Friday, December 19, 2014

The Moody Blues

This blog is all about the little blue heron, not the British band. To begin, here is a quote from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" website:

"A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance". 

That has got to be the best description of the little blue heron I have ever read. On Biscayne Bay, I have had many opportunities to photograph the gorgeous little blue. One might think that the little blue heron is not the easiest bird to photograph because it is a relatively small heron (comparable in size to the more conspicuous snowy egret), its dullish feathers blends in with the bay environment all too easily, and it doesn't display extravagant hunting behaviors like its slightly larger cousin, the tri-colored heron. So what is it about the little blue heron that makes me want to photograph it?

One cool thing about this bird is how its feathers change from white to blue as it matures. The process takes a couple years and before turning completely dark, the feathers are a patchwork of blues and white. This can be quite beautiful to see.

Another reason I enjoy the little blue heron is that it is relatively easy going. While other birds will not allow me to get too close, the little blue heron has been very accommodating. I remember one morning I was facing the shoreline at a very low tide. I got myself grounded as I attempted to photograph some roseate spoonbills. At one point I turned around toward the sun and there must have been a dozen little blue herons within a 50-ft range of my boat. Quietly, they foraged the shallows, ignoring me totally.

I suppose the main reason I like to photograph the little blue heron is that is is so unassuming. I was on the bay yesterday morning attempting to capture the sunrise. The water levels were too high for wading birds until about 9 am. Scattered in various places along the shoreline were clumps of grass revealed as the water receded. All of a sudden, I noticed about five little blue herons, including a juvenile still donning its white feathers. What seemed out of nowhere, more of the birds quietly appeared to forage the grasses, as  I have seen them do so many times before.

Not having photographed many birds over the past several weeks, I overlooked the increasingly harsh sunlight and attempted to photograph the dark bird in its messy surroundings. I kept the sun to my right to give the bird some sidelight to avoid flattening the images with full frontal sunlight. The sidelight would give the bluish dull feathers more texture and character. I also kept the exposure lower than usual to reveal a darker mood.

From yesterday morning's images, I did some post-processing to isolate the bird as I have done many times with white birds. I love the mood of these images that help illustrate some of the different poses of the bird. And of course, water action is always a plus.

Enjoy these images of the moody and unpretentious little blue heron.

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