Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chasing Flight: The Tri-Colored Heron & The Great Blue

It’s not as if I look elegantly poised when birding in the field. 

Birders are known for awkward, semi-frozen positions:  the lean forward, semi-squat with rear-ends sticking out behind more than we’d ever guess; the backward arch, with binoculars raised skyward and chins unintentionally dropped downward until gifted with a bug-in-the-open-mouth; the one-knee-to-ground squat (accompanied by pishing calls) in hope that shy LBJs will pop out from their cover (which they don’t). 
And if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I’m probably most humorous when suddenly shifting gears to recklessly point my 400 mm lens to the sky.  I can’t help but give chase to any and all feathered friends that cross the skyway above me. 

I’ve swirled and twirled with lens raised and shutter clicking.  I’ve tripped backward over rocks and roots; I’ve jumped sideways and squealed at close encounters with snakes, unaware of the mobile underfoot until their hiss or rattle is louder than my shutter.  I’ve skipped forward when my boot landed within a foot of an alligator’s smile.  And all this awkward commotion is simply to give chase to the unplanned flight above my head.  Amazing beautiful wing-beats that are within my 400 mm reach; or so I hope.

I have deleted thousands of out-of-focus birds in flight, and a thousand more photos of empty sky.  But I don’t give up the chase.  I like the challenge.
And it was a Tri-Colored Heron at Brazos Bend this past week that teased me with its short bursts of flight to maintain a polite distance from my birding.

And so this first photo is the result of my chasing flight.  A highly typical unfiltered image: blurred beyond repair. But in this case, the photo is so bad it’s almost good:

After some time of motionless stance, focusing on my Lotus Plant photography, I glanced upward to spot another heron flying directly toward me, obviously mistaking me for a tree or billboard. 
I quickly performed my birder’s two-step dance to raise lens in chase of flight. And on this day, even with the Great Blue swirving away from my reckless motion, I got lucky.   The reward: a focused photo of a Great Blue Heron as it blew past me. 

The stretch of these herons is a lovely sight to see.  Their flight posture reminds me of the elegance of a Whippet or a Greyhound running at full gate.


And so I’ll keep chasing flight and I’ll keep deleting thousands.  But occasionally I’ll have a photo that is so bad it is good.  And every, every, every once in a while:  a recognizable keeper that makes me smile.


  1. Nice photos!

    You asked on my blog if I could post photos of how we get it off the carrier. There is a ramp that comes with the carrier. I need my husband's help to do it, but he could probably do it on his own. It is just awkward. Buddy weighs close to 200 lbs, so getting him up the ramp is harder than getting him down. I usually hold unto Buddy while he is being strapped down.

  2. The great blue Heron is one of my favorite birds. I have had the distinct pleasure of witnessing several successful feedings. What a thrill. Great picture by the way.



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