On Being There

This is just like television, only you can see much further.–Chance the Gardener (from Being There)

Gaping Great Blue Heron, Pilant Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Gaping Great Blue Heron (Breeding), Pilant Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. This bird was just about to spear a big fat siren and drag it from its burrow. I have stalked Great Blue Herons for many hours always hoping for the bird to grab prey. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

Unlike the utterances of simpleton Chance the Gardener in the film Being There, things said or done in strange birding territory are unlikely to be perceived as brilliant by the locals–or anyone else for that matter. Travel birding generally doesn’t give you the time to get many good shots, especially since you don’t know the conditions well or even where the birds are. Generally it takes many hours of observation in a place you know well to see or photograph something interesting or unusual.

Case in point: Entertaining fantasies of becoming a world birder, I have begun building my ornithology library again. I just added Herons and Egrets of the World: A Photographic Journey by James Hancock. Published in 1999, the images contained within were captured on film and are a mixed bag. I can only imagine the difficulties involved in documenting avian species on film under what must have often been hostile conditions. The book has, however, provided some more exotic species to be added to the bucket list to be seen and photographed.

Great Blue Heron with Bluegill, 40-Acre Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Great Blue Heron with Bluegill, 40-Acre Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. I watched this bird for hours. It grabbed several fish and then sat there doing nothing for the rest of the morning. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS. Natural light.

Below find my travel birding exemplar. Despite working pretty hard to get a decent shot, the following is typical of my only encounter with a Great White Heron. Some consider this bird to be a color morph of the Great Blue Heron, others a subspecies. Being such a rarity, I’m sure this bird is hounded everywhere it goes by birders. We probably chased this bird for an hour. It was quite wary, and I felt a little guilty about running around after it. As added barriers to success, the light (or should I say glare) was white, and it seemed some knuckle-headed ibis or egret always wanted to stand in the way thus lousing up the shot.

Like my dad used to say, “There’s nothing so bad that it can’t be used as a good example.” In life, as in bird photography, all you can do is keep swinging.

Great White Heron, near Sarasota, Forida
Great White Heron on a Not-so-great White Day, near Sarasota, Florida. A moment later this bird was gone, as I had crossed an invisible rubicon of minimum approach distance. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

©2018 Christopher R. Cunningham. All rights reserved. No text or images may be duplicated or distributed without permission.