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Black-crowned Night-Herons

Posted by Geoff Coe on September 25, 2013 at 10:45 pm
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[Note about the Title: I call this shot “The Scouting Party”].
When I first saw these birds clustered together in a shallow pond at Heislerville Wildlife Management Area in New Jersey, I didn’t think that they were birds at all. In fact, from 40 yards’ distance I thought I was looking at a rock!

Then, a bird flew in and landed on the snag, and I thought I saw the rock move a little. So I looked through my binoculars and saw that the “rock” consisted of nine very well-camouflaged Black-crowned Night-Heron juveniles.

Night Herons don’t easily spook, so I figured I had time to set up a tripod and my very longest telephoto lens. Problem was, my van was parked at the edge of a steep bank and there was no room for the tripod. So I quietly got back into my van, pulled the door shut with a soft “click”, then mounted my 500mm f/4 Canon supertelephoto onto a 2x teleconverter and attached both to my Canon 7D.

From such a distance, it was hard to tell the distance between nearest and farthest bird. So the challenge with this long-lens, shallow-focus combination of gear was to eke as much depth of field as I could without forcing a too-slow shutter speed that would induce camera motion. So I put a soft towel on the window ledge for lens support, then made a few careful exposures at 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 1000.