Great Blue Heron Taking Flight. Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California. November 25, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A great blue heron takes flight from a foggy field at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge California
To retell a story I’ve shared before, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that despite living in California for decades I had barely been aware of the astonishing winter migratory bird population of the state’s Central Valley until a chance encounter with a colleague led to a “wild goose chase” trip into an area south of Sacramento not so long ago. Now I’m now officially hooked! I’m certainly no expert on these birds – geese, herons, egrets, and more – but I’ve become very interested in seeing and photographing them.
While returning from another trip last month I saw a flock of geese over the Central Valley, and was reminded that this seasonal migration is again underway. I resolved to try to get out there earlier this year, and I made my first trip a few days after Thanksgiving. I drove over Pacheco Pass through Los Banos, entered the valley fog, and headed out to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, a place I’m starting to know rather well. The fog was even thicker when I arrived at the refuge, and I could hear a lot more birds than I could really see, though I did catch a faint view of a flock of white Ross’s geese through the murk at one point. Eventually the fog began to thin a bit, and here and there muted sunlight began to shine through. As I circled the refuge I saw this lone great blue heron standing in a field in this transitional light. Using my car as a blind, I stopped a ways back and used my longest lens to make several photographs as the bird mostly stood there. Bit by bit, I was able to edge the car forward and continue to shoot from the driver’s seat, eventually being roughly parallel with the bird. I stopped and shut off the engine and continued to watch and make more photographs. Eventually, the heron apparently got bored with me and lifted off to find more interesting company, and I was able to get a couple of shots as this impressive bird took to the still-foggy air.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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