Finding Beauty Series – Egrets and Herons

Snowy egret at Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve

This is the third post in the Finding Beauty series, a reminder when I’m caught up in this year’s unsettled times that nature continues in its rhythms. While visiting a local wetland recently, I realized that no matter how many times I see different egrets and herons, with each sighting, I am struck by how beautiful and graceful they are.

They are no less extraordinary because I see them often. They bring me out of my thoughts and back to being in the moment, awakening awe and wonder once again. I can find refuge just looking at their images that I’ve captured over the years. Here are photos of great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, and one elusive green heron.

Great blue herons are adaptable. Used to seeing them foraging in wetlands for fish and amphibians, I was amazed the first time I saw one in a field chomping on a gopher. At up to four feet tall, with the hollow bones that all birds have, they weigh less than 6 pounds.

Great blue heron in a Merced County field
Great blue heron at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to photograph a heron and a great egret right next to each other.

Great blue heron and great egret at Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
Great egret at Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

When I first saw a snowy and great egret side by side, I thought the smaller snowy was a juvenile of the same species. They have wonderful yellow feet.

Snowy egret at Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve
Snowy egret at Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve

Snowy egrets nest in trees on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay in the summer, where they can be easily seen from the walkways. I can lose track of time staring at the gawky youngsters as they figure out how to balance on branches and use their wings.

Juvenile snowy egrets at Alcatraz Island

As other birds fly to their evening shelter, black-crowned night herons appear one by one at dusk. Resting during the day in large groups hiding in trees, they scatter to feed solo on fish and amphibians in the dark.

A few of dozens of black-crowned night herons sleeping at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge
Black-crowned night heron at sunset at Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Reclamation Pond

Throughout the year when I explore wetlands, I walk quietly and peer into the thick reeds in case I’m lucky enough to spot a green heron—from a distance, because they are easily disturbed. When I spy one, tucked motionless in its hiding place, I am mesmerized.

Green heron in West Sacramento


  1. Great foto’s and info, Woodswoman. I live in Castro Vly. and spend time at Lake Chabot. I encounter and photograph many of the same birds that you do too. Lately, there has been a fairly large flock of pelicans at the lake. Being the largest bird that visits the lake they are always interesting to watch them forage and wander around the lake. Here are a few foto’s I got yesterday.  Ken

    • I’ve been seeing white pelicans nearby. For many years I thought the only pelicans were the brown variety over the ocean and didn’t realize there was an inland species that’s even larger. They are beautiful birds.

  2. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. I love the egrets and herons we have here in California. Glad to see that you are getting out and enjoying your hobby.

    • I agree, we’re lucky to have so many egrets and herons in California. I got a new camera recently and with a much stronger zoom lens than my old camera, I get get better photos because I can be farther away. This post is a mix of images from both cameras.

  3. Incredible pictures and vivid, enthusiastic descriptions, sharing your passionate love of these beautiful birds in the wild. Thank you! I really enjoyed the juveniles and the “Great blue heron at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge” sitting in the water. The latter almost makes the heron look like it is being born from the water.

  4. Your photography just keeps getting better and better! Thanks for sharing this beautiful bird banter when we all need a moment away from the bird brains out there (which is a terrible mistake of a coloquialism as birds are very intelligent! Side note shout out to the book “Genius of Birds” which I just finished reading. It’s a good read).

  5. We’re in Vallejo near Napa River and the Bay. It is a never ending source of delight to watch the birds by the water. As we move into spring we have the added bonus of migrating species stopping by to feed and rest. Thanks for the glimpse into Corte Madera Marsh! Makes me want to hike there!

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