Portraits of Wildflowers

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White Egret in Dead Trees 8174

See how this gleaming white great egret (Ardea alba) contrasts with the bare branches of the dead trees all around it. You can also contrast this bird with the somewhat bedraggled gull you saw a few days ago hunkered down on an Indiana beach. And then there’s the contrast with the second and much smaller egret below and to the left of the prominent one. The great egret, by the way, is the largest white heron in Texas.

Today’s photograph comes from Southeast Metropolitan Park on September 1.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2016 at 4:58 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Someone else I know posted a great egret image the other day. Not satisfied with being a fair to middlin’ egret, this guy decided to be a great one.

    Steve Gingold

    September 5, 2016 at 5:52 AM

  2. Plus the contrast, to my mind at least, of a long gangly water bird that roosts and nests atop trees.


    September 5, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    • That’s a good additional contrast. I’ve seen herons standing in shallow water but never, as far as I recall, floating on the surface the way a duck does.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2016 at 8:39 AM

      • Well no, not usually. Yesterday I was watching a seagull bobbing along on the waves and I felt envious of his amphibious life. Ducks have a time of it on land, but gulls are at ease in every element it seems. I’d gone out to the Beach to enjoy a lovely evening with my son. We sat on the sidelines, on a dune, and I wished for a small boat to bob along on the waves. Still, the air was cool, the water was incredible shades of blue and green, and no bugs were bugging us. It was pretty great.


        September 6, 2016 at 6:27 AM

        • That sounds great: wish we could’ve been there with you. How convenient to have such a large body of water so close by.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 6, 2016 at 6:32 AM

          • True. I was utterly spoiled as a kid, with a small lake in the back yard. Every day found me on it or in it, often both, even in winter. It was small and muddy, rather than grand and scenic, but full of life and adventure and accessible. For now I make do with the big lake! 🙂


            September 6, 2016 at 6:38 AM

            • When I was growing up on Long Island we lived about half an hour from several Atlantic Ocean beaches and spent many a summer afternoon there. If only we were a half-hour drive from an ocean now. The nearest place to Austin on the Gulf of Mexico is a good four-hour drive. You’re fortunate to be approximately in my childhood range.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 6, 2016 at 6:47 AM

              • I am indeed. I know you love it where you are but do you ever consider moving closer to a shore?


                September 6, 2016 at 7:11 AM

                • No, it would be too tedious to move at this age. There’s no ocean close by, but Austin’s a good place to live. I’m happy to have creeks and canyons close to our current house in the hilly west side of town, which we moved to 12 years ago.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 6, 2016 at 7:17 AM

  3. Fantastic shot.


    September 5, 2016 at 8:11 AM

  4. Nice shot Steve .. The background is often as important 😄


    September 5, 2016 at 1:28 PM

  5. Did you happen to look around for a nest? It’s past the breeding season, but nestlings can be found well into August, so you never know. They do like to build nests in trees, from 10′ – 40′ high (sometimes higher) and they like to use sticks, so this looks like the perfect nesting spot to me. There certainly is a lot of building material at hand — or at beak, if you will.

    I finally gave your Technique #8 a try today. Using the flash to shed a little extra light on a subject certainly can make a difference, and once I figured out how to adjust the flash level, it worked out nicely.


    September 5, 2016 at 3:29 PM

    • No, I didn’t look for a nest. The egrets (there were three) moved several times to high perches around the pond as I got close. Possibly one of those places harbored a nest.

      Good for you for trying out flash fill. As you say, finding the balance between flash and ambient light can be tricky, but with stationary subjects there’s no reason not to take several pictures, each with a different balance of flash and ambient light. If you take your pictures in RAW mode, you have even more leeway to adjust things afterwards.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2016 at 4:26 PM

  6. What a tangle of branches. One would think that a bird with such long wings would have difficulty flying through them without bruising the anterior edge of a wing. But, of course, I’m just playing the tempting part of the sidewalk superintendent.


    September 5, 2016 at 10:43 PM

    • Truth to tell, the egrets seemed to have no trouble at all flying into and out of these dead trees. Three were here as I originally started photographing from afar, then all took off when I got too close for their comfort. By the time I’d walked completely around the pond, stopping to take many pictures, it was an hour and a half later, and the scene with the dead trees was as you see it here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2016 at 10:56 PM

  7. A striking image. It always seems strange to see big herons in trees. In the UK we get the odd rare visit from impressive Great Egrets, one recently dropped in to our most local reserve and had folks flocking to see it.


    September 9, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    • It’s not uncommon in central Texas to see herons in trees. What normally happens is that I’ll be out walking near a pond when a heron that was down by or in the water—often a bird I hadn’t been aware of because it was so low and hidden from my sight by foliage—will suddenly take off and fly over to the safety of trees on the other side of the pond.

      Too bad that egrets aren’t more common where you are in the UK.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2016 at 8:01 AM

      • Our native Grey Herons nest communally in trees but I still think they look out of place there! Little egrets are increasing in numbers here at quite a rate, attributed to our winters getting warmer, and apparently a Great egret pair did produce one offspring here back in 2012, so maybe one day they’ll be added to our list of resident birds. Are Texan numbers increased with migrant birds from the North during the colder months?


        September 9, 2016 at 9:48 AM

        • To tell the truth, I’m not a birder and don’t have information to answer your question, but my impression is that migrant bird numbers do increase in Texas during the winter. The Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas is known as a great place to watch birds, and plenty of people from up north go to that region to get away from winter chills. Those who spend the winter down there are known as snow birds, and I can say for sure that the numbers of those birds do increase.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2016 at 2:25 PM

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