Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of A Feather

Today I walked to the same area where I saw my romantic seagull pair last week. The park and its lake usually attracts a number of people to the area. Some sit and watch as I did, some like to fish and others just walk with their children, holding their hands tightly, lest they wander too close to the edge of the dock. Today was no different.

I stopped at the dock for a few minutes to take in the surrounding activities. Two women walked together, one not more than ten years older than the other. The younger of the two spoke to her with the gentle, patient tone of voice one might use to address a young child. She held her hand and led the smiling woman to a bench. She then took her own seat at the edge of the dock and opened a small plastic container filled with what I later learned were nuts and grapes. I wondered if she had prepared a snack for the older woman and herself, but I soon discovered that she brought the treat for a creature she had seen at the lake the day before. No sooner had she removed the lid and shook its contents, causing it to make a slight rattling noise, when this lovely swan rounded the corner and swam into view.



The older woman seemed disinterested at the sight of this tagged creature, but continued to smile contentedly at nothing in particular. The swan seemed fairly tame and it swam toward the younger woman in order to partake in its snack. It was quite curious when it saw my camera.



(Please click to enlarge)

I chatted with the woman about the swan for a few minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed another bird in flight, and watched as it landed on an adjacent shore. It was a large bird and I suspected that it might have been a blue heron. I decided to search for it. I said my good-byes to the two women and began making my way around the lake.

When I got to the point where I believed the bird might have landed, I veered away from the paved path, working my way closer to the actual shoreline. I climbed over bushes and ducked under branches, winding my way along the water's edge. It saw me first, and before I knew it, the heron took off and flew over to the opposite shore. The lake's circumference is only 1.5 km or about nine tenths of a mile, so my decision to continue following it would mean only a few more minutes until I could catch up with it again. I had a vague awareness of where I might find it, so I continued my way around the lake to that area.

Along the way, I saw a couple of lovely birds posing quite boldly for me, and I obliged by snapping a few shots.




(Please click to enlarge)

Trees, bushes and bull rushes made it difficult to maintain my visual connection with the general area, but I soon arrived where I thought I might have a good chance of seeing the heron. As I did, a man noticed my camera and told me that I had just missed a blue heron by a matter of a minute or two. He pointed to the direction where he saw it fly, which was of course where I had just left. I could see the heron across the lake and snapped a few distant photos.


(Please click to enlarge)

It seemed ill at ease with each person that passed it by along the path a few meters away, and it wasn't long before it decided to return to the shoreline closer to where I was standing quietly, camera to my eye. I inched my way closer to where it stood and cursed my decision just one hour earlier to leave my second set of batteries behind, as the low-battery warning shot across my view-finder. Past experience told me that I had very little time between that alert and the one that says "change your batteries now," which would promptly be followed by a complete shutdown of the camera.


With each step that brought me closer to this beautiful blue heron, I snapped another shot. Step, snap, step, snap. The warning was flashing faster, keeping rhythm with my heart. I wanted to get a decent shot, and didn't dare risk the extra power it would take to review the ones I had already taken. Step, snap, step, snap, click, whirrrrr. Silence. As my camera shut itself off, the heron took its cue and flew away. I headed home with a promise to myself never to assume I wouldn't need backup batteries again.


However, luck was with me after all. When I got home, I found that one of the "step, snap" sequences produced this image.

(Please click to enlarge)

I'm in awe of its beauty and hope that I'll get to see the heron again soon. When I do, I'll have an extra set of batteries in my pocket.

37 comments:

Jo said...

It's just magic the way you capture nature, Hil. And I love the way you chase down your shots! The heron is magnificent. The close-up of the swan is incredible too--such fine detail.

We need to send you & your camera to the Amazon & Africa. I'll carry your batteries, snacks, & my smelling salts :)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Truly, you are an amazing photographer. That swan picture, in particular, just blew me away.

And thanks for identifying the blue heron! There used to be a couple at the reservoir where I went running, and I thought "cool, a giant blue bird" but I didn't know what it was.

I'm an idiot when it comes to birds. Ducky. Jay. Robin. Chicken. That's about it.

Suldog said...

Fun shots. I should take my caeekend, to the shores of the Charles River, and see what I can come up with. I'm not a very good photographer, but it would be fun, in any case.

Suldog said...

Geez - I don't know what happened there, but that should say, "... my camera out this weekend" NOT "...my caeekend" (whatever the hell that means.)

gawilli said...

We occasionally have Heron in the creek behind our house. It has always amazed me how they can maneuver their large wing span and long legs through the mire of trees and brush to land in the water. What a breathtaking sight. I have never gotten close enough to take such magnificent pictures. You are an inspiration!

the Bag Lady said...

Awesome photos of the heron, Hilary! I have only ever seen one once around here - he must have been lost. Didn't have a camera, of course.

The Trumpeter Swan pictures are magnificent, too. The Trumpeters nest around here, so we see them quite frequently. The house I grew up in was right across the street from a reservoir where the swans nested, so we would watch their cygnets grow up.

Leah J.Utas said...

I was so sure I commented a little while ago. Sigh.
Anyway, the swan shot is beautiful and the herons magnificient.

Russell said...

That is a beautiful great blue heron. We have them here in the middle of the United States along rivers and lakes. They are very distinctive and not a bird you often see.

Great pictures! Take care.

Seamus said...

Hilary - thank you for that photographic walk around you lake. The Blue Herons are always difficult to photograph since they seems so shy and wary - excellent capture. I love the close up of the swan - was it a cob or pen?

Daryl E said...

Oh Hilary all the photos are wonderful! The heron is exceptionally well 'shot' .. Daryl

Therese said...

When I enlarged the picture of the swan I wish I could touch the screen and feel the water, it's so vivid.
We have grey, blue and green herons over here but I still don't have the right lens...

Ex-Shammickite said...

Lucky you, to be able to capture those wonderful shots of the blue heron, and beat the battery deadline at the same time!
There's a reservoir within an easy walk from my house and I was told that the summer resident swans had returned, so I'll have to stroll up there and see if I can take any pics. I'm sure they won't be as good as yours though. But that project will have to wait until after this week's variety show is over... oh, I posted pics of the show (well, dress rehearsal) today, want any tickets????

Hilary said...

• Well thanks, Jo. You're good for my ego. ;) I think we'd have a blast sailing through South America or treking around the jungles of Africa. But who should we hire to carry and prepare our martinis?

• Thank you, Crabby. I didn't know too many birds from the rest before this past winter either. Frank bought a bird book and that helped identify the critters that came to my feeder. We've kind of spread out a bit from there. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Thanks, Suldog. Either you got caught up in a Blogger fart or you just invented a new word for "weekend photographer." Let's go with the latter. I'd love to see your caeekend work soon. ;) Thanks for stopping by.

• Thanks so much, Gawilli. Luck has pretty much everything to do with it though... for me, that is. They are indeed amazingly graceful birds and there's sure no mistaking them in flight. Thanks for your kind words. :)

• Thanks, Baggie. The herons have been coming around here for the summers for the last several years. One usually flies in over our house sometime between 5 and 6 pm. Be prepared to see more photos of Herons over the summer if luck permits. The swan was new to me. I've seen them down on Lake Ontario before (about a 20 minute drive south of me) but never in our small inland lake. I'm not sure why or how she got here. But I'll probably head out again in the next few days to see if it's still around. :)

• Thank you so much, Leah. They're great-looking birds and I was lucky to capture the shots. :)

• Thanks so much for your kind words, Russell. I always enjoy your posts and am happy to see your comments. :)

• Thank you, Seamus. The heron sure was wary of me so I felt honoured that it allowed me to get that close. I have no idea about the swan's gender... I didn't get THAT close. ;) There were no other swans around to compare it to size-wise, but I'm guessing female (Swan Pen who was once married to Madonna)...

• Thanks so much, Daryl. :)

• Thanks for your kind words, Therese. I'm sure you'd enjoy snapping some of those birds with or without the right lens. I hope you'll share them once you do. :)

• Thank, Ex-S. I'll head right over to see the photos you posted. It sounds like you're having a great time with this show. Poke me early next year about tickets.. you never know. :)

Reb said...

Fabulous shots Hilary! I love the Trumpeter Swan shots, reminds me of home. The heron is so pretty, we don't see them often around here. I'm glad you were able to get such great shots.

tkwi said...

What's with the #85 on the swan?

Loved the blue heron pic.

You've given me an appreciation for nature.

Dianne said...

all your shots are fantastic but I truly love the swan. the ballerina of nature.

and I laughed at the idea of you hurtling bushes and dashing under dangerous foliage.

I would have needed a respirator.

WomensDaily said...

What a beautiful swan! Gorgeous shots.

Frank Baron said...

Well, you know how I feel about herons. That's a wonderful shot. Don't for a minute think he wasn't aware of you. He allowed you to get close enough for that pic. Just something about you he liked, I reckon. :)

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Reb. I'm glad those birds obliged too. It was my day for large birds. :)

• TKWI, the swan was tagged for tracking. You can find out more about it at http://www.wyemarsh.com/trumpeter.html
There is also a page where you can report sightings, which I've now done. I'm so glad you're enjoying the photos. Thanks for that. :)

* Thanks for the kind words, Dianne, and for the laughs that your comments evoked. :)

• Thanks so much, WD. :)

• Thanks, Frank. You were totally on my mind when I attempted that shot. Maybe that's why he obliged. :)

Shrinky said...

I don't know which I enjoy more, your beautful nature photography, or your observations as you people/bird watch. You post lovely pictures from both your camera and your thoughts.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Really nice photography. You have a lot of larger birds we don't have here but wish I did. I admire you work, Hilary.

Momma said...

What beautiful pictures! They are so crisp and well-framed.

We have a blue heron that visits the pond behind our house. He is stunningly beautiful.

Peace - D

Hilary said...

• Thank you so much, Shrinky. What a lovely thing to say. Much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Abe. Your own bird photography is wonderful and I so appreciate your kind words. :)

• Thanks, Momma. They are indeed magnificent birds and we're lucky to catch a glimpse of them on occasion. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Bachelor said...

Great pictures of nature. Every once in a while there is a blue herring at the pond where I walk. I need to start taking my camera and taking some pictures. Thanks for the nice write up. You need to send a portfolio in Wildlife magazine.

Kathryn said...

Wow. What an amazing area you live in. Those photos are amazing!

Hilary said...

• Thanks for the kind words, Bachelor. :) I hope you'll share those photos, once taken.

• Thank you so much, Kathryn. I hope you'll be back again soon. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful closeups, beautiful birds. We noticed maybe a week ago that the herons have returned, they are so graceful, and you captured that in your pictures. What a marvelous couple of weeks for bird and nature watching, eh?
Love, Andi

TorAa said...

What a wonderful area you are living in. All those beautiful Birds so close. Magnifique

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Andi. I agree that this time of year in particular allows for some relatively easy access to the birds that come to strut their stuff. Once the leaves are out in full, it will more difficult to get a clear shot, or to even notice them in the first place. Thanks for stopping by, sis. :)

• Merci, Toraa. Thanks for the visit and please return soon. :)

Moi said...

as always, love them all, the details in the third shot are precious, Hilary.

John-Michael said...

The eye of the Swan, the tiny (is it a finch ... I don't know ... your shot is marvelous.) Then your Audubon quality Heron image, Our Great Blue Friend. How majestically you have captured it! You are a thrill, Hilary. And I am convinced that your delicious Spirit is what raises the performance of your extraordinary skills exponentially.

Loving You ...

david mcmahon said...

Great post - and the second and third shots are wonderful.

Carolyn said...

Wowzers! Beautiful post. I just love the way you tell your story to accompany the beautiful photography... and that close up of the swan? Magnificent! Thanks for sharing.

Hilary said...

• Thanks so much, Moi. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks for your kind words, John Michael. :)

• Thank you, David. With your photographer's eye, that means a lot to me. :)

• Thanks muchly Carolyn. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

Kerri said...

WOW! What an exciting day! That Great Blue Heron is AWESOME!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Kerri. That day will stick wtih me for sure. :)

Country Girl said...

The close-up of the swan and the picture of the heron are just beautiful.

Some day, I hope to capture moments such as you have!