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