The Dance ~ Like Fred and Ginger!

The Great Blue Heron is usually a solitary bird, spending most of the year alone in its own territory.   It will fend off other herons to protect its territory.  Rarely in my birding outings have I seen two or more Blue Herons together, and when I do one is usually chasing the other one away.  That is until this spring!

Jen and I spotted two GBHs in shallow water, gradually getting closer to each other.  I was photographing one until they were close enough to capture both.  It was then I realized that something special was happening.  I was witnessing an elegant courtship.  They were doing a very slow dance around each other, in total synch, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  

We watched in amazement as their plumage puffed out and up, their necks were held high with their beaks pointing to the sky.  Walking side by side in step with each other, they would turn and promenade around each other as if the dance steps had been choreographed and practiced well in advance.  Then they would fall back in step, dancing side by side, wading through the shallow wetlands as their mirrored images reflected on the water’s surface.  It was obvious we were watching a mating ritual of the Great Blue Heron!

It is a scene I knew I had to paint.  To see the Great Blue Heron become so elegant and formal was fascinating to watch and quite beautiful.  It seemed to me to be one of those special moments that I might never see again.  I have recently started the painting and have been anxious to share the image and the story.  After starting with a pencil sketch on a gessoed hardboard, the painting is now underway. With only a base-coat of paint and some layering applied, I thought I’d share it anyway.  

The Dance by William R. Beebe, pencil sketch

The Dance by William R. Beebe, pencil sketch

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 1

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 1

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 2

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 2

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 3

The Dance by William R. Beebe, Phase 3

My goal is to give it a romantic, mystical feel by blending the colors of the water with the colors of the reflected sky.

As soon as the painting is finished I will share it and write about the painting process.  Until then, I hope you enjoyed hearing about The Dance, as I call it, and that you will check back soon to see the completed painting!


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