Sometimes it works

Back at the beginning of the month, I lucked out and got some frames of a rare subject around here, but I was still in the throes of code mangling and didn’t want to do a post then. Looking at them later, I felt they didn’t stand too well alone, and wanted to get something to accompany them. Yesterday evening before dinner, I did a quick pass around the neighborhood pond and, to my utter astonishment (okay, maybe it was only mild delight,) actually got what I was after. As the title says, sometimes it works. But as my experience says, don’t get used to that.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea stalking alongside pond
The Girlfriend and I were out in the evening just before sunset, back on the 2nd, and I was stalking the secretive green heron brood that I knew was in the immediate area, when this guy appeared between the gravel road and the pond margin, not terribly concerned with people being nearby. This is a juvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea,) about adult size but bearing none of the coloration of an adult, save for the eyes.

Adult size, by the way, is roughly the same as a crow in body length and girth, with of course a longer neck – perhaps slightly larger than a green heron, but not appreciably. I usually find them more towards the coast, though I think they run the entire state of Florida. The Girlfriend and I spotted another juvie last year, poking around the edge of the pond at night, but I couldn’t determine for sure if it was a yellow-crowned or a black-crowned; as juveniles, they’re almost identical.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea in profile
This one was definitely hanging around the green herons, which seemed a little odd to me, but it wasn’t half as spooky as those tend to be, so when my cautious approach nevertheless sent the green herons across the lake, my subject here glanced casually at me and went back to its hunting. The sun had set, the light was dropping, and I knew I wasn’t going to get a whole lot more opportunities – if past experience was any indication, the pond was only a brief stopover before it moved on to somewhere else. So while it was posed so nicely in a break in the foliage, I shot a little video. None of that is worth viewing, since handheld at 600mm is enough to make even me seasick, but I got very lucky in that it called during one clip, and I was able to extract the audio, to which I applied a little noise reduction to cull the sound of the main road a few hundred meters away.

Call of juvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea looking at photographer
As disapproving as it looks here, the night heron really wasn’t too concerned with our presence, though we remained very low key. It vented a single call every few minutes, which was eventually answered in the distance – as you might imagine, they carry better than most bird calls – and mom (I suppose) appeared wheeling overhead, whereupon the young’un took flight and joined her, and they flew off over the trees. Haven’t seen a sign of either since, nor heard any calls.

A few days later (while checking, donchaknow,) there was a great egret (Ardea alba) that came in and perched high in one of the trees off the pond. This happens occasionally, and again, always temporarily, but I suspect part of that is because there is usually a great blue that stakes its territory on the pond, which is lacking this year. I was working at a much greater distance than with the night heron, so this is what we have.

great egret Ardea alba perched in tree
And again, every time I’ve been out since has shown no sign of it. I get the feeling this pond is a like a bus stop for wading birds…

But what I’ve been after for a while are the green herons (Butorides virescens) – off and on, admittedly, when time permits, so it’s not like I’ve been out for hours each day trying. Two years running now, we’ve had a brood that, if I’m reading the signs correctly, were hatched in a thicket of trees on the pond’s edge within easy reach, but they’re so thick, I can know that two herons are perched therein and never spot them. The edge is straight through there for a ways, so the only open view I might have is from on the water, something I’m not attempting with the photo equipment. So I watch carefully, hoping to see them hunting along the water’s edge, though usually they see me before I see them and fly off.

Not quite with last night’s attempt, though.

green heron  Butorides virescens stalking on mudbar
I was only out for a chance encounter, intending to spend no more than a half-hour or so, and came across this one down at the quiet, shaded end of the pond; when I first spotted it, it was stretched straight and tall, watching me, trying to emulate a reed. I slipped back behind a tree and affixed the long lens, then slowly crept out and had a seat on the ground for stability, and got a small selection of photos, getting a little lucky with the sun peeking through the branches.

green heron Butorides virescens and reflection
The one thing I’ve noticed about green herons is that, if they’re actively hunting, they tune out the approach of humans a whole lot more than normally, and slow quiet stalking can produce a closer vantage. This one seemed torn between my presence and the minnow activity in the shallows, and hung around a bit, though staring frequently at me in suspicion; I wasn’t moving, but the shutter and motor drive was doing its thing.

green heron Butorides virescens stalking on mudflat
The heron did a little stalking, not even getting close enough to strike, then abruptly seemed to feel that I was too much of a danger and flew off. I’m cool; for a quick, casual attempt, I got enough decent frames. I went home, cooked dinner, and then got into game night online, so overall, I count yesterday as well spent – I did better yesterday with a half-ass outing, than today with a prolonged one (previous post.) Whatever works.

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