Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fine Feathers

Juvenile Night Heron
Estero Bay
January, 2010

"Is is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."

--Aesop, The Jay & The Peacock


Two of our area's night herons - the yellow-crowned night heron and the black-crowned night heron - are the easiest birds to identify in their adult plumage and the hardest birds to differentiate in their juvenile plumage. One prefers salt-water environments (the yellow-crowned night heron) and the other is partial to fresh-water areas (the black-crowned night heron).

If you've ever spotted a yellow-crowned night heron, you may have observed the absolute patience it exhibits when stalking food, which tend to be shrimp and small crustaceans. Oh that I could have such focus and perseverance! It's an amazing thing to see; almost like watching paint dry, but better. They walk a step, hold their stance perfectly still for an eon or two, then take another step forward. Photographing them can either drive you crazy or fill up your camera card with astounding speed because they hold such great poses.

And such was the way of this juvenile. Feeding alone along the oyster bar skirt of a mangrove key in the middle of Estero Bay, I drifted about 30 feet away from it for the better part of an hour. Step, stop, wait forever, step again; a bird mime in slow motion. If you can't catch one shot with these guys, you better think about photographing inanimate objects instead.

A little bit of trivia: these guys (as adults) sometimes feast on small turtles - whole! They have a special acid in their intestinal tract that dissolves shells - even big, thick, hard turtle shells!

And of course, the lingo: a group of night herons has many collective nouns, including a "battery", "hedge", "pose", "rookery", and "scattering" of herons"

I'll have many more bird photographs on sale this Saturday, February 13, 2010, at the Side Street Artists Art Show (click here for more info). Come by and say hi! Art is the perfect Valentine's Day gift!

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR, a yellow kayak and a smidge of patience.

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