“Surfing” Grey Herons

a dedicated predator

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Our long beachcombing adventures are enlivened by wildlife. Grey Herons stalking the surf line, the interface between the Atlantic Ocean and the shore, stop us in place, fascinated.

I pack an iPhone sometimes for beachcombing as a lightweight alternative to SLRs. This post features iPhone photographs.

There are two varieties of “surfing” Grey Herons: those looking for a handout from fishermen and independent operators. These photographs are of the latter, active feeders searching the wash for edibles: fish and crustaceans. These progress verrrrryyyyyy slooooowwwwllllyyyy, at a level high enough to avoid breaking waves, low enough for their long legs to be submerged.

A perfect place to stalk the surf

The heron appears to be mesmerized by the waves until, suddenly, the head tilts slightly, the serpentine neck extends quick as a striking rattlesnake, the sharp beak pierces the water to emerge sometimes empty.

Success!!

When successful, the beak holds an improbably large fish. The heron stands there, adjusting the catch with imperceptible head motions, until the victim is aligned lengthwise with the beak and gullet. A quick jerk forward and the catch is propelled into the upper throat, which expands. A few more jerks and it is consumed whole, unchewed. An amazing process to witness and only possible if you take the time for the slow process.

Another element is the heron’s tolerance of human observers. These herons ignore us if we keep an adequate distance. Elsewhere, a heron will take wings at the slightest provocation, as simple as a glance of a human and these will fly, uttering a raucous, rasping goodbye.

These photographs are from morning excursions, the subject is backlit. Afternoons, we do not encounter many stalking herons when the light is better. The individuals looking for handouts are out in the afternoon, generally, after the fishermen has thinned out. Don’t know why that is.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Lady Feeding Gulls, Cocoa Beach Dawn

unflappable lady hand feeds seagulls

When my wife read my post “Black Skimmers Feeding” she asked, “Where is the photo of resting Skimmers?”

To answer her question I looked through Cocoa Beach photographs and discovered I did NOT capture the Skimmers resting.  Instead, here are a related species, the Royal Tern (scientific name: Thalasseus maximus), whose behavior is similar in that it exclusively feeds from the water. There was a wind that morning and these individuals face into it.  These birds are, from a human point of view, well behaved, unlike the opportunistic gull.

Royal Terns at rest – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

I searched around the web for identification of this gull without success.

Scavenging Gull – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

It dines on a dead fish washed up by the surf.  In my previous posting I used the word “grifting” to describe gull behavior, again this is from the human point of view.  Gulls are notorious for stealing food from unwary beach goers, brazening walking over to unguarded chips (any kind), for instance, grabbing them and flying off.  If the chip stash is large, this sets off a nasty feeding frenzy when tens of gulls swoop in and grab.

Here is a series of photographs, demonstrating this behavior.

Click this link or any image in this article for my Fine Art Gallery from Florida.

The dawn flowed over Cocoa Beach as a lady attracted a crowd of hungry gulls, reminiscent of scenes from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

She is obviously an experienced gull feeder, unflappable with a steady hand.

Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

She had come to the shore at dawn for a photo shoot.  Her male companion (husband?) was there with a camera.

Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

Pam and I were there for the dawn, me with the Sony camera.
Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

At first, I stood there amazed at the spectacle.  She was in such control of the situation, not a victim, more like a lion tamer.

Then, Pam said, “You have to get this.”  And I did.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Katrina Sunrise, August 28, 2005

The effects of the category 5 hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast and New Orleans as the sun rose on the West End of Jones Beach on Long Island, August 28, 2005. This amazing sunrise was an element of the unusual atmospheric effects that are evidence of the power of this storm.

The featured image (heading this blog) is my print, “Katrina Sunrise”.  This work is enjoyed by hundreds of my clients.  Use the link, below, to acquire your own.  Custom framing is available.

Click this link for Katrina Sunrise from my Memory Dreams Reflections Online gallery
The following images are the rough drafts taken in the early morning hours. The beach was literally deserted as I mounted the camera and framed the view for this series. Many image captions include the file time stamp, for example 6:07:13 is 6 am and 7 minutes 13 seconds.

West End Sunrise 6:07:13
6:07:13 First image of the set. Below the horizon the sun lights the upper atmosphere.

West End Sunrise 6:07:34
6:07:34 As the sun approaches the horizon the lower clouds catch light. My Camera was a Sony DSC-F828 tripod mounted with a polarizing filter.

West End Sunrise 6:07:56
6:07:56 I panned slightly to the east. ISO was set to 64 throughout.

West End Sunrise 6:08:16
6:08:16 Gradual brightening. The lens is 7.1 – 51.0 mm f/2.0-2.8.

West End Sunrise 6:08:38
6:08:38 All levels are brighter. It seems those low clouds will block the horizon. That was not the case. The variable focal length is 15.6 mm.

West End Sunrise 6:09:05
6:09:05 It is happening!!!! Exposure was set to automatic on a f stop of 8.0. It was 1/3 second for this image.

West End Sunrise 6:14:34
6:14:34 The view is panned west. That is the Robert Moses water tower of Jones Beach State Park looking like a rocket ready to blast off.

West End Sunrise 6:15:15
6:15:15 Will those low clouds block the sun? Looks promising.

West End Sunrise 6:16:11
6:16:11 Clouds on the upper margin catching the sun. Horizon brightening….. Exposure 1/20 second.

West End Sunrise 6:14:39
6:14:39 This will be a disappointment if that sun does not show. Exposure 1/25 second.

West End Sunrise 6:18:27
6:18:27 Almost there….1/15 second exposure….

West End Sunrise 6:19:07
6:19:07 Quick framing adjustment to bring the lighting of shore margin into the composition. The final version was created from two images captured seconds after this.

Hurricane Rainbow Panorama
As the sun rose a rainbow formed in the western sky.

Click this link for my blog “Sunrise Photo Album March 2 2017.”

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved