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!

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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.

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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

Painting the Blues ~ alone and feeling blue?

Most often the Great Blue Heron is seen standing alone dressed in gray and dark blue, or flying solo across the sky. No matter what the weather, nothing seems to bother them. I’ve seen them stand as if frozen in the snow for long lengths of time, out on a limb in inclement weather, sleeping on one leg in the pouring rain, baking on a rock in 100-degree sunshine. If the Great Blue Heron is moody and gets the blues one would never know it. They always appear quite content right where they are and would prefer to just be left alone! ☺

Occasionally you might spot a pair together, especially in the spring during mating season. This fall I’ve witnessed a number of them chasing each other around lake areas, eventually separating and going their own way.

The Great Blue Heron is such an interesting bird to watch, photograph, and paint. It is a sneaky predator and has a stealth-like manner in how it stalks its prey. It glides with grace traveling long distances with relative ease due to its huge wingspan. Takes-offs and landings can be somewhat awkward due to their long, stick-like legs and s-curved neck in flight. Herons will also stand still for long periods of time waiting patiently for fish to swim by, or will rest on one leg for hours.

No matter how they are posed, I always find them fascinating to watch and photograph. It’s always hard for me to choose how I want to portray them in my next Blue painting. Having just completed a close-up portrait of one, entitled The Great One, I thought it would be interesting to look back over my Great Blue Heron paintings, compare them, and write a little bit about each bird.

I’ll start with The Great One. This bird was striking. In one of my photographs I called him The Warrior because his feathers were a little fluffed up from a shake and it looked like he had a coat of armor on. He was a bird you wouldn’t want to mess with. ☺ He was alone, as I watched him groom himself to perfection. He rested-up on one leg for a while and, as if a switch was flicked, turned hunter off in pursuit of his prey.

The Great One    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

The Great One by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

I stumbled upon another solitary Blue on my birthday, January 10th. I was getting skunked on my morning bird outing. I looked up to the sky and kindly said, “It’s my birthday”. I looked down and in front of me and there he was, the Two Rivers Heron, standing in ice-cold water up to his knobby knees. He blended in with the grays, browns, and lavenders of the water surrounding him. I left him where I found him after spending at least a half hour photographing him. He was in no hurry and was appearing to enjoy his lazy, cold, Sunday morning.

Two Rivers Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Two Rivers Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

This next heron, entitled Beach Blue, was standing in the warm, clear waters of Sanibel, Florida. It was living the good life with plenty of fish to nibble on. A fisherman was nearby and he kept looking for the fisherman to toss him the small ones. Island living!

Beach Blue    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

Beach Blue by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

In The Dance, two Great Blue Herons are depicted performing a springtime mating ritual, dancing around each other with their heads pointed skyward. It was the first time I had seen two herons together enjoying each other’s company. It was as if the entire dance was choreographed.

The Dance    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

The Dance by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Unlike The Dance, this next painting captures the heron in a somewhat awkward moment, Taking Flight. Some birds are more skittish than others. A movement or noise can cause the bird to suddenly take flight. This particular bird loved to hang out on this fallen tree. The tree provided a nice vantage point looking out over the marsh below.

Taking Flight    by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

Taking Flight by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

I often spot Blues early in the morning or late in the day. This Blue was an early bird! I took an early morning walk down along the river and there he was already out standing in perfectly calm river water. Usually the river has a flow to it but on that particular morning it was glassy calm and the heron was in his happy place. Morning Calm on the James was inspired by that moment. No place to go, no hurry, no shirt and no shoes! ☺

Morning Calm    on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Morning Calm on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

If it wasn’t for seeing this next Blue flying in overhead and landing on the tree, I might never have spotted him among the Spanish Moss. I think the Lowcountry Heron thought he was undetectable, camouflaged by the hanging moss similar in color and shape. He found a sunny spot to take in the late day sun. What Blues don’t realize is that even though they blend into their surroundings nicely, their white face in the light always gives them away.

Lowcountry Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lowcountry Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lastly, this heron flew by low and slow. Prehistoric looking, huge in size and was on a mission. There was a fog over the lake but the bird stayed below radar, wings almost touching the surface. The painting is entitled Blue Morning and captures an early morning serene moment where the only noise around was the swooshing sound of the heron’s wings cutting through the moisture-laden air.

Blue Morning   by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Painting the Great Blue Heron is something I hope to do many more times. I hope those of you who love the Great Blue Heron enjoyed seeing my compilation of work over the last few years and reading about each bird.

I never get the Blues when I’m painting a Blue! Quite on the contrary. It puts me in my happy place.

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for following my art. I would love to hear from you if you would like to comment below. 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

The Black-crowned Night Herons of White Point Gardens ~ Graduating Class of 2018!  

Every hot and humid Charleston summer the live oaks in White Point Gardens become the nesting grounds for Black-crowned Night Herons. Some people know it as Battery Park but the official name is White Point Gardens. The Gardens are in the historic district of downtown Charleston just south of Broad on the southern tip of the peninsula. Every summer it is hoped that the night herons return. This summer was no exception!

Last summer was our first experience seeing the night herons enjoying the park. They were walking down the sidewalk, jumping up on park benches, and sleeping and resting on low hanging branches, where it was quite easy to get up close to them. They acted like they owned the place, seemingly unafraid of the public.  

They like to hang out around and on the military statues, on the cannons and piles of cannonballs, which were placed in the park after the Civil War. They nest in the very trees that the pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were hanged on! The place is said to be haunted but the night herons don’t seem to mind.  

Most of the summer the juveniles remain in their nest with the adults tending to them. You can hear the chatter back and forth and get glimpses of them up through the trees. But around Labor Day weekend the juveniles find their wings and can be spotted all around the park. 

I didn’t want this summer going by without checking out the Class of 2018. This season’s young ones didn’t disappoint. There are quite a few of them and they are becoming active. I took a number of photographs and thought I’d share some of them with you. 

Class Troublemaker!

Class Troublemaker!

Top of His Class!

Top of His Class!

Most Likely to Succeed!

Most Likely to Succeed!

Most Adventuresome!

Most Adventuresome!

Class President!

Class President!

Best Dressed!

Best Dressed!

Class Clown!

Class Clown!

Best Looking!

Best Looking!

Most Likely to Improve!

Most Likely to Improve!

Let’s hope they all fly off to lead healthy and productive lives. Soon they will return to White Point Gardens as adults and have nests of their own. Funny how time flies!  ☺  

Please check back soon to see what’s on my easel next. I’m thinking it might be another marsh 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

Birding at Huntington Beach State Park ~ worth the trip!  

We’ve been meaning to make the short hour and 15 minute drive north from Mount Pleasant, SC, to Huntington Beach State Park for a while now. A local birder told me that there are Roseated Spoonbills there throughout the summer, a bird I haven’t seen much in our short time living in South Carolina. I’d heard from a number of sources that it is one of the best birdwatching locations in the state. They were right!  I took over 500 pics in a couple of hours.  

As we drove into the 2500 acre park the road turned into a causeway over a large saltmarsh. Birds of many kinds were on both sides of the street feeding at low tide in the shallow water. Anhingas were drying their wings while perched on posts. Egrets and herons were flying back and forth over the causeway.  Spoonbills were off in the distance.

Anhinga getting ready to take off after drying its wings.

Anhinga getting ready to take off after drying its wings.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

We knew the causeway would be a great place to photograph but we started further into the park at the marsh boardwalk. White Ibis and Snowy Egrets were feeding close by the boardwalk. A Green Heron was lurking in-between the railing, walking down the boardwalk, and dancing on the top railing!  

Green Heron busting a move!

Green Heron busting a move!

Another location in the park was a favorite of this Little Blue Heron. He was all alone, but from a birding platform we were able to spot various kinds of herons and egrets flying back and forth from fairly close up.  

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

The causeway allows birders to photograph on both sides of the road, which is ideal because you can count on having the sun at your back most of the time, if you so choose. It also allows you to look out over the expansive marshland. Today happened to have a big sky with a dramatic cloud formation over the marsh. I’ve been looking for marsh scenes to paint and this one might be on the list.  

Huntington Beach Marsh

Huntington Beach Marsh

I saw more Green Herons and Tricolored Herons than I’ve ever seen in one location. There were plenty of Great White Egrets too. We didn’t get to see the Roseated Spoonbills up close, so that will have to be on another trip. 

As we were getting ready to leave, this beautiful Tricolored Heron flew up onto the boardwalk railing. I was struck by its size and coloring.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

I’m sure there are certain times of day and year that Huntington Beach State Park would have many more birds than we saw today, but I was more than pleased with what we saw in our short time there. I can’t wait to go back.

Two Anhingas

Two Anhingas

I hope you like the pics of the birds that made the cut for this blog. Some might find there way into future paintings. 

Thanks for reading my journal and following my art and photography. I will be finishing a small shrimp boat scene in the next few days and will be posting a blog about it soon thereafter.  Thanks!!!


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