“White heron is back” was the brief text message on my mobile phone. No trouble deciphering that. My friend Brent was letting me know that the white heron had returned to Hikoikoi reserve after a few weeks wandering elsewhere.
With my long (400mm) zoom lens mounted and ready for action, I set out for Petone. Alas! No white heron to be seen by the time I got there. This was doubly sad because the water had those smooth, barely perceptible oily ripples that make such a wonderful background for images of shore-birds. Perfect no-wind conditions, and the main model has done a runner!
No white heron on the upstream side of the bridge either. A black shag perched on an old wooden pile from what I presume to be the remains of an earlier bridge, obligingly hung its wings out to dry. It had the courtesy to do so with the dark glutinous water as a background, so I took a few shots there, but this was not my main target.
Back on the downstream side of the bridge, a white-faced heron (Ardea novaehollandiae) had arrived and was now stalking aristocratically through the prolific green weed that covers much of that corner of the estuary. Smaller than the white heron, but no less elegant to watch, these birds are much more common around Wellington than their larger, more glamorous relative.
As I watched, this one would compress its neck, step, pause, step, and then straighten its neck for a lightning stab with that lethal beak. A quick lift of the head, and a snap of the beak and the prize, whatever it was, was gone. Probably a small fish. Step, pause, step … next course please! With all the stealth I could muster (step, pause, step), I got ever closer, pausing to shoot whenever the view was unobstructed by trees or shrubs.
Herons are shy creatures, and each time it became aware of me, this one would spread its wings, and with a few languid strokes, fly to a more distant part of the inlet. It alighted gracefully, to resume its step, pause, step, stab routine.
I crept around the path behind the flaxes at the water’s edge, trying not to let my shoes crunch on the gravel as I came within range again. Repeating the cycle, twice more, I ended up with a few shots that I may be able to do something with. Losing patience at the repeated intrusions on its privacy, the heron finally flew off round a corner where I was unable to follow. Ah well, I would have to make do with what I had got.
At about this stage, I discovered that when I dropped my camera the other day, I did more than the ugly cosmetic damage I first saw. One of the buttons that allows me to zoom in on the live screen for accurate focusing, was solidly jammed by a distortion of the camera body. With heavy heart (this was the first time we would be separated), I took my camera to a local highly regarded repair expert*, and after extracting the memory card with the morning’s shots, came home to sort and edit.
So why this particular shot, of the fifty or so I took? Well, I liked the bright colours in the water, reflecting trees and shrubs behind, and the bright green weed below. Copper tints in the water behind the bird came from the rocks in the sea wall further back. I liked the bird’s bright yellow legs and it’s apparent narcissistic contemplation of its own reflection. Of course it was probably just looking through the glassy surface for anything that might be edible.
Single minded pursuit of a goal is admirable, but can be annoying to others.
* I mentioned my problem to my Facebook community, and was overwhelmed to receive no fewer than five offers of a digital SLR on loan to tide me over while my own camera is in dock. Thanks, good friends.
And that concludes the first month of my 2012 photo a day blog. You are mostly a very quiet audience, but I would really appreciate constructive input from you on how my writing or photography can be improved. Talk to me please!