Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Snowy egret

with 47 comments


At California’s Martinez Regional Shoreline last November 2nd I got low and slowly worked my way closer and closer to the bird shown here. Later, profiting from a site that tells how to distinguish white herons, I identified my subject as a snowy egret, Egretta thula.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2017 at 5:00 AM

47 Responses

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  1. Up close….excellent!


    February 5, 2017 at 5:04 AM

    • Fortunately the egret stayed put for a while so I could get close enough for a good portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 5:27 AM

  2. Beautiful shot, Steve – I love the play of shadow and light, especially the feather details on the back of the neck. These are beautiful birds; I saw the similar Great Egrets every day when I lived in Virginia Beach – a sight to remember.


    February 5, 2017 at 6:07 AM

    • In some of the other photographs I took of the egret, the feathers at the top of its head were raised. I don’t know if the bird lifted those feathers in an action that signifies something, or if a breeze lifted the feathers.

      I understand why you have fond memories of egret sightings in Virginia Beach. Coincidentally, I spent part of the summer of 1970 there. I remember meditating on the beach early in the morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 6:24 AM

      • Ah yes, Steve, contemplating the sunrise is a long tradition there; I first visited VB in 1972 and eventually moved there for a few years in the 80’s. The footage of sun on ocean in my video “Light” was shot in Virginia Beach.


        February 5, 2017 at 8:07 AM

        • I thought of settling in Virginia Beach but it didn’t happen. Other places I seriously considered at various times were California and northern New Mexico. I’m now in my 41st year in Austin and not likely to move.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 5, 2017 at 9:46 AM

  3. I like the softer background, and the play of shadows in the many curves. I see so many of these birds on a daily basis that it’s always good to see a photo that captures their beauty. It’s a reminder to look a little more closely when I see the next one.


    February 5, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    • You’re fortunate to live near the coast, where you can see so many of these egrets. Looking closely is good, and for a photographer trying to photograph a bird, getting close is the key. That’s a combination of physical distance and the optical closeness that a long lens provides. People who regularly photograph birds use long and heavy lenses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 8:18 AM

      • One of the first birding tips I received was, “If you see someone with a camera with a white lens attached, follow them.”


        February 5, 2017 at 8:26 AM

        • I take it the person was referring to the long “white” lenses that are part of Canon’s L-Series.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 5, 2017 at 8:55 AM

          • Yes, indeed. I learned that later.


            February 5, 2017 at 8:59 AM

            • The one member of that series that I have is a relatively mild and light-weight 70–200mm, to which I’ve added a 1.4x extender (thereby yielding a range of 98–280mm). I made today’s egret portrait at the maximum 280mm.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 5, 2017 at 9:38 AM

  4. I really enjoy this close up image of an egret. Aren’t they lovely?


    February 5, 2017 at 8:53 AM

    • They are. The S-curve of its neck adds to the impression.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 8:57 AM

      • Yes. In the field I watch herons and egrets. I’ve noticed that when hunting the egret stands with its neck held stiffly straight up while the heron holds its head lowered, ready to strike.


        February 7, 2017 at 8:40 AM

  5. It’s a beautiful shot and bird. Here we have cattle egrets too!


    February 5, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    • The Cornell ornithology website notes of the cattle egret: “Originally from Africa, it found its way to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent.” That’s fast work, and all in my lifetime. I’ve seen cattle egrets on cows in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 9:41 AM

  6. One reward of watching a shrimp harvest is the bumper ‘crop’ of herons and egrets, gulls and terns, stilts and sandpipers, ibis and frigates… Sometimes the pelicans drop in to participate. The snowy egrets are easily identified here by looking for their black stockings and yellow slippers! They are quite comical to watch, as they often fluff those silky plumes when food fights arise.

    Yesterday morning I photographed birds while my friends harvested a pond. Strong light, blue skies – it was an amazing morning, and I now have a bumper crop of images to wade through. Presently the progress is still in ‘earthquake survivor’ photos, but the ‘Whooping Motmot’ that greeted me yesterday morning will be in queue soon, then the shrimp piscina photos, then more earthquake images… I may never finish this work session!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    February 5, 2017 at 10:28 AM

    • Yes, you sure harvested a lot more than shrimp, at least in terms of images. We look forward to seeing the fruits of your labors.

      As for fluffed plumes, I had a feeling that they convey messages to other herons, who know how to read them. Seems like you’ve learned to read some of them too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 11:35 AM

  7. The link led to a very-interesting read; thank you. I paused when it showed the “Little Egret” (Little Egret? really?) I’ll start critiquing those snowy egret images a bit closer in case this ‘accidental’ reaches the equator!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    February 5, 2017 at 10:36 AM

    • I’m glad you found the link useful. I was surprised to learn that some of these birds are found across large regions of North and even South America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2017 at 11:32 AM

      • the ‘awakening hour,’ as Thoreau so eloquently stated, gifts the early riser an amazing experience at the mangroves near CasaLoca. even before one can truly decipher shapes in the darkness, little splotches of white take flight, growing in number minute by minute as the egrets, herons and ibis leave the roost and head for the best breakfast options for that day. For at least an hour, it’s an amazing experience just to sit and watch…
        At the end of the day, they return, with the same attitude in reverse. Little by little the green foliage of the mangroves transforms to thousands of baubles of white..

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        February 5, 2017 at 11:59 AM

        • At least an hour: you’re fortunate. You describe it as I’d expect a visual artist to. Do the different types of birds interact in any ways?

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2017 at 1:26 PM

          • Oh, when one bird gets a shrimp or crab, the rest dash to try to get it.. I have a series of photos of a gull trying to get the shrimp from an egret – it’s quite funny.. one photo shows what looks like the gull riding the egret’s back! the next photo shows the gull flying skyward and the egret reaching skyward to ‘bite’ the gull..

            Playamart - Zeebra Designs

            February 7, 2017 at 10:15 PM

  8. The Cornell ornithology website is a good one.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 5, 2017 at 3:33 PM

  9. The yellow feet reveal all……

    Clifford Hill

    February 5, 2017 at 4:41 PM

  10. Beautiful close up!! These birds have such an elegant look.


    February 5, 2017 at 8:17 PM

  11. Oh well done! What a beauty Steve .. bet you were holding your breath


    February 7, 2017 at 12:42 AM

    • I’m always apprehensive when I approach a bird, and I start taking pictures from farther away than I’d like, just to be sure of getting something.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2017 at 1:30 PM

  12. Wonderful shot, Steve. Great stalking techniques. 🙂 They are beautiful birds.

    Jane Lurie

    February 7, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    • I moved slowly, that’s for sure. I had a telephoto lens on my camera, so I wasn’t physically as close as the picture makes it seem.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2017 at 1:33 PM

  13. Great shot.


    June 27, 2017 at 9:19 PM

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