In Search of the Great Blue Heron ~ Camera Ready???

It was too nice outside to be spreading mulch or to sit in front of the TV, even though the Saturday round of the US Open golf tournament was on.  On a whim, I asked Jen if she felt like a late afternoon trip to Smithfield, Virginia, to go check out Windsor Castle Park. I discovered it on a “bird watching” Google search and it sounded worth looking into. 

Jen laughed at first, because of my new passion for photographing and painting waterfowl, but agreed it would be a fun outing.  We set out in search of the Great Blue Heron, catching the 3:30 car ferry in Jamestown, to cross the James River.  Our car was sandwiched in the middle of the ferry with barely enough room to get in or out of the car. 

I spotted black headed seagulls flying off of the stern of the ferry, so I grabbed my camera, wiggled my way out of the car and practiced my birds in motion photography while Jen waited in the car.  After taking way too many seagull shots, I got back in the car, put my camera in the bag and on the backseat.   After all, I was in search of the Great Blue Heron and should save my camera battery for all of the upcoming action.


As we were arriving on the other side of the James, preparing to dock, our ferry passed numerous pilings with seagulls watching us go by.  Then it happened.  There on one of the pilings was a fantastic looking Great Blue Heron, looking right at me, just a few feet from the side of the ferry.  I was trapped in our car between two other cars, with the camera in the camera bag in the back seat.  His hair-like plumes were blowing in the breeze, the light hitting him just right, so close that every detail could be observed clearly.  It was the perfect shot and I was paralyzed.  The next 20 minutes on the drive to Smithfield were spent with me pining over my missed opportunity and Jen consoling me. 

We arrived at Windsor Castle Park, developed by Smithfield Foods, and started our late afternoon walk on the miles of trails through the woods, over wetlands and along the river.  We spotted a lone White Egret, I took a few pictures and we both agreed what a beautiful spot the wetlands are.  Then I spotted a thin white line in the long grasses.  It was another egret poking his head up.  His neck was so skinny and odd looking that I had to take a picture of it.  I call this guy, The Blade!  ☺


As I was laughing at and photographing The Blade, Jen hurriedly motioned me over to where she was on the footbridge over the marshland.  There on a fallen dead tree was a White Egret, waiting to be photographed.  I was fortunate to get fairly close, and capture him in several cool poses and movements.  It was exhilarating having such a wonderful opportunity.  I can’t wait to paint him.


Along with the exercise and the photography, we planned on mixing in a seafood dinner at the Smithfield Station restaurant.  Already loaded with future painting material, and happy, we headed to dinner.  We parked at the restaurant and I left my camera in the back of the car.  Again, a rookie mistake!  The restaurant is on the water, with shorebirds everywhere.  As we walked along the dock, I looked down at the shoreline and there was a Great Blue Heron standing just 20 feet from me.  It was motionless and at first I thought it was a lawn ornament.  I said to Jen “Is that real?  It can’t be.” 

Sure enough it was real.  Jen started fumbling with her IPhone camera but she had sunglasses on and all she could see was a black screen!  I went running back to our car realizing that Jen might not be able to zero in on him in time.  Back across the street I ran and to my surprise he was still there when I returned.  Here are a few shots of the beautiful bird before he flew off. 


We couldn’t believe our luck as we dined on the freshest seafood dinner one could have.  The Blue Heron that I missed on the ferry ride now didn’t hurt quite so bad.  Even if I hadn’t seen a bird all afternoon, the fried seafood platter was worth the trip!!! :-)

Walking back to the car on the dock after dinner, Jen spotted the Blue Heron back in what must be one of his favorite spots.  Again, I took a number of shots before he decided to head over to the nearby boathouse to watch the sun go down. 

As we were riding back to catch the 8:00pm ferry, we both agreed what a great day it was, and how we’d definitely do it again.  One of us said, “Wouldn’t it make for the perfect day if the same Blue Heron was on the piling as we were heading home on the ferry?” 

Having learned my lesson on the ferry ride over, we both were out of the car, camera ready, looking for him.  As the ferry pulled away from the dock, my little bird spotter, Jen, said “There he is!”  I was able to get a number of good shots of him basking in the evening glow.


The perfect afternoon was had!  Topping off the trip was a beautiful sunset and of all things, another Blue Heron next to a nautical light upon our arrival. 


I’m busy working away on a painting of a Green Heron now, but I’m sure you will see a number of these pictures on canvas in the near future.  I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of the photos and reading about our big adventure in search of the Great Blue Heron.

Now I’m not the only one in this family who is obsessed with bird watching. Jen is too!!!!  ☺