Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Winged Angels 42

Imagine sitting among winged angels. That was my experience last night. 

After observing 42 Great Egrets for several days, I knew the time and exact site in the shallow lake to set up. I planned to photograph these beauties before they moved on. I know their patterns of feeding during the day and how they move as the sun drops lower in the sky. They typically feed at the ponds and then move to the shallow lake to forage until they gather at the back side for roosting. I had to set up at a south-southwest angle to keep them in the sweet light of the setting sun. 

                                                                         ©Joni L. James

 I loaded my photo vest with phone, notebook/pen, cushion, and clipped a five gallon bucket to the back. With my camera/200-500mm Tamron lens mounted to the tripod, and the hat blind strapped to the tripod leg, I headed out. I wore my NEOS boots (which are fabulous!) since I anticipated mud after the blessed heavy rains. After a long walk, I found my spot in the mud and made my nest. It was 6:15 pm.

                                                                              ©Joni L. James

My chair was the upside-down bucket with the hunting cushion. I splayed the legs of the tripod to the perfect arrangement for photographing and then put the blind over me and the equipment. I could not move or it would frighten the birds. So I waited and sat still.

Wood ducks flew in and out as well as several shorebirds. They were too far away for appropriate photos. About 6:45 pm, the first few egrets began flying into the lake. My heart raced as they began foraging within my view.

                                                                          ©Joni L. James

More and more began to fly into the pond as the sun made its way to the horizon. Excitement! What a satisfying feeling to have planned and set up properly so the birds would not recognize me as human and feel safe to be so close. 

                                                                          ©Joni L. James

Soon the area in front of me was filled with egrets.  The warm sunlight illuminated them against the rich green of the grasses. White birds are difficult to photograph in sunlight. I did not want to "blow out" the highlights yet underexposing could be tricky. I preferred shooting when their heads were turned to be bathed in light, but this did not always happen.

As the sun dipped below the dam, they took flight and wheeled above the lake to prepare for roosting through the night. Once they settled, I took a few more images then gingerly prepared to leave. I did not want to disturb them, but knew it was unavoidable. My body was cramped from sitting motionless for nearly three hours, but I slowly walked away.

                                                                            ©Joni L. James

What a satisfying evening. As they flew about and foraged on small fish, I was filled with  contentment. It was a privilege to be allowed into their world and to spend those hours together. Listening to their soft conversations with each other and watching their tussles for space, I was reminded again of how life plays out in all forms each day and night. We are a part of it. We share this space. As Henry Beston stated so eloquently in The Outermost House, "For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

More to come.


Pat said...

A captivating, well-written essay from the heart, accompanied by great photos. Good work from a good soul.

Joni James said...

Thanks Pat for the kind words and for following my blog.