My second attempt at bird photography took me to the pond in Law Park, Briarcliff Manor where we’ve lived for the past 20 years. I’ve seen and photographed great blue heron, cormorants, and egrets there before usually in the distance, with inadequate lenses which then required me to crop drastically (with subsequent lack of quality) to make anything visible. That was why I wanted the 400mm lens. (See:A birthday present).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the 400mm lens with me. I’d left it with my Sony A77II up at our lake house. Instead I used an older Sony A500 and Minolta Maxxum 100-200mm f4.5 lens that I’d left in our house in Briarcliff Manor. Luckily the bird allowed me to get fairly close.

It’s a green heron. It’s quite small (about 1.5 feet) and somewhat brightly colored in a dull sort of way. Actually there were three of them vying for possession of the small branch in the middle of the pond. Eventually the largest of the three took possession and held it for the remainder of the time I was there. Apparently green herons are one of the few species of bird known to use tools. In particular, they commonly use bread crusts, insects, or other items as bait. The bait is dropped onto the surface of a body of water in order to lure fish. When a fish takes the bait, the green heron will then grab and eat the fish. When green herons catch large frogs, they will drown before before swallowing whole.

I’d already taken a number of pictures of it when I suspected that it was getting ready for action. It sort of crouched, looking intently into the water and then uncoiled: the body tilted, the neck extended to an incredible length and in a flash it was into the water and then back out again with a tadpole in its beak. Actually if you closely at the last picture you see that rather than grabbing the the tadpole it has speared it. I had thought that it would dive into the water (e.g. the way a kingfisher or a cormorant might) but it didn’t. It’s legs never left the branch.

Incredible! I was so excited to get this.

Leave a Reply