Night Vision ~ alone in the night!

Many a night while driving by wetlands I spot Great Blue Herons standing alone in the dark. Like a detective in a trench coat with his fedora hat tilted downward at the end of a dark alley waiting for his suspect to make a move, the Great Blue Heron thinks he goes unnoticed.

Most of the time Great Blue Herons are somewhat camouflaged, blending into the branches of trees or the brownish gray winter grasses and reeds. In the dark they are hard to spot, unless of course there is a full moon out and the moonbeams hit that bright white face!

In my painting entitled Night Vision, I present a Great Blue Heron being hit by the light of the moon. The heron is surrounded by darkness but he can see as if it’s daylight. He is a predator, keenly aware of any movement around him.

Night Vision    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Night Vision by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Time goes by slowly as he has no other place to go. An occasional snooze on one leg helps him rest up after a long day of fishing. He turns and preens his feathers keeping himself both clean and busy.

I wanted this to be a dramatic piece, with the heron’s white face standing out against the dark background. The head is turned as if he realizes that he’s been spotted. His feathers are flared out piercing the night air.

Night Vision   by William R. Beebe, head detail

Night Vision by William R. Beebe, head detail

His yellow eye should captivate the viewer and make one wonder what the large bird is thinking. He is not afraid of being alone in the dark. After all, this is his territory. He intimidates other birds with his size and eats almost anything that moves.

Does the darkness cast him in a different light? I think so. It makes him more mysterious. It makes one wonder what his life is like? Will he stay there all night and continue to sleep on one leg? Will he move to the woods and sleep in a tree to be more camouflaged? Or, will he be active all night and fish with his night vision?

Great Blue Herons continue to fascinate me. I see them almost every day. Just yesterday heavy fog rolled in off the water in Isle of Palms and a Great Blue Heron’s silhouette crossed the sky as if it had radar. The other night two Great Blue Heron’s flew in tandem across the sky as the sun was setting. One let out a call and peeled away like a Blue Angel leaving its formation.

I have another GBH portrait drawn out on canvas, which I look forward to working on sometime soon. His feathers are raised and he has a strong profile!

I hope you like Night Vision! Thank you for reading my journal and for being interested in my art. I sincerely appreciate it!


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 Standout ~ A Brown Pelican with Creek Cred!

Not all Brown Pelicans look alike or act alike. They exhibit some human qualities and characteristics, giving each their own personality. I always marvel and wonder as I watch a large formation of pelicans fly along the beach, what makes one the leader and just who is that last pelican bringing up the rear?

Some answers have become clear to me as I started choosing pelicans for my bird portraiture. In selecting ones to paint I spend time watching them interact with each other as they compete for food, vie for a favorite sunny spot, and rest with others or stand alone.

There are leaders who appear to be bigger and stronger. Some are aggressive and some aren’t. There are passive types like The Bystander, who are quite content watching and waiting. The Bystander stood out because he stood alone and had a look of innocence. His brown feathers were going through the transition to adult feather colors, and he was very likeable.

In my latest painting I chose a pelican that definitely stood out in a crowd. He carried himself with stature. His soft yellow head was held up high and turned to the side as one might expect a leader to do as they look out over the ocean or battlefield. His wings were tucked in as if at attention.

The Standout    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on canvas, $6200

The Standout by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on canvas, $6200

The Standout   by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Standout by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Standout   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

The Standout by William R. Beebe, feather detail

This pelican definitely had the respect of his comrades. He had the dashing good looks to boot. Other pelicans wanted to stand by his side as he looked out over his mates enjoying their down time at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, SC.

I imagined him being the Top Gun and leader of formations in flight. I would guess he comes from a distinguished pedigree of pelicans and has been a winner his whole life.

My goal was to capture him as he was, in all his glory.

I hope you find him likeable too, for he also had a friendly, approachable look.

Thank you for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I appreciate it very much. Please check back soon to see what’s next on my easel! Thank you.


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

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!

Kingfisher-image-1-by-William-R-Beebe.jpg

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.

Kingfisher-image-3-by-William-R-Beebe.jpg
Kingfisher-image-4-by-William-R-Beebe.jpg
Kingfisher-image-2-by-William-R-Beebe.jpg

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