While I treasure a close-up of each species of bird in its exquisite detail, and I get excited about a more rare capture of a bird in flight, the trifecta of wildlife photography thrills for me is to witness a drama between animals — the rare sighting that leaps beyond good color, detail and composition to tell a story.
Such was my luck late one afternoon on Sanibel Island in February. So far the visit to J.D. Ding Darling Nature Preserve had been pretty uneventful, and I was apologizing to my friend Mary who accompanied me. We had planned our trip to coincide with low tide to observe the large birds feeding, but few white pelicans or roseate spoonbills were in sight.
Here is how the action unfolded: We set up my tripod between the road and the water’s edge to observe for awhile when a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron emerged from the brush. About 4 onlookers pointed and whispered to each other as it paused in the gentle afternoon light. At Ding Darling, most bird watchers are quiet and respectful of wildlife.)
This heron took graceful giant strides, and within a few minutes, it had grabbed a crab in its beak and held it up in the light right in front of us. I had to adjust my 150-600mm zoom lens to 400mm to see the entire bird in the frame, and I could not believe my luck with the beautiful light and the chance to witness the scene.
We quietly contained our amazement (oh my God!) as the heron shook and stabbed the crab til its legs and claws came off and the prey was manageable to go down the hatch, right in front of us. I have numerous photos of this drama, and I will share them with you in the next few blog posts.
I’m now grateful that I saved this series of wildlife photos for this quiet time we are all experiencing now. Please share this blog with your friends who may enjoy it too.
This tall and tranquil bird stood still for quite some time at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as I set up my tripod to make this photograph. He/she is a classy bird, seeming confident, or should I say, comfortable in his feathers.
I arrived at Six Mile Cypress Slough right at sunset, just in time to see this large and beautiful bird begin to hunt for dinner from a cypress knee in the swamp. This is a tall bird, typically 23″ tall with its neck extended, and look at those claws. I loved its indigo coloring as well as the plume of slender white feathers that emerge from his crown.
I was really excited that the heron chose to hang out with me for 10 minutes or so, giving me time to capture him in several positions.
Inching along the grass in the Florida wetlands, I tried to get as close as I dared to the wading birds having dinner last night. I kept checking around me for alligators, but luckily, they were hunting somewhere out of sight. I was able to get a close look at two Yellow Crested Night Heron. It’s not terribly common in my neck of the woods, and I wasn’t sure what kind of heron it was at first. But I quickly became a fan of its zebra striped face, yellow crown, red eyes, distinctive accent feather, light and darker grey feathers and its long coral colored legs. This fellow kept a careful eye on me and in no time took flight to the safety of a nearby mangrove tree. But not before I got off a few nice shots.