Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Heron Family

On Friday I headed out to Bolsa Chica again and even though the weather was cloudy and breezy, I got some great shots of the birds. In fact, I wasn't the only one out there with a camera. At about 5 pm, at least 5 other people showed up carrying some serious photography equipment including huge lenses that required tripods to hold them up. I chatted with one woman with a professional-grade Canon and a lens that made my big lens look puny. She said she wasn't a pro, photography was just a hobby, but she had entered her photos in some competitions and won prizes with them. I asked her if I could hold her camera to see how heavy it was—much heavier than my Rebel! Don't know if I want to carry something that heavy around. She didn't really know much about birds, but she liked to take photos of the wildlife and with that lens, she probably got some fantastic photos.

Members of the Heron Family were out in full force on Friday. These guys are easy to capture in a photo because they are big and they tend to stand very still while they scan the water for something to eat. The first two photos are of a Great Egret, one of the largest members of the family. Note the yellow bill and all-black legs.

Slightly smaller is the Snowy Egret. This fellow has a black bill with yellow lores and black legs with yellow feet. If he is standing in water, you may have to wait for him to lift his foot to tell which kind he is. This species was hunted almost to extinction 100 years ago because in breeding season, he has the most beautiful "feathery" plumes that were in demand for fashion. In fact, the name egret comes from the term for these plumes, aigrettes.

This stout little fellow is an immature Green Heron. When he becomes an adult, he will have a greenish back and a lovely russet brown chest. A couple of us watched this guy for quite a long time as he searched the mud for food.

The patriarch of the family is the Great Blue Heron. He is slightly larger than the Great Egret, sometimes as much as 4 feet tall with a 7 foot wingspan. He is probably the most easily recognized member of the family. I chose this photo of him trying to eat a rather large flat fish because it points out the fact that herons will sometimes try to eat something that is way too big and it gets stuck in their throat. The photographer I was chatting with when I took this photo said she had seen one swallow a snake.

Meet the Reddish Egret. (See the reddish neck?) This fellow doesn't stand still waiting for a fish to come by. He dances, he prances, he struts and flares out his wings as well as his neck feathers to stir up the fish. His glares at the water, daring the fish to come near him. He is a rare bird in California, coming up from Mexico, but not at Bolsa Chica I was told. However, he was a first for me. Number 418 in the ABA area. Now I wished I had one of those huge lenses; he was too far away from me to get a sharp photo. But I really enjoyed watching him!

Last but not least is a photo of a Skimmer. It's not a member of the Heron Family, but I thought it was neat the way he skimmed the water for food, drawing such straight lines in the water as he did so.


  1. Nice photos. And thanks for the bird ID lessons. We saw great and snowy egrets and blue herons on the San Gabriel River.

  2. I like the last image of the Skimmer. Great shot!