A Couple More Great Blue Heron Shots

I doubt I’ll get back to Big Beef Creek this year unless the season runs longer than usual, so I’ll end this episode with a couple of my favorite shots of the Great Blue Herons.

The main reason this is my favorite place to shoot herons is that you actually get to look down on them as they fly past,

and you’ll never find them with a bigger catch than they make here routinely.

The Value of Patience

As it turned out the birding was better at Seabeck than at Big Beef Creek. I saw my first juveniles at Seabeck. This one flew over my head and landed a block or so down the road and waited for me to get there before flying off.

As I headed back to where the herons were feeding, this beautiful adult landed in almost the same spot and seemed entirely indifferent to my presence, giving me time to change the angle and the background. It was strangely thrilling being this close to these powerful birds.

Unfortunately, I was seduced by the close-up shots so I missed the kind of shots I was really shooting for. While walking back, the Bald Eagle flew past and buzzed the herons to get them to drop their catch.

A few minutes later the juvenile pulled the same trick.

Maybe in my next life I’ll learn the value of patience, though not if the last 75 years are any indication.

Eagles at Big Beef Creek

Because the Great Blue Herons weren’t catching sculpin near the shore, there weren’t many Bald Eagles at Big Beef Creek. The pair that seem to live there were hanging out together in the tall fir and they both flew out, caught a sculpin, and flew back

to same tree where they seem to feed on their catch every time I’ve been there.

After feeding, the pair rejoined each other on the beach and proceeded to “sing” for a steady five minutes — the first time I’ve observed that behavior.

It was slow enough and the tide was far enough out that I decided after a few hours to go to Seabeck to see what I could see there.

Just Paint Me Optimistic

As a photographer, I always believe that my next picture is going to be the best picture that I’ve ever taken. If I didn’t believe that, it certainly wouldn’t make any sense to have returned to Big Beef Creek early in the morning last week. Hoping to see some interaction between eagles and more interactions between eagles and Great Blue Herons (GBH), I got up early and arrived at Big Beef Creek about two hours after high tide.

Again I was rewarded with some shots of Great Blue Heron flying over in early morning light.

Unfortunately, the GBH were not catching any fish close to shore, and all I got was shots of them flying by.

Like any good fisherman, the herons started looking for better fishing grounds, which meant moving further and further away from where I was photographing. I was able to get a few shots that I liked, like this one,

but it didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t going to get anything special when they were this far away.

Bald Eagles at Big Beef Creek

Photographers go to Big Beef Creek this time of year to get shots of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. I’ve been there twice so far and have managed to get a few nice shots of Bald Eagles, but so far there seem to have been far fewer Bald Eagles than in previous years. On our last visit I didn’t see a single juvenile Bald Eagle and only saw five or six mature Bald Eagles.

Most of the shots I got were of this pair of Bald Eagles

who showed up early and stuck around only long enough to fill themselves up.

This eagle caught its own fish rather than stealing it from the Great Blue Herons.

I use the word "caught" cautiously, though, because the sculpin was stranded in shallow water and the eagle swooped down and swept it up.

It was a still a thrill to have it swoop so close in front of me that I could see the mud on his tail feathers.

The only other sequence I caught was this one of a Bald Eagle flying almost straight at me

before veering off to my right and flying over my shoulder.

Though I liked these shots I was disappointed at how few Bald Eagles there seem to be, and particularly that there didn’t seem to be a sing juvenile eagle. The older Bald Eagles have learned to get food with the least fuss whether by harassing a Great Blue Heron into dropping a fish or just picking a stranded one off the beach. Immature Bald Eagles, on the other hand, seem to enjoy harassing the older eagles or harassing the herons simply to be harassing them. Like human teenagers they crave action, just like wildlife photographers.

Bald Eagle Catching Fish

I’ll have to admit I have so many shots of Eagles sitting in the trees around Big Beef Creek that I usually ignore them after they’ve landed, but I was bored enough at the beginning of this visit that I took several shots and got the chance to see this Bald Eagle swoop down and pick up a fish.

The sun even peeked through the clouds long enough to provide some excellent light for the short time this took.