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Posts Tagged ‘Great White Egret’

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.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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 As a result, the scenario below that I imagined is no longer valid—I’ll have to think a bit more about what herons of two different species might have been discussing.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 was watching some Great White Egrets (Ardea alba) yesterday at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a freshwater tidal wetland on the Potomac River, when something startled the birds.

The egrets and some mallard ducks took off from the water en masse in a great explosion of water. I captured some of that noise and confusion in the second photo. The photo I chose to feature shows the birds a short after the take off as they start to lift off a little and fly over a meadow-like area with tall golden grass. The light was especially beautiful on the wings of the egrets, which happily I managed to capture without blowing out the highlights as sometimes I do with these very white birds.

Click on the photos to see some of the beautiful details of the birds in greater resolution.

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© 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.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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.

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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).

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was thrilled yesterday to see a Great Egret (Ardea alba) at my local marshland park for the first time in months. Unlike the Great Blue Herons, which stayed with us all winter, the Great Egrets flew south when the weather grew cold.

This egret was standing and fishing in a small pool of water near the boardwalk that runs through the marsh, undeterred by the crowd of photographers busily snapping away. I was a late arrival to the encounter and missed seeing the egret catch a frog, but I was happy that I was managed to get some good shots.

Egrets are always beautiful, but the wispy plumes they have at this time of year are especially spectacular. Normally I have problems with blowing out the highlights when I try to photograph egrets, but I think that the closeness of the bird helped me to get a decent exposure.

I can’t wait to see what other surprises are in store for me as we move into spring.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As many of you know, periodically I try to take photographs of the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) that are often present in the waters or the trees of Cameron Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River. Usually I am frustrated, because the bright white bodies of the egrets caused my images to be overexposed and the highlights are almost always blown out.

Today, the light was a little more forgiving and I was able to capture an image of an egret with the light coming from the side. There is a dramatic glow surrounding part of its body and a nice reflection in the water. It is certainly not a perfect photo, but I like the way that it turned out.

Egret with dramatic lighting

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This shot has some great elements—a Great White Egret and a Great Blue Heron,  practicing together in the trees for their audition for “Dancing With the Stars.” They look to be almost perfectly synchronized, though the heron may need to work on his neck position. From a technical perspective, alas, the shot is far from great, but it was interesting enough that I decided to share it.

I frequently see egrets roosting in the trees along Cameron Run, a stream in Alexandria, Virginia that feeds into the Potomac River, but this is the first time that I had seen a blue heron fly into the trees. I was shooting from a running path that parallels one side of the stream.  Shooting across a considerable amount of growth as well as the stream itself, I find it difficult to get a close-up shot. In this photo, I had startled the heron and he took off into the trees, startling the egret, who was already perched there.

Dancing in the trees

I continue to have difficulties getting good shost of the egret, because there is often glare and it is hard to keep the highlights from blowing out. Here is a shot of an egret in partial shade that has some detail, but I can’t seem to keep the detail without imparting a grayish tinge to what is a really white bird. I will definitely keep trying, though, because I find the egrets and herons to be fascinating to watch in their almost geeky gawkiness.

Egret in a tree along Cameron Run

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s been at least a few weeks since I last photographed the Great White Egrets that inhabit the Cameron Run area of Alexandria, VA.  It was immediately obvious to me this past weekend that the dry summer has affected this tributary of the Potomac River and the water was really low in many places.

I was happy to stumble upon an egret standing out of the water on some rocks. The sky was a brilliant blue and it was reflected beautifully into the water, as was the egret itself. Behind the egret, the water was in the shadows and was a deep shade of green, contrasting nicely with the blue and white of the sky and the clouds. The rocks reflected the light and their highlights were a little blown out, but not outrageously so.

As we move into the fall, I am not sure if the Great Blue Herons and Great White Egrets will remain in the area. I hope that I will have the chance to photographs these wonderful birds later in the year.

Great White Egret in Cameron Run, Alexandria VA

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This morning I went shooting at Cameron Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA. I frequently commute along a road that parallels this stream and have often seen large white wading birds as I drove by. Today I decided to investigate and see if I could get some photos and determine if they were herons or egrets or some other kind of bird.

I did manage to get some shots of the birds in the water and even in the trees, but learned how difficult it is to get a proper exposure with a pure white bird. I’m pretty confident that the birds are Great Egrets (Ardea alba), which are also known as Great White Egrets. A passerby with binoculars (who seemed to know what he was talking about) told me that the orange beak is one of the characteristics that distinguishes the egret from the heron. If you want to know more, there is lots of interesting information about the Great Egret in an article on the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Great Egret is a really impressive looking bird, so much so that it is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, according to Wikipedia.  The Cornell Lab article points out that Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

I was struck by the fact that the Great Egret roosts in the trees and seems to enjoy doing so with other egrets. In one cluster of trees I saw three egrets that appeared to be grooming themselves—they definitely did not seem territorial. I was impressed too by the wingspan that I got to see when I startled one of them and he flew up to a nearby tree.

Now that I know what kind of birds these are and where they hang out, I’m sure I’ll be back to watch them and, hopefully, to photograph them.

Great Egret in a tree

Great Egret in the shade

Great Egret fishing in the stream

Reflections of a Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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