Or, at least a big lens.
Katherine and I (and Sam and Sasha) found ourselves recently at Antonelli Pond (again).
It was a foggy day and beyond a bedraggled Red-shouldered Hawk and a handful of juvenile Pied-billed Grebes (some of whom had learned how to catch and eat a fish without the assistance of a parent), we weren’t seeing much. I was so desperate that I mistook an old cement pier base for a sleeping duck.
Katherine was the first to spot something. Despite having many pictures of juvenile Grebes and despite the fact that these Grebes were a) not doing anything interesting and b) too far away for a decent picture, I was still taking pictures of them.
“I found a Night Heron. I think it’s a juvenile,” Katherine said. She showed me one of the pictures she’d taken.
I quickly followed her back to where she’d seen it. I was happy to see it was still perched on its branch.
I took several photos, hoping that Heron would do something interesting. Well, the Heron started preening but if I wanted to photograph that, I could take a picture of my dog (yes, Sasha, I’m talking about you!).
I walked on the lower path (closer to the water but still about ten feet above it). I walked quietly, avoiding twigs and leaves.
At one point the path circled around a large tree. The right side would take me closer to the water and a fallen tree trunk that leaned out over the water. Katherine used to stand out there to look for birds, but now it was more overgrown. Not wishing to brush by some slender branches, I quietly took the left path around the tree. I crept closer to where I could see the fallen trunk and stopped in surprise. Not ten feet away, perched on the trunk, was a juvenile Great Blue Heron!
I took four pictures. Surprisingly, the sound of my shutter (which is set to “soft” but it’s not all that quiet) did not disturb him. He did start at the sound of a nearby bird, but that was all.
I quietly backed up a bit and pulled out my phone.
“Come to that log you used to stand on,” I whispered to Katherine. Luckily, she had stood on it so often that she knew exactly what I was referring to.
Katherine arrived quickly and quietly and was able to see the Heron before it flew off.
We then followed the path up to where we had a larger view of the pond. Suddenly, from the reeds to our left, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron flew out. We followed him with our cameras as he flew out of view toward our right. I thought he may have landed near where the Great Blue Heron had just been perched.
I knew that Herons had flown out of that area before, so headed back to that spot, slowing and creeping as I got close.
It took me a moment to spot him. With his striped body, he blended in well with the branches and twigs. I took a few pictures and then called Katherine.
The juvenile was hunting in the shallow water near the shore. The area was overgrown with vegetation. With luck, I’d see him catch one of the bullfrogs we had been hearing around the lake all morning.
Unfortunately, I did not see that — nor anything dramatic — but I was able to spend several minutes* taking photos without scaring him. At one point, he moved toward the shore a little bit and I had to move to find him again, but I was able to do so without him seeming to notice.
* “Fifteen minutes,” said Katherine. But according to the time stamp on my first and last photos of the Heron, it was more like twenty-eight minutes! I have to thank and appreciate Katherine for all her patience when I’m stalking a bird!
The Heron opened and closed his beak a few times during the twenty-eight minutes that I spent with him but I never heard him make a sound.
Eventually, my need for breakfast outweighed my need to watch the Heron catch his breakfast. I quietly left him, undisturbed.
FUN FACT: This is an interesting fact I learned by originally misidentifying the above juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron as a Green Heron. I was looking up information about the sounds a Green Heron makes when I read that Green Herons are one of the few tool using birds. They will drop feathers and twigs and such into the water to lure fish. Katherine and I have seen Green Herons at Antonelli Pond on several occasions before (and, in fact, Katherine had seen two or three while I was stalking this juvenile Night Heron). Knowing what I know now, I will be on the lookout for tool use!