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Posts Tagged ‘Ardea alba’

I thought that the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) had already left our area, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The egret was perched on the ruins of a duck blind sticking out of the water and spent most of the time that I observed it preening and simply surveying the surroundings.

As I moved about trying to compose the shot, I was fortunate to be able to get an angle in which the colors of the autumn foliage were visible in the background. The autumn colors in my area are somewhat muted, but beautiful nonetheless.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the effects of the light in this image of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) that I captured on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. (For the sake of clarity, I should note that I captured the image and not the egret.) When I first spotted the egret, its wings were down and it was more or less just a silhouette. As I was focusing on it, though, the egret hopped into the air and flapped its wings and I snapped the shot. I was looking almost directly into the sun and I was fascinated by the way the light illuminated the outstretched wings and was happy that I was able to capture, at least in part, that effect.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It won’t be long until all of the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) leave my area and head for warmer locations. That makes each encounter now with a Great Egret even more special. Yesterday while I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted this egret perched high in a tree. Initially my view was blocked by a lot of branches, but eventually I was able to maneuver into a position from which I could get an unobstructed shot.

I really like the way that the branches act as a natural frame for the egret. Additionally I like the whimsical element of the feather sticking up on the bird’s head—it reminds me of the cowlick that I had as a young boy, back when I had hair. Sometimes my Mom would lick her fingers and unsuccessfully attempt get my hair under control.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I inadvertently spooked a Great Egret (Ardea alba) last week while exploring a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I thought that it was going to fly away, but instead it opted to perch in a nearby tree. The sun was really bright as I tried to track the bird in my camera’s viewfinder, so many of my shots were overexposed. As the bird was settling in among the tree branches, I was able to capture this shot.  I really like this shot because of the egret’s wing  positions that are  so  unusual  and  graceful.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday I saw my first two Great Egrets (Ardea alba) of the year at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had the sense that they were just passing through. They were resting in the distance and I was able to capture this image of one of them.  An hour later when I passed the same area, they were gone.

Unlike Great Blue Herons, many of which overwinter with us, Great Egrets spent the colder months in warmer locations and return in the spring.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Perched high in a distant tree, this first Great Egret (Ardea alba) of the spring made an appearance for me on Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love this egret’s long feathery breeding plumage.

My only regret is that I was unable to get a closer look at this beautiful bird. The egret seemed content to remain in its standing perch for a long time—perhaps it was tired from an extended migration flight. I don’t yet know if this was merely a resting spot for the egret or if it will remain in our area.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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By this time of the year, the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) in our area have generally flown south for the winter, but one of them was still hanging around on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Its pose reminds me of that of the angels that we had in a manger set when I was growing up, looking like it was keeping watch in the early morning hours.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Great Egret (Ardea alba) showed great balance and flexibility as it meticulously preened its feathers on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. I would definitely need to see a chiropractor if I tried to imitate the position in the first image, assuming I did not completely fall over.

Great Egrets are relatively common in this park during the warmer months of the year, though they will soon depart for the winter. The Great Blue Herons, however, stay with us throughout the entire winter. I enjoy watching these large wading birds, never knowing when I will catch them in an unusual position or exhibiting an unusual behavior. The first shot is my clear favorite, because of the unusual body position, but I have included a couple of additional shots to show you various moments during the preening process.

 

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) were relaxing in the trees, awaiting the start of another beautiful day. When birds are as brilliantly white as egrets, it’s a challenge to get an exposure that retains the details in the feathers. I set the metering on my camera to spot metering and it seems to have worked pretty well. I even like the way that it darkened the background and made the egret stand out even more.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Great Egrets (Ardea alba) are so graceful in flight—it’s like watching an aerial ballet performance. I spotted this egret early this morning at Huntley Meadows Park and captured this image as it was taking off from atop a tree on which it was perched.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Egrets (Ardea alba) always seem to me to be a little vain and self-centered—maybe if comes from being so beautiful and graceful. This one did not like being ignored, so it decided to photobomb my shot of a deer this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park .

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The Great Egret (Ardea alba) was beautiful in the bright sunlight. Its wingspan was impressive and its flight was graceful as it took to the air.

Yes, the takeoff indeed was great.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Great Egret (Ardea alba) seemed to be trying to minimize energy expenditure in the heat as it flew low and slowly from one location to another part of Huntley Meadows Park. The recent extreme heat must be tough on many of the inhabitants of the park—temperatures yesterday soared to 101 degrees (38 degrees C) in the Washington D.C. area, a new record for the date.

I have a tendency to crop my images to emphasize the subject, but I took these shots at pretty long range and like the way that they give you a sense of the environment at my favorite marshland park.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Great Egret (Ardea alba) and a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) started goofing around yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park when I was trying to take their photo together—I think they are great friends. They looked like they were posing for a selfie.

I cropped the image to a square to make it easier for them to post to their Instagram pages.

great friends

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every spring I look forward to the return of the elegant Great Egrets (Ardea alba) to our area. Unlike Great Blue Herons, which are with us throughout the winter, the egrets migrate south and return only in mid-spring when the weather has warmed up a bit.

One of the highlight of egrets at this time of the year is their beautiful breeding plumage and the green lores (the area between the bill and eye). When I spotted an egret grooming itself in the early morning, I was able to capture a sense of the long additional plumes that it was sporting.

Great Egret

Unlike Great Blue Herons, which patiently wait for a big catch, this Great Egret at Huntley Meadows Park seemed content with a series of small bites. I think that it is a little fish, but I am not entirely certain what the egret is consuming as a snack.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When watching birds, I usually have my camera’s zoom lens fully extended. On rare occasions I am actually zoomed in a little too closely, as was the case when I took the shot of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

Despite the clipped wings, I love the details and the beautiful arc of the feathers of its wings as this stunning bird takes to the air.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you capture the details of a pure white bird as it flies in an out of the light? That was my challenge this past weekend when I tried to photograph Great Egrets (Ardea alba) at my local marshland park.

Many of my past shots of egrets have been unsuccessful, usually because they are overexposed and the highlights and details are blown out. I’ve tried using exposure compensation with only minimum success.

This time, I remembered to switch to spot metering and had greater success. Sure, the backgrounds are a bit underexposed, but I think that the darkness helps the highlight the beauty of the egret.

Great Egrets seem a little awkward when in the water, but when they take to the air, it’s like watching a ballet.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s fun to watch the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marsh where I take most of my wildlife photos. Unlike the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), who will remain motionless for a long time, the egrets like to move.

Great Egret

Great Egret

This egret’s moves in the initial two images somehow brought to mind the song “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles. In case you don’t recall that catchy tune or are too young to have heard it, here’s a link to a YouTube video of the song.

I was quite amazed at the variety of moves in the egret’s repertoire and the expressive way that it was able to use its neck, sometimes tucking it in and sometimes fully extending it. Here are a few more shots from the egret’s performance.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

I think with a little more practice the egret will be ready for “Dancing With the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I thought that all of the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) had left this area for warmer locations and haven’t seen one at my local marsh in weeks. However, I encountered one this past weekend on Theodore Roosevelt Island, a small island in the Potomac River opposite part of the District of Columbia.

Great Egret

The egret was initially foraging in a field of high grass in a marshy area of the park, as shown in image below. I tried to be as stealthy as I could as I crept bit closer to the egret, but it eventually sensed my presence and took to the air.

Great Egret

The bird circled around a little, but returned to its initial location after a very short period of time in the air.

Great Egret

I had some trouble getting in-flight shots of the egret. The changing light as the bird circled, combined with the bright white color of its body, made it tough to get a proper exposure. I liked the unusual body position of the flying egret in several of the shots well enough that I included them in this post, though I think the image of the egret on the ground is probably the one in sharpest focus.

During this transitional season, it’s fascinating to see which summer birds are still with us, which birds stop by as they migrate to more distant locations, and which ones arrive to overwinter here.

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I’ve seen lots of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) over the past couple of years, but until recently I had never seen a juvenile one and had no idea that they were so small compared to the adults.

I caught this little interaction between what I assume is a mother and a young egret at Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. The birds were standing on one of a number of concrete slabs that cross the entire width of the stream, presumably to slow down the flow of the water.

UPDATE: A number of more experienced birders have weighed in and pointed out that the smaller egret is not a juvenile Great Egret as I thought, but is instead a Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), a species that I had never seen before. As a result, the scenario below that I imagined is no longer valid—I’ll have to think a bit more about what herons of two different species might have been discussing.

The mother seemed to be giving instructions to the young one to stay put while she flies off to fish a short distance away.

Great Egret and baby

Mom gets a bit excited as she warns the little one to stay put

Great Egret adult and juvenile

The little one finally agrees

The mother eventually is reassured and takes off for the rocky edge of the water, hoping for a quick catch, so that she can feed the hungry youngster.

Great Egret adult and juvenile

Flying away for a little while

Great Egret in flight

Searching for the perfect spot for fishing

The young egret is left all alone to wait for the return of his Mom, hopefully with a tasty snack.

Great Egret adult and juvenile

Waiting for Mom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you photograph some subjects over and over again, hoping to get better (or at least different) images? I never grow tired of observing herons and egrets at my local marshland park. Most of the time, they (and I) are standing still, waiting for a brief moment of action, generally when they are fishing or when they take off into the air. These birds look gangly and awkward when on the ground or in the water, but when they are flying, it’s like watching an aerial ballet.

I took this shot last Friday as a Great Egret (Ardea alba) was just taking off from the muddy waters of one of the small ponds at the park. I was thrilled to be able to capture both a shadow and reflection of the graceful bird. Although I often have trouble getting a good exposure and frequently blow out the highlights, in this case I as able to capture some of the details of the wing feathers.

The egrets will be migrating out of this area soon, but I will continue to have the herons to keep me occupied in the upcoming months (and I’ll be trying to get more shots like this one).

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes when the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) are moving from one place to another at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland park, they fly really low, almost like they are in stealth mode and are trying to avoid being picked up on the radar.

Great Egret

Great EgretGreat Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m always thrilled to see Great Egrets (Ardea alba), like this one that I photographed on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. Unlike Great Blue Herons, which often are willing to tolerate my presence, egrets seem to fly away as soon as they detect my presence. When egrets are flying, I never fail to be impressed by their beauty and grace, looking like ballerinas in an aerial performance.

As has frequently been the case recently, I ended up photographing a bird with a macro lens, in this case it was my Tamron 180mm. The image with the standing egret was cropped a little, but it gives you an idea of my field of view. I had crept through some chest-high vegetation in order to get near the edge of the pond for these shots.

I suspected the egret would take off and I think I had the presence of mind to switch to Servo mode on my camera, which allowed me to get some in-flight shots that are pretty much in focus. I was shooting in burst mode and captured other images as well, but the egret’s head was hid in those shots.

Great EgretGreat EgretGreat Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unlike the Great Blue Herons that stay in Northern Virginia all winter, Great Egrets (Ardea alba) depart for warmer locations during the winter. I was happy to note this past weekend that the egrets are now back at my local marsh, where I took these shots of one coming in for a landing.

The wing span of this bird is impressive and I love the way that it points its toes as it comes in for the landing. As is often the case, I had challenges getting a proper exposure—I try to expose for the brilliant white body, but often blow out the highlights. I am pleased that I was able to capture some of the details of the wings in these images, though the shadows caused much of the plumage to look gray, rather than white.

egret2_april_blogegret1_april_blogegret3_april_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Out of the corner of my eye, I detected some movement and, glancing upward, caught sight of this Great White Egret (Ardea alba) flying almost directly overhead. Normally I see egrets in flight only when I spook them and prompt them to fly away from me.

The early morning light helped to illuminate the underside of this gorgeous bird, which is usually in the shadows, revealing some of the details of the feathers. It is always tricky for me to get the proper exposure with these very white birds and I was happy that I managed to avoid blowing out too many of the highlights.

As I recall, I was pointing the camera almost straight up for these shots and that provides an unusual perspective. In the second shot, for example, it almost looks like the egret is imitating a fighter jet and is flight straight up into the air.

egret_overhead1_blog egret_overhead2_blog

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Before long, the White Egrets (Ardea alba) will leave this area for more temperate locations, so I was happy to get a few shots this past weekend of one of them at Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River.

The egrets like to roost in trees that overlook this stream and the first shot shows an egret relaxing in a tree after I inadvertently flushed him. I am deliberately underexposing the image in an effort to keep from totally blowing out the highlights of this very white bird, but it is still very hard to capture any details on the body.

The second shot shows the egret out of the water and its pose reminds me of a dancer, with its slim body and long elegant neck.

If things follow last year’s course, the blue herons will remain in my local area for most of the winter, but the egrets and green herons will soon depart. I’ll be looking for more photo opportunities with them before they leave.

egret_tree_blogegret_standing2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am in awe of photographers who can capture amazing shots of birds in flight and I continue my quest to improve my own skills. So many things have to come together to get such shots including the timing, location, lighting, and focusing.

Here is one of my most recent efforts, a shot of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) in flight. The focus is a little soft, but I really like the position of the egret that I managed to capture, with a beautiful sweep of the wings.

flying_egret1_blog

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Arriving at the marsh really early in the morning, I was finally able to get a relatively well-exposed shot of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) in breeding plumage, with wispy plumes on its back and a bright green color between its eye and bill (an area known as the “lore”).

Generally I have trouble photographing this beautiful bird, because its brilliant white color gets blown out pretty easily when there is a lot of light and using exposure compensation is often not sufficient. One obvious solution to the problem of too much light is to come at a time of reduced light. I switched to manual mode and, after a bit of experimentation, found a setting that seemed to work pretty well. I also had my camera on a tripod, which is a good practice any time I can manage to use it, which permitted me to use a slower shutter speed.

morning_egret2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although I observed as many as eight Great Egrets (Ardea alba) foraging at the same time in my local marshland park this weekend, they were mostly in the distance, but I came up one that was closer and got these shots as it was taking off.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that these birds have “impressive wingspans,” and I was really treated to a display of those wings. The wings were spread so wide, in fact, that I couldn’t fit them entirely in the frame in the first photo. The impressive set of wings in the second photo remind me of those were associated with Pegasus, the mythological winged horse.

egret_wings2_blogegret_wing1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I continue my efforts to capture photos of herons and egrets in flight whenever I can and here are a couple of shots from this past weekend of a flying egret.

In theory, it should be easy to photograph these birds—they are large and fly slowly—but the changing backgrounds and direction of flight has often made it tough to get the proper exposure and focus.

The egrets were gone all winter, but they are back now. I am hoping that I will continue to see them often enough to be able to get some better photos of them (or at least to try).

egret_flying2_blogegret_flying_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Early yesterday morning when I arrived at my local marsh, two Great Egrets (Ardea alba), were already up and trying to find some breakfast. At this time of year, I suspect that they may be eating a lot of frogs at this location, though I didn’t actually see them catch anything. Eventually they wandered into the reeds and cattails, so I gradually lost sight of them.

In the past, I had a lot of trouble taking photos of these beautiful white birds and usually I ended up blowing out the highlights. Two things seemed to have helped me deal with these issues. I am paying a lot more attention to exposure compensation and I am underexposing by as much as two f-stops. Additionally, I am using a longer telephoto lens and filling more of the frame with the subject somehow helps me to get a better exposure.

egret1_blogegret2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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