Full Time RV Airstream

Hunting an elusive hunter

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Canon Cameras, Granite Dells, Photography 9 Comments

littleduck-1Tomorrow it’s back to work at the gallery.  Sounds like it will be an extremely busy week as many customers popped by over the weekend to see about printing.  Ah, a busy Tuesday.  No complaints about that!  None at all!

Since today is my last day of rest for a while (next week will be a long one) I decided to take a walk along the shoreline of Watson Lake for the afternoon.  Clear blue skies, a slight breeze, warm temperatures, me in shorts and Chacos……  Yup, that was the total plan.  There was something else in mind as well.

Yesterday Jantina’s father stopped by with his friend Kurt.  Kurt’s a photographer as well, and he’s all about portrait work.  He’s got a super sweet medium format digital camera.  If you know what that means then you know his sensor cost more than my 5D.

By the way…..the 5D was shipped out to Canon’s repair center this morning.  Hopefully they can identify the grease on my sensor, clean it, and set me back on my way……hopefully!

Kurt wanted to take a few photos yesterday and compare the performace of the 5D with his 4×5 format.  Unfortunately I don’t think we can really compare.  So different in megapixels, sensor size, and his lack of schmutz on his sensor!  But we still went over to Watson Lake park to look around and let Kurt fire off a few shots.


The heron in the distance among rocks

Watson Lake is an interesting spot.  Too many duck like species to count (oh yeah, can you tell I’m a biology whiz), Osprey, occasional eagles, herons, and more.  While we made our way along the shore yesterday we spooked a Great Blue Heron only a few feet away from us.  No camera was at the ready.

Today I decided to remedy yesterday’s missed opportunity.  I would find and shoot a Great Blue Heron.  I would not spook one this time.  No, this time I would find one, slowly approach, become “stealth Rich” and see what I’d see.

Hells Bells, it all worked out according to plan.  No sensor grease, no tripping into a pool of muck (there’s muck all around the lake), no swarms of killer bees chasing me down because I forgot my epi pen…..oh, should I admit that here?  Instead, I spotted a heron, watched it relocate (okay, I spooked it at first), stalked it to it’s new resting place hundreds of yards away, and I got to see something I’ve never seen before.  How cool is that?

“Stealth Rich” didn’t work out immediately.  I began walking the shore from the old boat launch and picked my way in and out of rocks.  One outcropping would lead to a dead end at the water’s edge, I’d have to retrace my steps, and find another way around.  As I picked my way down to one interesting waterside location I scared a heron only a few feet in front of me.  I did fire off two photos of it in flight, and I watched the direction it went in.  Of course I lost track of it, but I had a general idea of where it landed.  As I made my way toward the location I thought it landed I saw it’s head pop out of the rocks!


An un-ruffled heron resumed hunting while I shot it's activities!

An un-ruffled heron hunting.

Picking my way through the rocks to my next destination I worried about the heron remaining.  It was a good distance away.  Othere people were mucking about in the rocks, anything could cause it to take flight.  Nearing the location I bumped into a college aged guy who looked at me and asked me something.  Go figure I had to unplug from my IPod.

The guy was looking for a spot to swim.  He’s new to town, and I advised against swimming in Watson Lake.  All of the signs posted in the park advise the same, but maybe he can’t read and needed me to assure him it was a bad idea.

As we chatted I saw a Great Blue Heron take off into the sky.  The distraction of the guy thwarted my efforts!  I totally missed my opportunity.  As a wildlife photographer for the day I sucked big time!

Well, that’s what I thought for only a few moments.

I made my way around to where I thought the heron had landed earlier.  The one that took off seemed to take off from a different location, but I figured it had to be the same one.  I figured wrong!

The heron lunges into the water for its prey

The heron lunges into the water for its prey

Coming around some brush, tripping over an unstable chunk of granite I found that I was still stealthy enough.  My heron was waiting for me where I thought it landed.  I saw it, it saw me, and it didn’t really care too much.  Something more important than me had it’s attention!

Honestly I’ve never gotten as close to a heron as I did today.  They’re pretty cagey.  Even when paddling in the Great North Woods the moment I got too close they’d take off.  This was one intense heron, and it was hunting something!

I sat for quite a while watching the big bird, and it glanced back at me randomly.  Whatever was in the water in front of it was more interesting than I was, so it just didn’t care.

Many photos were taken.  Stalking forward, bending its neck into an S curve, firing into the water and coming up empty.  4 series of photos, no evidence that it was actually getting any type of food out of the deal.

Maybe it was getting little minnows.  Or maybe it was after a crayfish.  I saw a crayfish claw when walking the shore yesterday.  Or maybe it was just posing for an annoying photographer with a funny hat.  Who knows what goes through a bird brain?

A frog dangles limp in a heron's bill

A frog dangles limp in a heron's bill

Just as I was getting ready to pack up and leave, letting the heron get back to it’s unsuccessful fishing, it darted its bill into the water one more time……..and it came up with a huge frog!

I knew there were frogs in Watson Lake, but I didn’t know there were FROGS in Watson Lake.  Good grief, this frog reminded me of the big bull frogs back on Manchaug Pond.  The frogs that my Pep would always relocate away from his bedroom window, only to have them return the next evening to keep him awake.  Clearly he should have purchased a “watch Heron” and his frog problem would have been over.

After the capture of the capture (you know, me photographing, it gaining it’s quarry) I continued shooting a series of photos.  The heron moved to a more private location where I couldn’t watch.  I moved to a location where I could.  The heron didn’t notice me at first, and I capture a series of awkward shots where the heron worked on choking down it’s lunch.  With each movement to get the frog down limp frog legs smacked the heron in the face.  It would spit the frog up, rework the angle and try again.  Finally the big bird was able to swallow the massive frog, and no legs smacked its face!

Once lunch was finished the heron noticed me again.  It gave me a sharp glance, a loud squawk (don’t you hate it when someone watches you eat), and it took off for a more private rock location a few hundred yards away.


Lunch completed, time to ditch the paparazzi

For me I accomplished more than I set out to do.  I just wanted to get a decent heron photo.  Instead I got to see a show I’ve never seen before.  Large bird beats large frog.  Large frog legs beat bird for a time (involuntarily of course).  Large bird then lodges a complaint toward the voyeur with the camera and flies off.

Overall pretty cool.  Too bad the 5D wasn’t with me for this series.  Glad the 40D still is with me!  Always pays to have more than one camera body!

Comments 9

  1. Holy crap! That’s no frog – that some lake creature from Greek mythology. Nice to know that if you get a hankering for frog legs, you can find them in your backyard…

  2. Beautiful photos! Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to take a photo of a Great Blue Heron through my dirty office window. He’s been stalking my gold fish. Thank goodness I have the pond covered with wire.

  3. Post

    I certainly did get more than I expected to yesterday. My whole goal was to find and photograph the heron without it taking off and leaving me with the “flying away” butt shot. To actually catch it catching lunch! Very cool!!!

  4. I am the only one with tears in my eyes? I had to put down my bowl of cereal after reading this post.

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