Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black-Crowned Night-Heron at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Birding Hilton Head Island, SC and Pinckney Island NWR (...continued from Monday's post on the Painted Bunting)
Up until now I haven’t been able to write much about Pinckney Island. Twice I’ve sat at the computer to record a few thoughts, but nothing comes out. Actually, too much comes out, and it gets all jumbled and clogged in the process, and I don’t like that. It makes me feel antsy and almost panicky, so tonight I took a few breaths, slowed down and realized I’d just have to wait until the words decided they were ready to seep out of my brain, not rushing or forcing them, just going with the flow and seeing where it led.

The beginning…
Each trip to Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge starts with happy anticipation and excitement as you drive down the long, narrow road that leads to the parking lot. Flanked by tidal marsh, the grasses and reeds on either side of the road usually give you your first glimpses of Ibises and other water birds. Several times I pulled over and got out of the car because something interesting caught my eye. One time six Snowy Egrets were playing in a mudflat, tossing their plumes around and chasing after a swarm of little fiddler crabs, obviously eating their fill. When you see something like that, something so subtle and unique that it takes your breath away, happiness flows right through you. At that point I remember thinking the road should be called “Happiness Way," because that's how you feel when you're on it, and I’m sure any other bird lover who drives on it would agree.

After you park, don’t rush out. You can spend a decent amount of time birding in the surrounding woodland. I saw Painted Buntings, a male and female Red-headed Woodpecker, Downies, Great-crested Flycatchers (and their nesting cavity), a Yellow-throated Warbler, and many other birds, but I’m going to save those stories for another post. A little later, an older gentleman with binocs around his neck (the universal signal for “Hey, it’s okay I’m a birder!”) came up and asked me if I’d been to Ibis Pond yet. When I told him it was my first time to the park, and I didn’t know where Ibis Pond was, he said, “follow the gravel path for about a half mile and be amazed.” So that’s what I did.

The gravel path to Ibis Pond is a fairly wide land bridge. It can accommodate a car, but only maintenance vehicles are allowed. Regular folk like you and me have to walk or ride bikes. The walk seemed long at first (only because I had a torn Plantar Fascia ligament and had no idea where I was going), but I loved it anyway. Patches of woodland and salt marsh surround the path, so you get to see many types of birds along the way, including, of course, more Painted Buntings. Two times I saw them up ahead pecking around in the gravel…three and four together at the side of the road. Hinting at what’s to come, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and innumerable Ibises fly back and forth over your head a lot—graceful, beautiful, and oblivious to anyone below. 

When I reached a grassy area, I still didn’t know where I was, so I just stood and looked around. That fabulous southern sun was soaking into my skin…warm and wonderful, and a cooling ocean breeze was sweeping through the trees and grasses. We just don’t get breezes like that in Cincinnati on hot, humid days, and it really hit home that I was on vacation…at the ocean…in the south…, but before I could finish that thought, a Black-Crowned Night-Heron flew by me and landed in a tree about 25 feet away. I couldn’t believe it. I rushed over holding my breath, still not believing my luck, and trying to be quiet (and cool, but that was probably not possible because I’m sure I looked like a dork trying to set up my camera and cover ground at the same time). It took me a few seconds to spot him, but there he was…in a tree…about 10 feet above me. I could see his blood-red eye so clearly through the lens I stopped snapping and just watched. Eventually he turned his head and looked directly at me. Then he looked away with indifference, slowly walking down a branch. Finally I lowered my camera and noticed there were other Black-Crowned Night-Herons scattered in the tree, all resting in the heat of the morning, roosting, and sleeping.



I see you camera-lady, and I'm not impressed.

I have really long toes. All the better to climb in trees with...

Yes, I know. I have a gorgeous red eye. Go ahead, snap away...

It's morning and I'd rather be sleeping. 
I'm a night owl...I mean Night-Heron.


Because I've reduced these files down so much and saved them for the Web, which reduces the file size even more, but also reduces the quality, the deep red of the eye has been lost on most of the photos. Rick suggested just cropping out an eye shot. I did, but have to say the quality is still missing, but you do get a better idea of the deep red. I need to get get a Flickr account or something like that so I can post the higher quality images. My blog loads slow enough as it is! Does anyone have any suggestions on how to maintain quality yet keep the file size small?


26 comments:

Elaine said...

Gorgeous shots! I just added Pinckney Island NWR to my list of places to visit. It shoulds like an incredible place and you did get your thoughts together very well. Good post!

Little Brown Job said...

Beautiful bird Kelly, not like our resident Grey Heron! Great shots.

Shellmo said...

You got such exquisite photos of the Night Heron! And those are some long toes!! Remind me of eagle talons - lol!

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
This guy is one of my favorite but I never managed to get some shots!! Yours are wonderful, and the details of the eyes are gorgeous. Well done. You also happen to see many species!

Kallen305 said...

AWESOME photos of the NIght Heron! That sounds like my kind of place to bird and YES I can totally identify with the eager anticipation one gets before birding in a great place.

Cathy B. said...

Gorgeous pictures! I've never seen this bird. Beautiful eyes and details of feather !

Dale Forbes said...

that night heron is wonderful. you really were very lucky.

I wonder if it is not a fairly young bird as the eye seems somewhat dull, but then again the black is a very adult black.

Happy birding
Dale

JKoenig said...

After seeing these pictures, I am anxious to see and hear about the rest of your trip. Beautiful pictures!

Kelly said...

Elaine...you definitely should go there. Especially at this time of the year. I'm going to post about the rookery in the coming posts. There are so many nesting birds--all the species.

Paul...thank you! I love this guys pulled-in neck. He sort of slinks around.

Shelley...thank you....I know....love those toes!

Chris...thanks...there are more species to come. The amount of birds per square foot is incredible.

Kim...I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, because I pick that up reading your blog.

Cathy...thank you. The eyes are so much more beautiful than are coming through. To get the photos here, I reduced the quality of them and the size so they don't take up so much memory, but in he process the deep red is gone.

Dale.....really the eye is much deeper in color. In Cathy's comment above I wrote about the quality of the photograph being reduced. To get the photos down to a manageable size, I reduce them and then save them for Web. In the process, sometimes the colors become dull. I was disappointed in how much red was lost from his eye. The one photo is a close-up and you can see it a little better. I really need to get a Flickr account or something so I can keep some of the quality of the photos.

JKoenig...thank you! I'm going to post for the next week probably. I could go on for the month but I'm sure everyone would get tired of me droning on and on! :-)

Roy said...

Great shots, Kelly! We have them around here, too, but I've only ever gotten a shot of a juvenile, and they're kinda boring. I do have shots of a Green Heron who shared my lunch spot 4 years ago. Someday I'll have to put them up online.

holdingmoments said...

Great descriptive post Kelly. The words flowed beautifully.
It sounds an amazing place to go.
I've never seen a Black-Crowned Night-Heron before; it looks an amazing bird, and you've captured the detail, and red eye really well.

I don't really know the answer to your question at the end, but I see your files are saved as a png?
I'm no expert, but for blogs and the net, I save mine in jpg format, reduce size to 700 pixels longest side, no more than 200KB, and add a little sharpen at the end. Hope that makes some sort of sense? May not be the best way to do it, but it seems to work for me.
You've still got great detail in yours though.

Warren Baker said...

Another great looking bird Kelly, and great photo's too. I think you suffer from wanting the next photo to be better or as good as the last! Tell me about it, I'm never satisfied!!!

Kelly said...

Roy...I'd definitely like to see those photos. I love Green Herons. They are fun to watch...

Keith...I do the same. I take it to 700 pixels. I read that .png helps with smaller sizes too. I used to do .jpg. Maybe I'll go back to that. Thanks!

Warren....you're probably right! I always want the next photo to be better... :-)

Ginnymo said...

What a pretty bird!! Love his eyes!! Enjoy the rest of your trip!! I'm trying to catch up on posts. been having problems with connections.

Chris Petrak said...

Getting caught up on reading blogs - just one comment about the PABU and BCNH - Wow! Nice photos

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh Kelly--The Black-Crowned Night-Heron is gorgeous. Glad you got so many great pictures of him. Love those RED eyes.

I'm so glad you found that place---and had such good luck seeing so many different birds. Can't wait to see more pictures.

Love you,
Bets

Tim Rucci said...

Hi Kelly,
Great pics and a great story too. I know exactly what you mean about trying to run and set the camera at the same time. We've all experienced that situation. You did well to get so close and not spook the bird. Funny how he hung around and posed for you. I'll be interested to see your other photos from the trip.

I will be away for a while starting next week - got a rare opportunity to stay inside Denali National Park in Alaska for 10 days with a friend who is a park ranger there, so I nailed a frequent flyer air ticket and I'm headed north. I plan to keep up my blog, hopefully with some interesting wildlife stuff, so check it if you have time.

Heather said...

All I can say is "wow!" I was really enjoying reading your narrative, and figured you weren't going to include any photos in this post, but then -BAM- here's this beauty of a bird! Holy cow!
I clicked on the very last photo to see it bigger, and I see what you mean by losing detail from the compression. You've seen me mention Picasa before on my blog, and it's my main tool for uploading photos to my blog. I know it does compress the photos some, but it does handle all of the resizing for you. I can't say that I've been let down by quality degradation, but that's just me. How large are your original images? Are you shooting in RAW, or JPEG? I don't have much experience with Flickr, so I can't offer any advice about that, unfortunately.

Mary said...

Wow...very pretty and your photos are great!

Kelly said...

Ginny and Chris...thank you!

Betsy...I have so many cool photos. I'm still having problems writing about it. There is just so much to cover...thanks!

Tim...I will be sure to check your blog regularly. You are so lucky! Alaska for 10 days...with a ranger!! Wow!!! Have fun and post often!

Heather...thank you! I'm shooting in RAW and then cropping in Aperture. I save for the Web and reduce the file size to 700 pixels in Photoshop. I'll have to look into Picasa. I think Rick mentioned something about that.

Thanks, Mary!!

yen said...

great shot, love the close up very much.

Montanagirl said...

Absolutely stunning shots. Very excellent post.

Laure Ferlita said...

Absolutely beautiful - not just the images but the words too. Thanks for taking me with you!

Nick S said...

Well described Kelly. It feels like IO know the place now. Great close-ups !

dAwN said...

Oh what amazing close photo! Great birds here Kelly..I see why you love it here!

Joe said...

Hi Kelly. Late comment but maybe this is useful. I think JPEGs are the way to go when you're presenting photographs for the web. PNG format is fine for general graphics but I think you'll get better photo quality with the JPEG format, and you'll probably do it with a smaller file size.
By the way, the pics are great. You have a terrific eye. JK