I stood for an hour or so with my camera focused on a female Great Blue Heron. She was on her nest, perched 20 feet up on a bald cypress tree. Much of the time was spent having her two little herons biting at her beak, obviously hungry. I was taken aback by the aggressive nature of the young birds as they clamped on their mother’s beak, not wanting to let go. The Great Blue showed a tremendous amount of patience. When she could break loose from the twins’ vice grips, she would look up and out, searching for her mate, always on high alert for predators.
My painting entitled The Watchful Guardian is one of those moments when the heron was most likely exhausted, staring out across the lake where alligators lurk and water moccasins swim. Great Egrets nest nearby and I witnessed them double team her going after her chicks. Her feathers bristled as she guarded the nest and scared them off.
The sun was up high and behind the bird creating a nice backlighting effect on the raised feathers. The stark background helps create the sense of isolation and maybe even a sense of desperation. Where is her mate with dinner for the young ones? What is taking him so long? How much longer will she have to hold the fort down alone?
This daily ritual lasts for up to 10 weeks until the young ones are old enough to leave the nest.
Great Blue Herons continue to fascinate me. In each portrait I paint I try to capture them in a striking pose and evoke an emotional response from the viewer. I like to place the viewer up closer than most people ever get to these large, almost prehistoric looking creatures, so that they will want to know more about each bird.
Thank you for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I will be working on a series of Charleston paintings for the foreseeable future. I have other bird portraits in mind but for now Charleston is calling!
Please check back soon to see what’s next on my easel!