Rockin' the Reddish Egrets
June 29, 2018 ~ Reddish Egrets are about my favorite subjects. They are such attractive birds AND so active AND unpredictable. Last week on Bay Road in Surfside we found TWO beautiful birds stalking fish in the shallow waters.
We spotted one in the shallows just off the road. He was standing still among clumps of Glasswort and we weren't sure if he was going to feed or fly. Bill set up with his 300mm plus 1.4X TC on his crate while I propped my big lens on the back of the truck bed. And waited to see if he was going to stick around.
He seemed to be following fish as they sought safety among the clumps of foliage. I got my crate and tripod and debated removing my teleconverter. I finally decided to leave it on and move back physically if he came much closer since the odds were he would move away instead.
Plus, I get nervous doing all that swapping out in the mud.
We didn't think he would do much shadowing with outstretched wings since it was overcast and no real need to shade the water. But we were wrong. He plucked several tiny fish with the familiar postures. It may be more of a balance behavior?
And a lot of running, darting, sprinting, twisting, jumping and turning on a dime.
The challenges with photographing Reddish Egrets are numerous:
- Harsh light will make drastic shadows on the body from the upraised wings, so overcast or cloudy days are ideal.
- But, that calls for a higher ISO to get the shutter speed you absolutely have to have for the sudden movements.
- And, you need a good depth of field if you are close since they have long beaks and a wide wingspread.
- And to add to the technical requirements, you have no idea what they are going to do next. A hunting Reddish Egret is totally unpredictable.
Woah. I was amazed that I didn't clip any of his wings on this one and grateful he was almost directly in front of me for the pose. If he had been at an angle then the image would not have been so dramatic. I hate that the foreground blur covers his feet, but couldn't be helped from such a low vantage point.
Did I tell you it was windy? A long lens in the wind can move; in those situations I make sure the VR is on even though on a tripod you usually don't need it. And I had my arm draped over the top of the lens for more stability as well.
After hundreds of photos we decided to leave him be (and the Willet that kept photobombing us) and move on down to the end of the road near the boat ramp. There are dirt roads that go back into the marsh that fill up after a rain or even in high tide. Maybe something else would be down there.
And... there was a second Reddish Egret in the clear water. A different background and hopefully he would be even more active in the open.
And he was. This was a rapid turn; you have to have a fast shutter speed and good auto focusing to keep up with these guys. I was using the D9 spot (instead of a single spot) which was perfect since there was nothing interferring to grab the focus. It was mid-afternoon and we were getting clouds and then not clouds. And a huge darkness was forming behind us.
But it wasn't raining where we were set up and the Reddish was still performing. He did fly a short ways down the pond, but hunted his way back to his original location. Sometimes when they leave they do come back if you are patient.
So we watched him for about 30 minutes. The open water allowed for more spectacular jumps and bigger movements. He was about 50 feet from us; if we had been closer it would have been much harder to catch these grand movements.
He even obliged us with a fluff up and shake. Which was preparatory to him leaving the pond and his photo shoot. The sky was beginning to look ominous so we packed up and headed back home.
What a day. We started at Texas City Dike and it was a bust (few birds and too much sun), a quick cloudless drive through Galveston (8 1/2 mile Rd and the rural areas), nothing at San Luis Pass except fishermen and finally it all came together on Bay Rd at Surfside. Not one but two Reddish Egrets, perfect overcast light and ... 853 images to process.
Have you ever found an active Reddish Egret? Did you stay with him until he left? And when you seen bad weather on the horizon, do you leave immediately or stay until the last possible minute? Let me know in the comments below.
AND... summer is here and the days to get out and chase birds are few and far between. If I have something cool to share I will, but otherwise I am taking a break from blogging until September. You are welcome to read old adventures; there are a lot of birds here from the past 6 years. Use the search feature and I am sure you will find something :-)