Another Check on the Bird List – The Great Egret

I bet you were all ready to read a post about our recent vacation.  Unfortunately, I am generally behind on my vacation pictures and if I recall correctly I have not even posted any shots from our Zion trip other than the Phoadtography set (link here).  It would be cruel to make you wait until I get completely caught up, but at least allow me the liberty of getting a few of the posts out before deluging you with a gadzillion pictures from our latest trek to the West.  Although, I could just be buying some time to get through tagging and filtering all those images, but I’ll never tell… to the post!

If you recall, we took a ride up North so our poodles could compete in the TDAA Nationals (link here).  The “Linda” part of that sentence was changed to “we” due to all out bribery.  Linda knows I enjoy visiting the Chain O’ Lakes State Park mostly due to the opportunity to see Sandhill Cranes again (link here) and was quick to remind me that the park was on the way.  Couple that with a promised stop at the Anderson’s Candy store and there was no hope for resistance.  Alas, there were no Sandhill Cranes to be seen anywhere in the park (this is where you shed a tear for my heartbreak… I’ll wait).  Come on, pull yourself together, the trip turned out very fruitful.  On our way out of the park, I was keeping my eyes focused on the field where the cranes were hanging out the last time.  Disappointed at the lack of birds I started to turn back in my seat.  That is when a a white spot caught my eye way off in the trees.  I yelled out our secret code word for “Stop the car, there is some kind of animal out there that Brian must have a picture of”.  The code word is short and sweet to help cut down on the ear to brake response – no, I will not reveal the code word but for effect it isn’t one you would not use in other company.

Linda put the car in reverse and rolled back a little to the observation spot.  It was definitely white and definitely sitting in a tree, but exactly what it was remained a mystery.  Time to bring out the Beast!  The viewfinder revealed that it was a White Egret.  Well, that is what I have always called it, apparently it is now just referred to as the Great Egret.  Here is my initial shot giving an impression of how far off it was even with the help of the glass – remember, the Beast goes out 400.

The sight line went through a series of trees causing the leaf splotches.  Once again, this park had come through.  This was the first White errr Great Egret I have been able to photograph and therefore another check on my Bird List.  This distance just wasn’t going to do for this opportunity.  Time to go cross country.  You cannot tell from these shots, but there was a large field in front of his perch that appeared to be thick prairie grass browned from the coming Fall.  Two steps later it was revealed that it was not really prairie grass, but more like cattail stalks growing up in the middle of a swamp.  My wet shoe and sock was a proof enough.  Crap!  Out came the cell, a quick call back to Linda (she had driven off to find a pull off) and on came the hiking shoes.  Once again I was off to get the shot.  Without a doubt, this was great entertainment for the egret.  15 minutes later I was standing in the middle of the swamp trying to find an adequately firm spot to put the tripod.  Still not as close as I wanted to be, but navigating much further was going to require some serious rubber boots and the nerves were a little frayed at the though of water snakes closing in for the kill.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Great Egret pictures!

So now I had a better shot, but the egret was definitely agitated at my presence.  It probably didn’t like the beast pointed at it either.  A few more slaps of the shutter caused it to take flight.  The D7000 has two user setting mode quickly accessible from the top of the camera.  This would allow you to quickly transition from bird on a stick settings (slower shutter speeds, controlled shutter focus and lower ISO) to bird in flight settings (fast shutter, continuous focus and higher ISO).  That is, of course, if you take the time to program it!  That resulted in a mental kick in the ass while trying to make the changes in the fly while getting the beast on target.  Somehow a few shots came out.

Definitely one of the more unique flight forms very similar to the Blue Heron, but the head seems tucked back a little more.  This one happens to be my favorite of the flight shots with the composition of the trees to frame it.

Quite majestic.  The flight shots soon developed an issue thanks to a set of trees I was standing by in an effort to help conceal my approach.  Sure enough, the leaves of this tree decided to get in the way causing leaf blurs once again.  Luckily, I was able to capture some of the landing process in between the annoying leaves.

The landing is quite an ordeal having to let the landing gear down while extending out of the tuck.  Like an old pro, this egret stuck it while bringing all the moving parts under control.  There was a quick glance my way as if to say “Hey you, over there in the water and mud, bet you wished you had two of these”.  Umm, what about that giant owl heading your way Mr. Smartass Bird?  Made you look.

As if by design, this egret managed to find another perch equidistant from me.  I did move out from under the tree to help eliminate the blur spots, but thanks to a number of crossing streams there wasn’t much chance of moving any closer.  Plus I didn’t want to get ANOTHER lecture from the park ranger.  It appears standing on the side of the road is MUCH to DANGEROUS per the first conversation I had with the ranger as he drove by during my initial shots.  This might have been warranted had there been anybody else in the park!  Responding with “That is why my wife is in the car behind me on road” got me a stern look but I think he thought I was holding up traffic or something.. or really believed I cared what he thought being presented with a new entry in my bird list.

Geez, I wonder what kind of chiropractors are available in the bird kingdom.  This reminds me I need to fix the sink in our bathroom.  On the education front, these birds can be distinguished from the Heron brothers by the lack of plumage on their heads and they have black legs compared to the yellow and greyish ones on the Heron.  I thought they were pretty much reliant on fish and frog for food, but according to the guide books, it seems they also like to stalk small mammals in the fields.  The Great Egret has also recovered from a significant population decline in the past.  The most surprising piece of information is how much of the United States it can be seen in.  If that was true, you would think I would have found one before now.  Oh well, better late than never.

Hope you enjoyed my latest bird collection entry.

2 thoughts on “Another Check on the Bird List – The Great Egret”

  1. Great pictures, especially the ones in flight! Looks like state/county fair material to me, although this isn’t fair to Linda. After all, she had to park the vehicle while you were out mucking through the swamp.



  2. Thanks, there was a lot of post processing done on them (a constant reminder that I need to get better), but they didn’t turn out that bad (don’t look at the large version in the smugmug site – the reduction process compensates for the lack of tack sharp). The thing I keep telling myself is these shots would not have happened with my old glass. As with the upcoming Yellowstone shots, there are some less than sharp shots there too, but the fact you can even tell the subject is miracle in itself based on how far out they were. I am already planning on getting the 1.4 Teleconverter so hopefully I’ll get that extra reach … or I’ll just have to tell Linda I need a fixed 600 (she’ll probably demand I get her another poodle before I spend more on glass).

    and by the way, there is no sympathy for Linda – she should have been out there performing her umbrella duties if not paving the way for me to insure my safety from snakes and other vermin!


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