When I first learned about the Cattle Egret, I wondered to myself if I would spot one, and how I would distinguish it from other common egrets, particularly the Snowy Egret. That is, until I saw one. It immediately became obvious that I was looking at a Cattle Egret, as it was standing on top of a cow, plucking ticks and fleas from its hide.
I was just north of Sacramento with some friends, checking out some of the popular birding spots in the area. Unfortunately that morning, we were cursed with extremely dense fog. However, I knew that if we got close enough to the subject, fog could enhance certain photographs, contributing a slightly surreal quality. As we were driving between locations, we passed through some small farms. There they were, right by the side of the road – two cows and two accompanying egrets. I quickly made several shots before the egret in the photo jumped down to the ground to join the second bird. While not ideal for most bird photography, in this case it worked – the fog isolated the subject from the background.
The Koret Animal Resource Center in San Francisco not only provides programs to educate children about wild animals, but also offers visitors an up close view of injured and rehabilitated birds-of-prey. This allows the photographer to shoot intimate portraits of birds almost never encountered in the wild at this distance. Because the eyes of birds-of-prey are set side by side (giving them depth perception), I wanted to get a shot of one looking directly into the lens. This peregrine falcon was was happy to oblige, as he seemed fascinated by the sound of the camera.
We see these birds all the time, throughout most of North America. They invade our parking lots and strip malls, and their calls are ubiquitous. However, when I happened upon this ring-billed gull standing alone at the end of a pier overlooking the San Francisco Bay, I saw an opportunity to turn the commonplace into an interesting shot. The sun was setting behind me, illuminating the bird with a soft glow. That, combined with the fact that this particular bird was clean and quite nice looking, gave me the ingredients needed to create a pleasing portrait.