had to use a tripod to steady the heavy lens.
I was lucky to have my camera focused on this Tricolor Heron when the Great White Egret landed alongside and began to intimidate him. The egret scared the daylights out of the heron, and the heron’s crown feathers stood up on end! I captured a series of photos of the interaction, but the heron appeared a tiny bit blurred in some of the photos, because he was running from fear. I’m not sure if the egret wanted the heron’s fishing spot, but I have seen these egrets get aggressive with each other. Drama in the life of a wading bird! And so early in the morning! It was fun to witness and capture these images.
Funny how it works. In our human culture, the females wear the jewels, curl and color their hair and purchase sparkly, provocative dresses — all an effort to be noticed by the right male. In the bird kingdom, it’s just the opposite. The females wear camouflage (dull) colors so they can protect the young in the nest, while the males get dolled up in breeding plumage to attract a mate.
If I were a painter of an angel’s wings, I would imagine the ethereal wings of angels to resemble those of the Great White Egret in flight.