The Watchful Guardian ~ a female Great Blue Heron on high alert!

The Watchful Guardian    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 30, Oil on canvas, $6200

The Watchful Guardian by William R. Beebe, 24 x 30, Oil on canvas, $6200

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?

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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!


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

Portrait of a Young Great Blue Heron ~ Creating a Likeness!

This bird is etched in my memory. It wasn’t the easiest of birds to photograph. In fact, you could say I went way out on a limb to photograph him. Actually, it was a very narrow long pier, maybe a foot wide that went out over the water about 20 feet to a tall piling at the end. The young Great Blue Heron was 15 feet beyond that on top of a stand-alone piling in the water.

I had my good camera with my zoom lens and I was dressed to go to dinner with some friends. I could get fairly close from the main dock, but if I were to walk the narrow part of the pier I’d be really close. This would require extremely good balance and some nerve! I wasn’t feeling confident and the consequences of falling were unthinkable. :)

If I succeeded in walking the plank and taking the close-up shots I desired, then I’d have to turn around and perform a balancing act all the way back. I chose to go for it! A few wobbles along the way led to wondering if I’d done the right thing. I made it to the end of the pier and proceeded to take dozens of pictures as the bird showed no sign of being afraid or of flying off.

In fact, it dozed off here and there while on one leg. I have pictures of him with his eyes closed, and also with his head tucked way into his body. The sun would shine a little brighter and he would wake up and look around. It appeared to be hunkered down for the evening.

The Great Blue Heron was a young bird, as indicated by his immature coat of feathers and color pattern. Young herons have a black/gray top of the head and an overall brownish/gray pattern to its neck and shoulder feathers. The large primary and secondary feathers have whitish tips to them. The upper beak in a young bird has dark grays and blacks for the most part.

My recent painting entitled The Great One is a good example of what a mature Great Blue Heron looks like in comparison to an immature bird like this one.

After holding onto the end piling and taking way too many pictures, I knew I had to leave to be on time for dinner. I inched my way back to dry land, one step in front of the other, heal to toe, praying the whole time that I didn’t ruin everything by falling sideways into the murky, brown saltwater.

I made it unscathed! I’ve always enjoyed looking back at my photographs of this handsome bird and recalling the efforts I made to get close enough to capture all of the detail in the bird’s feather patterns.

When I decided it was time to paint him, I knew I wanted to include as much detail as necessary to create a likeness. I wanted to be able to look at my painting and have it take me back to the end of that pier.

I enjoyed working on a large scale (24” by 36”), painting in the detail, and looking for subtle changes in color or feather patterns that help identify this particular bird.

I’ve decided to call this painting Junior Blue. He is the son of a Great Blue Heron, handsome, alert, and looks a lot like his father when he was of similar age. :)

Junior Blue    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas,  $7200

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Junior Blue   by William R. Beebe, head detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, head detail

Junior Blue   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Thank you for reading my journal and for following my art! I can foresee another bird portrait coming up in the near future, so please check back soon to see what’s next on the easel.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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