After the families quick visit to the Arboretum on Saturday, I went back Sunday afternoon with hopes of photographing insects. I brought a manual focus macro lens that I've been using the past month. The macro lens allows me to get quite close to insects, but is tough to get accurately focused and almost impossible to use with moving subjects. For some reason I grabbed two cameras rather than one however. In addition to the previously mentioned camera I brought another with a 80-200 mm auto-focus lens. The 80-200 lens is a shorter focal length (not as much magnification) than the 300 mm lens we use for taking pictures of birds, but as it turns out was perfect for what was to happen.
After arriving I walked the path towards the western gardens, but something caught my eye. A bird was walking along the shore and I hoped that if I sat still on the bridge, perhaps it would get closer. I was very fortunate to have a raccoon walk right up to me using a similar sit and wait method last year. Shortly after sitting down the bird appeared. Do you see it in the photo below?
|I'm hiding, you aren't supposed to see me!|
The camera's shutter sound drew the heron's attention toward me. I didn't know if this juvenile Green Heron would continue in the same direction or turn around after spotting me. After a few anxious minutes, it started walking towards me again. My heart was beating hard with excitement as I took many photos.
|Green herons are larger than perching birds. They can stretch to 18 inches and look at those feet.|
As the heron stepped out into the sun I was ecstatic to have an auto-focus lens on a camera. With the sun over my shoulder and close proximity, this was the best photo opportunity of a Green Heron in quite a few years. While walking you can approach them, but they usually fly before letting you get nearly this close.
With hopes that the above portrait was properly exposed and tack sharp on the memory card, I realized that this Green Heron had walked so close that I should zoom back the lens. At 200 mm (about 4 time magnification) the heron barely fit in the frame. As soon as I zoomed back, the heron turned and started back in the direction he came. I was happy for the experience but sadden with the possibility that it had ended so soon. Luckily, the change in direction was only because it spotted something to hunt!
|The stalk and extension.|
I watched the hunt through the lens, so some of the details were tough to take in as it happened. But I was very excited to see what it had caught in the photos. This little fish was in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
After successfully catching the above morsel the Heron preened and satisfied an itch. It stretched its wings and gave a good shake, and even appeared to lick its bill. Then it went on another hunt, but this time for a different prey.
|Do you see the male blue damselfly on the stick?|
The Heron spotted a small damselfly and had no problem catching it. The age of the bird showed itself however, as it tossed its dead prey in the air twice to maneuver it and dropped it in the water in the process.
I felt truly blessed, as I was fortunate enough to watch this young heron successfully catch a fish and damselfly. But what happened next shocked me, as it turned to me and walked right toward me. I had never heard of a green heron attacking a person, so I confidently sat still with each step. I was very thankful for having a zoom lens now, as the the last two pictures below are taken at approximately 80 mm. This is roughly a two power magnification, or twice the size of eyesight. After snapping the last picture I put the camera down to see the heron studying me from about 6 feet. What a photo excursion!
|This odd angle makes me image a completely different looking bird.|
|The heron's tongue appeared again while walking down the log.|
|He sat motionless for 10 seconds, before quickly walking across the bridge and returning to the pond.|
While I had no intention of taking bird photos on this particular day, I ended up with a memory card full of this juvenile green heron and this wonderful 15 minute experience. I did find a few cooperative butterflies, but those photos will have to wait until another post.