Little Blues and Green Herons at Cullinan Park
Sept 6, 2019 ~ Cullinan Park is my closest place for waders and other birds. It is just across Hwy 6 from me and Bill Maroldo and I go there frequently. We have even stopped by on the way to HEB! Last Saturday after a fun day in Simonton with a great bunch of friends we took advantage of the late afternoon light.
If you haven’t been to Cullinan Park, put it on your list:
There are several trails but we usually just check out the area around the boardwalks. We had all our gear with us but only unloaded the small Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PFs. Bill took his tripod with him, but I left mine in the truck. There were a few folks about; late afternoon does attract families with small children but they usually don’t stay long. The fishermen seem to prefer early hours.
We immediately saw this fine looking Little Blue Heron perched on the railing. He was scratching and preening and did not seem bothered by us in the least. I propped my elbows on the railing and hand-held a lot of shots.
We were treated to an awesome fluff up that went on and on. Look at all the debris that he is shaking out of his feathers. Go ahead and click the image to embiggen. You would think with them flying around in the wind that they would not accumulate so much.
They really can strike some strange poses! He stretched and fluffed and totally ignored us.
When you see one doing this side stretch, be prepared because they generally will repeat the action for the other side.
He finally flew down to the water. Bill stayed with the Little Blue and I went on around the boardwalk toward the end since I didn’t really like the new setting. Just as I got to the last turn I saw a dark bird flying in towards me off the lake. He dipped down below the railing and I was thinking it was maybe a Green Heron landing on the lotus.
But surprisingly, he landed on the railing.
He definitely saw me standing there. I moved in a bit closer… slowly. Even with 500 mm it is nice to get as close as possible. It was late afternoon and not a lot of light left. The Nikon D850 has superb Dynamic Range and performs well using high ISOs.
You can see in the Adobe Camera Raw screenshot I did raise the exposure quite a bit. Do note at the bottom of the display the resulting crop is still 9MP. This is one advantage of a Full Frame camera; you have a LOT of real estate.
I just love these feet! It is reminiscent of the Top-knot guy from Surfside last week. It must be the proportion of Green Heron’s legs; they are kinda squatty compared to the other herons. I guess the ‘pigeon toed’ look is accentuated by his size.
He flew over to the other railing with some great crest action. After a few seconds he flew down into the lotus and lily pads. I went back to tell Bill (who was still working on the Little Blue) about the new find.
When we got back we found him again. The Green Heron had parked himself under some big lotus leaves. Late afternoon, dark bird in dark location.
I upped my ISO and slowed down the shutter speed for this new situation. We watched him move around in the dead branches and lotus leaves. Finally we moved to a different part of the boardwalk where we could see he was fishing.
Update: After posting this image on FB the treat was first identified as a Dobsonfly larva, or hellgrammite. But further investigation narrowed it down to a Water Tiger / aquatic larva of the predaceous diving beetle. Look at those horns or pinchers! He dunked it in the water a couple of times and then crunched along the length before swallowing it. I was hand-holding and leaning my elbows against the railing during all this. The little 500 PF is light but shooting this slow with a long lens takes some practice.
I think Bill had even slower shutter speed but he had the tripod.
The Green Heron finally got tired of us watching him or he had better things to do and he flew off. Bill needed a new card (from all those hummers earlier) so he offered to bring my tripod back with him. And right then and there I realized using the tripod even with a light lens is a often necessary because in low light situations, you really need the stability for slower shutter speeds. And I had gotten pretty tired of hand-holding for even a short time.
Down at the end of the boardwalk we found a juvenile Little Blue. Probably first year as he had no blue feathers yet. He had mastered walking on the lotus leaves and was picking up tiny insects that he found. We watched him poking around for a while and then flew up to the boardwalk railing behind us.
We got a nice fluff up before he was scared away by an excited little girl. This is a 27 shot series that I turned into a gif. In one of the frames you can see the same kind of debris field as the adult Little Blue shed in the top of the post.
And the Simonton get together I mentioned at the first? Our friends Kevin Malo and Jeff had a fun gathering back in 2015 where they invited a bunch of photographer friends out to enjoy their yard and the hummers that flocked to the dozens of feeders. We all had such a great time it was vowed to make it an annual event. Then came the Memorial Day Floods of 2016 and Kevin and Jeff’s place was severely impacted from the Brazos River. Then, after a huge effort to get it all fixed and repaired…. Harvey showed up and wiped them out again. After that catastrophe they raised the house an additional 5 feet and did it all over again. Thank God we have been spared hurricanes and flood this year (SO FAR) and we got to all get together at their beautiful home.
I confess I did a lot more visiting and chatting and eating than chasing the little hummers around. OK. Here is one to wind it all up:
Are you getting out in the heat? Did you truly feel bad for Florida (and the Bahamas) over Dorian but secretly thrilled it did not get into the Gulf to threaten us? Can summer last forever? Let me know in the comments below.