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Close Encounter

Great Blue Heron, San Joaquin Wildlife Refuge, Irvine CA.

It felt good to be back out with my 500mm lens and to be hanging out with the birds. Today I was fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph some of the “big birds.” When I say “big birds” I am talking about the herons, egrets and pelicans that frequent the local lakes, ponds, bays and estuaries here in southern California.

These are wild, unpredictable creatures so you never know what to expect or what might happen. For the most part the birds are cautious and keep their distance, but I think some of the older birds that have experienced a lifetime of hassle-free encounters with us human folk begin to let their guard down a little and can tolerate close encounters with us.

That’s what happened today with this bird. I was standing near the water’s edge watching and photographing as this bird stalked its prey. I watched it for several minutes as it slowly moved forward disturbing the water as little as possible and all the while maintaining the most intense concentration on whatever might be on this morning’s menu and its next feeding opportunity. Several minutes passed. No feeding strike was ever attempted. Time for a break and to get out of the hot sun the big bird exited the pond about fifty feet in front of me and to my surprise it began slowly walking in my direction.

It came to a stop about 10 feet in front of me. It gave me a good look over (as I did it.) I think I was more nervous about our close proximity than it was. I silently reminded myself that it was the bird that initiated this close encounter, not me. I stood my ground (behind my tripod) and watched with amazement as it began to preen itself. I moved slowly, while working out a few intimate compositions. The one above is my favorite of this morning.

Thank you, bird!

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