In Pursuit of the Great White
On our last trip to the Eastern Everglades, my husband and I spotted a rare bird–rare at least for us. Positioned beside a canal, casually drying enormous white wings cupped to his sides like a satellite dish, sat a large Great White Heron. By the time we readied our cameras, this shy bird spread his great wings and flew deeper into the cover of sawgrass and assorted brush. All that remained in our cameras was a white blur. We determined to revisit the same spot soon in hopes of capturing an image of this beautiful avian species.
Returning this week, we spotted him just before he once again sought cover while keeping a wary eye on the intruders. I was photographing from just inside the rear of our open SUV hatchback 35-40 feet away, however I’ll admit that we must have been quite a spectacle for a wild bird.
The subject of our quest, Ardena Herodias Occidentalis, is a sub-species of the Great Blue Heron. Unique to South Florida and the Florida Keys, the Great White Heron is identical in every way to the Great Blue except that its feathers are pristine white. It is the distinct white form, or morph, of the Great Blue. In fact, sometimes it chooses a blue morph as a mate.
Not wanting to intimidate the bird, we waited until Mr. Magnificence felt comfortable enough to show himself. Patience paid us well.
It is difficult to gauge the size of this bird from a photograph. It stood about 4 1/2 feet tall with a wingspan of over 6 feet. That said, it moved with all the grace of a ballerina. Of course, if a fish or frog came into view it would strike with lightning speed. We enjoyed watching the bird for some time while it kept track of us. Finally it took a few moments to preen, a sign that our presence was no longer so disturbing. Before leaving, I captured his portrait. What a fine bird!
The Everglades has many natural treasures for us to discover. Now that the winter season has begun and wildlife has returned, I look forward to each visit with eager expectation. This watery, grassy world abounds with effervescent life just awaiting our appreciation and enjoyment. I hope you’ll return to Morning Joy to see what we discover on our next trip to Florida’s unique Everglades.