Sunday, March 4, 2012
The graceful white egret
"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
A beautiful morning with the great white egret in its rookery. Mating and nesting, the parent birds will soon have young ones to feed. Lots of work to do before all that happens, nests to build and maintain, in between the continuous sex to keep the lineage going. So much work for these birds that live strong, survivors of cruel human fashion trends and greed for space. For some reason, brown pelicans and great white egrets share their nesting space, quite respectfully I might add. Very rarely do I see a confrontation between the two distinct species. This is the time of year that these birds concentrate on passing along their genes, survivors of the fittest. For this blog, I will concentrate on the great white egret.
I sat in my canoe several dozens of feet away from the mangrove edge where the birds have built their nests. I arrived early enough to work with that perfect morning light. Clouds were many, but the sun remained clear most of the time. The darkest and most abundant cloud formations were in the western sky, so while the morning sun lit up the white birds warmly, the background was a beautiful combination of white, blue and dark gray, brilliantly contrasting the white feathers of the birds. And to top it off, the brisk winds was coming out of the east, somewhat southerly, which forced the birds to take off and land toward me.
I intended to spend most of the morning here and hoped to spend a second morning in the same place since I was staying the night at Chokoloskee Island. But, as almost always the case, the weather controls our plans out here. Saturday began easy as I paddled in a northwest direction to the rookery. The south winds were barely 5-10 knots. By 9 am, they had picked up considerably as I sat in the somewhat protected area of the rookery. While staked out, my boat would often be moved forward with the gusty winds that continually increased in strength as the morning drew on. It required patience to do any photography. By 10 am, the winds were sustained over 20 knots. I anticipated this and knew that my 1.5 mile paddle back to the launch site would be difficult and slow.
But before the time I had to leave, I sat in my canoe and enjoyed the birds. I watched many couples, but concentrated on one of the small mangrove islands where a few couples were in the best light. I was happy to have the Sony a77, 24 mp sensor that would allow some room for cropping. This means that I can capture the birds from a greater distance and still maintain high resolution with cropping. I attempted many flight shots as the sky lent a beautiful background to highlight the birds graceful form.
By 10 am, the lighting became harsh and the clouds more frequent. I decided to make the trek back to the launch site, knowing that I would not be back on Sunday. The forecast called for 30+ knot winds. I enjoyed the few hours I had with the birds and felt content as I paddled through 2-3 ft waves rushing toward my boat on the ride back. My pelican case that houses my cameras and lenses sat in front of me as the waves occasionally broke over the bow. The newly gained photos would make it back home safe as the pelican case was tightly sealed, waterproof and floatable if necessary. It has never come to that, and with confidence, I can take my canoe to glorious places to photograph. It's for the birds.