Line of Sight – A Great Egret’s stare!

Looking for the catch of the day. Photo by William R. Beebe

Looking for the catch of the day. Photo by William R. Beebe

I watched as the Great Egret searched the fisherman’s boat for baitfish and for the catch of the day. Once he realized he was striking out, he stood on the edge of the boat and refocused, looking out into the water. As he stared down past his long sharp beak, I stared at him through my lens.

He was a strikingly handsome egret, larger than most. The green around his eye and on his beak (known as the lore) turns a bright emerald green when it is mating season. I found his profile so striking that I decided to paint him on a large scale (30” by 30”).

Line of Sight    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 30, Oil on canvas, $6800

Line of Sight by William R. Beebe, 30 x 30, Oil on canvas, $6800

Line of Sight (head detail) by William R. Beebe

Line of Sight (head detail) by William R. Beebe

His eyes were intensely focused; surely there was a fish in his line of sight. His head rested gently on the curve of his neck, while he gazed into the ocean waters. It was the fish’s good fortune that the egret was in a relaxed state.

This egret was a smart bird. He knew the bait traps were close by and that raiding the traps was easy pickings. Why work so hard for a meal stalking fish along the shoreline, when the seafood buffet is right in front of you?

Raiding the bait cage. Photo by William R. Beebe

Raiding the bait cage. Photo by William R. Beebe

Sure the fish are small but he could at least put away a dozen or so before his big meal of the day.

All the while, I watched and photographed. When I choose to paint a bird portrait, I like to paint the birds that stand out from others. This egret I remember well because of his antics and how statuesque he looked when posing.

“I’m a really good driver!” Photo by William R. Beebe

“I’m a really good driver!” Photo by William R. Beebe

Thank you for reading my journal and for following my artwork. Please check back soon to see what’s on my easel next.

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 Birdman of Assateague! ~ Exploring with Beebe

Last week, with my Canon Digital Rebel camera all charged up and an overnight bag packed, I set out for a two day photography excursion to Assateague Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  After many recent outings to local wetlands, I thought that it might be time to take this waterfowl/bird thing to the next level.  I’ve spent many years out on the water, schooner hunting, but this was my first time wandering the wilderness in search of the avian species.

Driving through the neighboring town of Chincoteague, I noticed a street named Beebe Rd.  I thought to myself, it must be named after C. William Beebe the naturalist/oceanographer/writer, whom I wrote several biographies about in school as a kid.  For sure, my distant relative, whom my father met, had wandered the same trails back in the early 1900’s that I soon would be hiking.

I made a mental note, that when I returned home I would look through storage and find the book that I borrowed from the Catawba College library back in 1975 and never returned, entitled Exploring with Beebe, and read it!  The only other person to ever check out the book was back in May of 1956, so I don’t feel so bad. :-)

The weather cooperated and I was able to document a variety of species of waterfowl and shorebirds on film (digital).  I walked many miles along nicely paved paths that circled the large wetlands.  Starting out on Beach Road, I spotted numerous white egrets and snowy egrets.  Along the Wildlife Loop, I spotted a great blue heron, many more egrets, a blue-winged teal duck or two, a green heron, martins etc...  I photographed terns diving into Shoveler Pool and a Lesser Yellowlegs strutting his stuff. 

I took hundreds of pictures, many of which I’m excited to paint.  My mini-expedition was very successful and my energy level is way up.  I managed to get by with only a few mosquito bites.  It happened to be a relatively slow time for seeing migratory birds, so I am planning on going back when I know certain species are more likely to be there. 

Thinking of myself amusingly as the “Birdman” upon my return, I found Exploring with Beebe and started reading.  Turns out, C. William Beebe was and remains The Birdman!  He wrote books entitled Two Bird-Lovers in Mexico in 1905, The Bird in 1906, Pheasants: Their Lives and Homes in 1926, and many other books and manuscripts, documenting his expeditions for the New York Zoological Society to places like the Galapagos Islands, the jungles of South America, Borneo and just about any other exotic place one can think of. 

Early in his career, he became the curator for the New York Zoo, and was the one that introduced a “flying cage” for the birds.  On his many travels, he himself would catch rare and unusual species of birds and transport them back for all to view at the New York Zoo. 

His achievements were many and he became quite famous in his day. As I read his many exploits of handling large iguanas and giant lizards, sharing the ground with deadly poisonous yellow and black bushmaster snakes in the jungles and tropical swamps of Panama, trekking through the thickets of dense unexplored jungles, and lowering himself to record setting depths of the sea while avoiding sharks, I can’t help but think what a nice walk in the park I had at Assateague!!!!!!!!! :-)

Turns out, one of C. William Beebe’s many expeditions was to the Great Barrier Islands of Virginia.  So in the end, I most likely was literally following in C. William Beebe’s footsteps and figuratively exploring with Beebe!

Here are a few of my photos from my little adventure.