A Tale of Two Great Egrets (Ardea alba)

A Great Egret (Ardea alba) catching a small fish in a marsh along St. Lawrence Lake in Ontario, Canada.

great egret ardea alba fishing in lake st. lawrence

Great Egret Hunting at Lake St. Lawrence in South Eastern Ontario (Purchase)

When I visited Ontario in October of last year I photographed this Great Egret (Ardea alba) searching for fish in a shallow area of Lake St. Lawrence. This area had a large number of Great Egrets foraging along the shores. They are very easy to spot in comparison to the other Heron species I am familiar with in British Columbia – the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Great Egrets mainly eat fish, but will also ingest amphibians, small birds, small mammals, invertebrates, and insects. The Lake St. Lawrence area appears to be a migratory location for the Egrets – they do not commonly breed in that area.

This particular Great Egret has a small fish in its bill which is hard to see in the image above. I photographed this with a fairly fast shutter speed, and made a burst of photographs just as the Egret appeared to be about to strike at something in the water. The image above was the result, but I also pieced together a “video” of the sequence of images that you can find on Vimeo: A Great Egret (Ardea alba) Catching Fish.

great egret ardea alba hunting for earthworms in the fraser valley of british columbia

Great Egret Hunting for Earthworms in a Fraser Valley Field (Purchase)

The second photograph here also shows a Great Egret – but in a location far from Ontario. This is a field in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. The birding community was excited about this particular Egret. While not unheard of in this area, it is not a usual migration route or breeding area (especially in January). I drove by after buying some groceries to see what kind of circus it might be. Nobody was there, and the Egret was hunting in the field fairly close to the road. I stopped to take a look, and it was unbothered by my presence. So I drove home, got the camera and my longest lens and returned. Luckily the Egret was still there after coming back – how often does that happen?

A few people stopped to take a look at this Egret, but 2/3 stopped to ask me why myself and a lot of other people they’d seen (a bit of a circus on the weekend, apparently) were stopping. I’m not a birder really, and I tend to avoid the rare birds that people, uhm, flock to view. I avoided another species of rare bird in Abbotsford at around the same time to avoid adding to the stress it might potentially face with a lot of visitors in an area where it had little food available. This Egret was eating a lot of large earthworms in this field, in contrast, and so I suspect it was in a fairly good situation. It certainly seemed unbothered that I was photographing it only 16 meters (52 feet) away.

More of my Bird photos can be found in my Bird Photos Gallery.

Great Blue Heron at English Bay in Kitsilano

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) sits on the rocks next to English Bay in Kitsilano. Photographed from Kits Beach Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

great blue heron ardea herodas in english bay vancouver

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at English Bay in Kitsilano (Purchase)

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   I believe I have indicated my affinity for photographing Great Blue Herons in the past – they tend to stand relatively still while hunting for food and therefore make great photo subjects. I have a few photographs of herons at night, and this wouldn’t be possible for me with many other species. Not only do the herons stand still while waiting for prey, they often hunt on shorelines where I can use reflected lights to illuminate them during a longer exposure. This particular Great Blue Heron was hunting along English Bay at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I was busy making blue hour cityscapes of downtown Vancouver and happened to have my longer 70-200mm lens on my camera. This was the perfect lens for my panoramas, and luckily was also the perfect lens for photographing this Heron when I noticed him silhouetted against the lights reflecting off English Bay from Kitsilano. With the naked eye this Blue Heron was barely visible, but with a longer camera exposure (6 seconds in this case) the details of both the bird and the surrounding area were revealed.

For more wildlife photographs take a look at my Animals and Wildlife Gallery in my Image Library.

Search for Bald Eagles ‐ Part II ‐ Lower Stave River

a great blue heron - ardea herodias - at the lower stave river in mission british columbia
Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias)
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   This is Part II in my series of posts on searching for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to photograph in the Fraser Valley this Winter – Part I was also at the Lower Stave River.

   The Bald Eagles are not the only species here for the Salmon. A lot of gulls were around, and a few Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) too. Herons always seem to make good subjects. They are wary but quite easy to photograph compared to some other species. This Heron was one of the first subjects I photographed with my new Canon 1.4x EF Extender II on my 70-200mm f/4 IS lens. The combo works very nicely!

a bald eagle - haliaeetus leucocephalus - at the lower stave river in mission british columbia
Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
-click to enlarge-

   At the Lower Stave River I camped out a few locations that looked as though they might be likely Bald Eagle feeding spots (lots of salmon carcasses). Unfortunately I was not able to photograph any Eagles at these locations – perhaps my presence stuck out. I did manage to wait long enough to have one land in front of me but when I raised my camera (slowly) to make a photograph – they flew away into a nearby tree (the image on the right).

Stay tuned for Part III – this time at the Harrison River…

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Great Blue Heron at Pitt Lake

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at the marshes near Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia

great blue heron in the marshes near pitt lake

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

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   A few weeks ago I visited the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area near Pitt Lake. Shot a lot of landscapes, but this area is always a good place to spot a lot of birds and general wildlife. I walked along the dike for a while, then down into the marsh along a trail. What I should have done was look at the marsh before I came down off the dike into it – as there was a Great Blue Heron standing about 5 feet in front of me looking a bit startled. He took off immediately and landed at a distance just near enough for me to see him and just far enough away that my longest lens wasn’t quite going to cut it.

   I must not have looked like too much of a threat because once I got the wide angle lens back on and started shooting the landscape he flew close again. Not as close as our original encounter but close enough for me to be happy with the photographic opportunity. Was hoping for some hunting shots like I had at Stanley Park recently but today this one seemed much more intent on cleaning and preening itself.