Sometimes You Just Need A Little Distance

Sometimes You Just Need A Little Distance

Great Blue Heron of species Ardea herodias strikes a pose as it elegantly preens its feathers.

This great blue heron strikes a most graceful pose as it preens its breeding plumage.

The great blue heron is one of Chicago’s most recognizable and elusive birds. Pass by any wetland, and you’ll probably see one off in the distance, hunting motionless, like a statue in the still waters. Yet they are fast to flee, rarely allowing us the propinquity to get to know them and to experience intimate moments like the ones you see here. That’s because these great blues are wading in the waters of southern Florida where the birds don’t seem to mind the company of humans.

When bird photographers fly all the way to Florida, few aim their lenses at the great blues. They’re too common. After all, these birds live in every state, including Hawaii! Travelers want the exotic. And the photographic flock would share its discoveries and rumors. Day after day, there were chirpings about the latest sighting of a rare bird, like the “rosy”—the nickname given to the pink and flamboyant roseate spoonbill. Every day, it was “rosy this” and “rosy that.”

Great Blue Heron of species Ardea herodias strikes a pose as it elegantly preens its feathers.

Great blue herons are effortlessly elegant.

Nevertheless, whenever a great blue would come near, I’d enter a trance, unable to pull myself away from its statuesque beauty. As the only one focused on this everyday bird, clearly I wasn’t a bird of the same feather. Yet I was vindicated, as it struck pose after stunning pose with an elegance that no rosy will ever achieve.

I’ve collected many images of dozens of species: ibises, various egrets and herons, pelicans, coots, gallinules, and rare wood storks. Yet these portraits live amongst my very favorites.

I traveled a thousand miles in search of the exotic, and I unwittingly found myself with a greater appreciation of a shy local species. Sometimes you just need a little distance to discover what’s right in front of you.

—Mike

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