End of Season Bird Photos and Photo Tips

Maybe we should just call this the “Green Heron Blog.” I continue to devote a lot of space to that popular bird. I continue to devote a lot of space to photography, too.

Stan, an 8th-grade teacher (and doing God’s work), left a comment after reading “Birds Are Markers.” Here’s some of what he wrote: “Thank you for your thoughtful imagery. You have activated the project zero see-think-wonder routine for me as I look at your picture of the three fledgling Green herons. They remind me of the mindset of my students this week, curious and wandering in all directions.” Here’s the image Stan was referring to.

Green Heron fledglings
Green Heron fledglings

I love the comment and take pictures in hopes that they’ll elicit those kinds of responses. Project Zero is a Harvard University-based think tank whose mission is to “prepare learners well for the world that they will live, work and develop in.” Most educators are familiar with the work of PZ, and all are familiar with its former director, Howard Gardner.

Green Heron Young

Here’s another photo of the same trio, this time looking in the same direction (more or less). They hadn’t been out of the nest tree for long, so it’s no wonder they’d be in total wide-eyed (and wild-haired) mode.

Green Heron fledglings
Green Heron fledglings

Speaking of wild-haired, when these birds are born they’re covered with down. As they molt into juvenal plumage—their first coat of contour feathers—the last appreciable bit of down that remains is the down on top of their heads. Here’s a close-up of a molting juvenile. I love the background, which makes the subject and its unruly hair pop.

Juvenile Green Heron profile
Juvenile Green Heron

Below is an even older juvenile. I discovered it recently at the Elizabeth River Project restoration site at Money Point (Chesapeake, Virginia). Green Herons don’t nest there, so this newly independent “juvie” had arrived from somewhere else.

As I approached, the bird was foraging in a wet ditch. After it spotted me and sized me up, it quickly headed for the safety of a power line. Power lines are used because they’re shaped like natural perches (and afford great views). They’re most often used by passerines, or perching birds. Notice the remaining strands of down on the bird’s head.

Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron

Take Another Look

Take another look at the top 2 photos. I was obviously shooting from a low vantage point/doing the “Marine crawl.” When capturing wildlife, keeping a low profile and shooting as close to eye level as possible are key. Of course, it’s always best if there aren’t any obstructions!

Our Photo Shoot

My friend Bill was with me that morning. He may have spotted the birds first. Bill has some physical limitations that prevent him from being mobile in the field, so he sat on a nearby bench and fired away, taking picture after picture. Ordinarily, he sits in his truck and shoots through an open window. I either stood, squatted, knelt, or sat and was grateful that I was still able to do all 4. I think I had my foam kneeling pad with me. It’s either that pad, or I come home pretty dirty.

At the end of our photo shoot, Bill shared some interesting things. First of all, he said that on average, maybe 20 to 30 of every 1000 pictures that he takes are keepers. I smiled. Then he offered this: “I believe in the “3 P’s” when it comes to taking pictures: planning, perseverance, and patience. But the greatest of the 3 is luck.” This time, I laughed.

Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron

A Few More Photos

Here are a few more photos from the season that’s coming to a close. I’d like to think they’re of the “see, think, and wonder” variety. These are pics that never made it to the blog.

Green Herons will dive into the water after prey. Sometimes, though, while foraging at the water’s edge, they’ll fall in.

Adult Green Heron
Adult Green Heron

The bird successfully climbed out.

Adult Green Heron
Adult Green Heron

Green Herons will also swim. They have thick toes and some webbing, which help. Here’s a young bird caught in the act. It had just dove off the bulkhead after prey (a fish?) and was swimming back to shore, some 10-15 feet away. It made it easily.

Immature Green Heron swimming
Immature Green Heron

This is a relative of the Green Heron, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Here, it’s about to devour an Elizabeth River blue crab. I was nearby and shooting in burst mode @ 10 frames per second (good thing!). Sometimes it’s the smallest things that help make a photo. Notice the water droplets just above the bird’s upper mandible.

Adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron feeding
Adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron

This is a Great Egret taking off from the shallows of an Elizabeth River inlet. Once again, it’s often the smallest things: this time, the trailing water.

Great Egret taking flight
Great Egret

I have to include at least 1 people photo here. I’ve been experimenting with “panning with motion blur” shots. Here’s one I took from the bridge at Lakeside Park in Chesapeake. There wasn’t any wildlife around, so I trained my lens on a cyclist, instead. Remember those mottoes: (1) Don’t be afraid to experiment, and (2) seize every opportunity.

Here, I set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/25. (I’m usually at 1250/sec, as I was while shooting the egret, for example.) As usual, I shot the frame in both AI Servo and burst.

Gentleman riding a bicycle
The cyclist

And you know I shot this, too, in AI Servo and burst. This is a female Mallard making its way just above the water at Lakeside Park.

Female Mallard duck in flight
Female Mallard

And This Just In

If you’re interested, I cover burst mode (continuous shooting mode) and AI Servo (Autofocus-Continuous) in “Bird Photos and Photo Tips at Midyear.” I also cover back button focus.

With the help of WordPress, I’ve created a simpler comment form (at the bottom of each post). Please consider leaving a comment. I respond to every one.

L’shana Tova Tikatevu. May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year.

Quip, Question, Quote

“And although the camera may not be able to ‘see’ more than the eye scientifically, photographers are able to highlight scenes and details that may have remained invisible otherwise.” Kevin Huver, of Kevin Huver Photography

7 thoughts on “End of Season Bird Photos and Photo Tips

  1. Oh my goodness, what cute baby green herons! We have green herons here at a water reclamation wetlands that I discovered this year. I am still learning photography. I tend to go out and try stuff, then come back and see what worked. Which I’m sure is the long way around. 😊 Thank you for the tips, there is so much more I want to learn.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. Yes “Greenies” seem to go for those retention ponds. We all go out and try stuff and see what works, even us more seasoned photographers. Glad you enjoyed the tips. If you go to the sidebar on the right of the blog and enter “photography” in the search box, you”ll come up with some of what I’ve written about wildlife photography. Good luck, and thanks for following.

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  2. Fabulous photos as always Dave. Those of the young herons really do capture that feeling of ‘wow I’m seeing this world for the first time and it’s amazing’! I love the capture of the crab and the egret trailing the water. And that poor heron falling in 🙂

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  3. I really enjoy your blog! And appreciate your wealth of knowledge. I have eagles who sit in trees next to my back yard on the Intracoastal Waterway. I’m thankful I get to photograph them, but fear that my pictures are getting boring because I can only get their picture from one angle. Normally they face the water, not me, so even a side view is a bonus.

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