Chasing the Elusive Belted Kingfisher ~ patience is a virtue!

For years now while I’ve been out photographing eagles, ospreys, herons, egrets, pelicans and other shorebirds, there has been one bird that has always kept its distance from me, the elusive Belted Kingfisher!

Many times I’ve been spotted running back and forth along marina docks, along coastal golf holes, through neighborhoods, along river banks and wetlands with my zoom pointed skyward chasing this little bird that has the speed and spunk of Mighty Mouse! All the while its rattling laughter would taunt me and let me know that I wasn’t even close.

People must have often wondered if Bill has lost it. :-) I would frequently be talking to the Kingfisher saying things like, “So we meet again!” Or, muttering to myself, “The elusive Kingfisher strikes again!”

The other day our paths crossed once again, but this time was different! I had just finished my latest pelican painting, The Bystander, and I decided the next morning would be a good time to go out birding, enjoy a nice sunny morning, and look for new subjects to paint. One of my favorite birding locations, the Pitt Street Bridge right here in Mount Pleasant, SC, was my first stop.

Upon arrival I spent quite a bit of time photographing some Hooded Mergansers. I then walked the length of the Pitt Street Bridge without seeing much birdlife of any kind. I was happy to get the merganser shots but disappointed there weren’t more birds around given that it was low tide and feeding time.

I was thinking it was about time to move on to Shem Creek in search of the Brown Pelican, when I glanced over the wooden railing of the old bridge along the water and saw a beautiful female Belted Kingfisher perched on part of the railing, less than 5 feet away from me!

I quickly aimed my camera, but it was actually too close and too quick to get a photograph. The stocky, little bird with its large head and pointed beak made a bee-line right into the water below, piercing the surface like an arrow. I thought I’d blown my chance.

In a split second it resurfaced and flew up onto a nearby tower with either a tadpole or small fish. It shook its head back and forth like a terrier and then devoured the first of about a five-course meal!


Again I was chasing the kingfisher back and forth along the waterfront, but this time it didn’t seem to mind my presence. It was too busy feeding to be bothered by me.

For the next hour and a half I worked hard on getting my settings right considering the lighting conditions and the background, knowing that this was my big chance.

I love the spiked hairdo that kingfishers often display so I wanted to make sure I captured that. I also wanted to make sure I got the glint of light on the eye, the rufous/chestnut colored band around the breast of this female kingfisher, her short little legs and her tail raised.


I know that was hoping for a lot, but my Pitt Street Bridge female Belted Kingfisher was generous with her time that morning.

Kingfishers hover in mid-air like ospreys. They dive straight into the water like Brown Pelicans. They are little, but I’ve seen one chase a Great Blue Heron right down into the middle of a pond (herons are wading birds and not swimmers). I’ve also seen a cormorant take off when the mighty little Kingfisher appears. I’ve seen male kingfishers in aerial combat over territory they wish to control.

Belted Kingfishers are fascinating birds!

I’ve always thought it would be fun to paint a Belted Kingfisher, but my previous photographs of them lacked enough detail to paint one up close. This series of images, however, has just the right amount of detail to inspire a painting, or two.

I hope you enjoy the images and reading about my quest to capture the Belted Kingfisher on camera. I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to comment below.Thanks for reading my journal and for your interest in my art!!!

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe

The Bystander ~ Young and Impressionable!

I watched the Brown Pelicans at Shem Creek (Mt. Pleasant, SC) in a feeding frenzy, as fishermen on the docks cleaned their fish and threw the unwanted scraps in the water. Pelicans can get downright vicious fighting over a meal. As the gang wrangled and maneuvered for food, one young pelican stood quietly on the dock taking it all in.

The Bystander    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 20, Oil on canvas, $5200

The Bystander by William R. Beebe, 30 x 20, Oil on canvas, $5200

He had a bright-eyed innocence to him. Some pelicans actually look mischievous or ornery. Not this bird! It was as if he was waiting his turn, hesitant to jump into the fray. I found him likable.

I photographed him from a fairly close distance, studying his movements, realizing that he was definitely painting material. He wasn’t just likable; he was handsome.

His brown neck was starting to turn white, a sign of maturing. Soon his head will become a soft yellow and he will be considered an adult bird. For now he is still impressionable, watching and learning.

My portrait of him is called The Bystander. My goal was to capture that bright-eyed innocence that made him so likable. I want the painting to pull you in and draw you close, as if the pelican is a friend.

Every bird portrait I paint is from my own close encounters with the avian species. Usually the bird chooses me by creating a lasting impression, which in turn leads to inspiration.

I hope you are enjoying my portrait series as much as I am enjoying painting them. Thank you for your interest in my art and for reading my journal. Please check back soon to see what’s next on the easel!

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe

Striking a Pose ~ Portrait of a Brown Pelican!

When my golfing buddy asked me if I would like to paint a commissioned portrait of a pelican for his wife’s surprise Christmas present, I was thrilled. One of our favorite birds is the Brown Pelican. I’ve taken thousands of photographs of them and have painted many pelican paintings. He said he’d like it to be all about the pelican, just his long face with no background distractions. I got a kick out of the fact that he loves pelicans so much that he would want a relatively large portrait of one in his home. We have a lot in common! :-)

After looking through all of my pelican pics, one in particular stood out from all the rest.

Striking a Pose   by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned painting

Striking a Pose by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned painting

This handsome Brown Pelican was posing on top of a piling, soaking in the sun, with no particular place to go. He was very aware of my camera and me and as he turned from side to side, casually preening, I was aware that he was watching me. I think he figured out that I was taking his picture and that someday I might paint him! :-)

I found him to be unusually striking, with the sun hitting the top of his yellow head and lighting up his dark brown belly feathers. He gave me his good side (I don’t think he had a bad side). :-)

In order to keep it all about the bird, I decided a white background would be sharp, create an almost illustrative look to the portrait and make the bird pop. The background has multiple coats of Titanium White paint covering the canvas. The pelican’s white neck feathers are outlined against the background and dappled with grays to create a feathery look.

This is a mature bird as identified by his colorings. The yellow head and white neck indicates that the pelican is a mature adult. Immature, or juvenile, Brown Pelicans are all brown in color.

Perhaps because he was so mature he wasn’t afraid of me. In the end, I left him right where I found him. He did, however, decide it was time to take a break from his modeling and laid down on top of the post and closed his eyes. The session was over but I got my shot!

This 30” by 24” painting entitled Striking a Pose, was so enjoyable to paint it inspired me to create a series of bird portraits. Henry the Great, The Great One, and Junior Blue are all a direct result of the inspiration drawn from having painted Striking a Pose.

I’m so grateful to my friend and client for giving me such a wonderful opportunity and for having the vision he had that day on the golf course.

I hope you all like Striking a Pose and hopefully see some of his remarkable personality traits and characteristics in the painting; handsome, mischievous, beguiling, and well groomed. :-)

Thank you for following my art, reading my journal and for all of your thoughtful comments on Facebook and Instagram. If you would like to comment on the painting I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks again!

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe

Portrait of a Young Great Blue Heron ~ Creating a Likeness!

This bird is etched in my memory. It wasn’t the easiest of birds to photograph. In fact, you could say I went way out on a limb to photograph him. Actually, it was a very narrow long pier, maybe a foot wide that went out over the water about 20 feet to a tall piling at the end. The young Great Blue Heron was 15 feet beyond that on top of a stand-alone piling in the water.

I had my good camera with my zoom lens and I was dressed to go to dinner with some friends. I could get fairly close from the main dock, but if I were to walk the narrow part of the pier I’d be really close. This would require extremely good balance and some nerve! I wasn’t feeling confident and the consequences of falling were unthinkable. :)

If I succeeded in walking the plank and taking the close-up shots I desired, then I’d have to turn around and perform a balancing act all the way back. I chose to go for it! A few wobbles along the way led to wondering if I’d done the right thing. I made it to the end of the pier and proceeded to take dozens of pictures as the bird showed no sign of being afraid or of flying off.

In fact, it dozed off here and there while on one leg. I have pictures of him with his eyes closed, and also with his head tucked way into his body. The sun would shine a little brighter and he would wake up and look around. It appeared to be hunkered down for the evening.

Junior Blue    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Junior Blue   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, head detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Great Blue Heron was a young bird, as indicated by his immature coat of feathers and color pattern. Young herons have a black/gray top of the head and an overall brownish/gray pattern to its neck and shoulder feathers. The large primary and secondary feathers have whitish tips to them. The upper beak in a young bird has dark grays and blacks for the most part.

My recent painting entitled The Great One is a good example of what a mature Great Blue Heron looks like in comparison to an immature bird like this one.

After holding onto the end piling and taking way too many pictures, I knew I had to leave to be on time for dinner. I inched my way back to dry land, one step in front of the other, heal to toe, praying the whole time that I didn’t ruin everything by falling sideways into the murky, brown saltwater.

I made it unscathed! I’ve always enjoyed looking back at my photographs of this handsome bird and recalling the efforts I made to get close enough to capture all of the detail in the bird’s feather patterns.

When I decided it was time to paint him, I knew I wanted to include as much detail as necessary to create a likeness. I wanted to be able to look at my painting and have it take me back to the end of that pier.

I enjoyed working on a large scale (24” by 36”), painting in the detail, and looking for subtle changes in color or feather patterns that help identify this particular bird.

I’ve decided to call this painting Junior Blue. He is the son of a Great Blue Heron, handsome, alert, and looks a lot like his father when he was of similar age. :)

Thank you for reading my journal and for following my art! I can foresee another bird portrait coming up in the near future, so please check back soon to see what’s next on the easel.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe