Brazos Bend Afternoon with a Green Heron
Sept 14, 2018 ~ And the rains have returned. For a while we slipped into a familiar pattern of scattered afternoon showers but this week has brought some serious rain to parts of our viewing area. The coast has received most of the attention and more to come if this Invest 95L disturbance ever gets its act together. In the midst of all of this we slipped off to Brazos Bend State Park one afternoon.
Bill Maroldo and I drove around Elm Lake but no Anhinga perched at the stump, walked to the bridge at Creekfield (which is getting more meadow-like) and finally settled on 40-Acre Lake. We loaded all the gear in the cart and off we went. The lake level is still low and there weren’t a lot of birds around. No American Bitterns, very few White Ibis. A few Great Egrets.
It was just kinda quiet.
There were plenty of Common Gallinules (or Moorhens as we used to say) poking around. This young one hasn’t developed his adult colors yet.
And surprisingly, we found a pair with two little chicks. It is way late in the season to be raising babies and I wonder if these little ones will find enough to eat. Or if they will get eaten.
But we did spot a Green Heron off the trail to the Observation Tower. He was a ways out, but we set up our tripods and crates at the edge of the water and waited. They sometimes do come closer. I think we watched him for a while and then he flew a short distance to our right.
We watched for a while and … then you could tell he had spied something in all that foliage. Learning their behavior helps you anticipate action. He is tense; he stared intently for over a minute before he lunged.
The action was masked by the leaves but…
… he came up with this hapless frog.
Hapless literally means what you'd expect it to mean: "without hap"-"hap" being another word for "fortune" or "luck." Hap derives from the Old Norse word for "good luck." Merriam-Webster.
I have 55 shots of him with the frog. Sometimes he dipped down and the prey was obscured by the leaves, but he squashed it with his bill…
manipulated it with his tongue and…
finally got it down. yummy.
I remember raising my shutter speed toward the end and worrying that the 1/800 sec was going to be too slow for the frog action, but it wasn’t thank goodness. In the heat of the moment you are concentrating on getting the action and it is easy to forget what settings you are actually using.
While we were waiting on the Green Heron to find another frog or even a dragonfly, I saw an Anhinga drying its wings on the far side of the lake. He was in deep shadows against the island and I remarked to Bill Maroldo what a shame he was in such a dark spot. Dark bird, dark habitat, not a good shot. You know his answer? “It is never too dark” So, here it is with a lot less post-processing than you would think.
I could have probably shot with less than f/8 (that was what I was using on the Green Heron who was closer and in better light) but the trick is the slow shutter speed. 1/200 sec works because the bird is basically stationary. He is preening but those movements are small and careful. Of course, the ISO was rather high.
Our Green Heron suddenly looked alert. Bill heard another Green Heron call from behind us and evidently our young guy did too.
So we were treated to a slow raising of his crest. He is not quite full grown; you can tell by the subtle pattern on his wings and back but he definitely reacted to threats to his chosen feeding area.
He obliged by turning parallel to me with his full crest extended. And then he turned his back to us. Maybe there were more frogs on that side.
What a great finish to our photo session! We got nice stalking images, the frog dinner and a bristled up crest. We packed the cart and headed home.
Have you been out chasing birds? We are finding lovely light but not a lot of birds. They may have left when the ponds dried up and won’t come back until the replenished waters have bugs, insects, crustaceans and other tasty treats. What about you? Are we just looking in the wrong places? Let me know in the comments below!