Great Blue Herons at Yorktown Beach

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing on the jetty rocks in the early morning light on the York River in Yorktown, Virginia.

October 5, 2021

On a late summer morning, the great blue herons at Yorktown Beach were very photogenic. Yorktown Beach is located in the historic downtown area of Yorktown, Virginia. This beach is a 2-acre waterfront area that runs the shoreline of the York River. On this particular morning in early September, I found several great blue herons along the shoreline of the York River. These great blue herons provided me some excellent opportunities to photograph them in a variety of different compositions.

I walked along the shoreline with my camera and big lens in my hand looking for birds as the sun had just come up. The early morning provides such great lighting to capture great images of birds. On this particular morning, the only birds that I was able to photograph were several great blue herons. These compositions gave me many different looks of the very photographed subject of great blue herons.

Great Blue Heron Silhouette Standing on Jetty Rocks

As I began my walk along the shoreline of the York River, I came upon this great blue heron standing on the jetty rocks. I captured this image just as the sun was barely up over the horizon. When I came upon this scene of the great blue heron standing at the end of an area of jetty rocks, I thought a more scenic look would be the best composition. I was able to create the silhouette of this great blue heron by shooting towards the bright sun.

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing on the jetty rocks during sunrise on a late summer morning at the beach in Yorktown, Virginia.
Great blue heron standing on the jetty rocks just after sunrise on the York River, I captured this image by being patient and waiting for the heron to make the proper head turn to catch the silhouette profile of this great blue heron.

Heron with Fish

This great blue heron was standing in the water perfectly still when I approached. As I was taking some photographs, the heron suddenly stretched his long neck out and struck his bill into the water. The great blue heron caught a large fish in his bill as he stood back up. After a a minute or so standing back up with the fish in his bill, the heron flew off with his breakfast. But before the heron flew away, I was able to get close enough with my long lens to capture the below close up image of the heron with the fish.

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) with large fish in mouth in the early morning along the York River in Yorktown, Virginia.
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) with large fish in mouth while standing along the shoreline of the York River.

Great Blue Heron in Smoky Water

As I walked past the end of the beach area along the grassy area of the shoreline, I came upon another beach area. But this beach area was a little cove area with jetty rocks along the sides of the beach. Just a few minutes after the actual sunrise, there was this layer of smoke that was hanging over the water of the York River in this cove. Then I noticed a great blue heron was walking in the water along the far edge of the jetty rocks.

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing in smoky water along rock jetty on an early summer morning in the York River in Yorktown, Virginia.
Great blue heron standing in smoky water along rock jetty on an early summer morning in the York River in Yorktown, Virginia. For this image, I sat down on the sand handholding my camera and big lens (Sigma 150-600mm contemporary lens).

In my mind, I saw the potential of the smoke on the water providing me a great blue heron composition with a very dramatic feel. I maneuvered myself in different positions as I walked along the beach. I would stop and take a few pictures before repositioning myself. The early morning glow of the warm sun sparkled the water in this cove area. The above image is one of my favorites of this particular composition.

Silhouette of Heron in Flight

While I continued photographing the great blue heron in the smoky water, the heron decided to fly away. Fortunately, the great blue heron flew in front of me giving me a side profile of the heron in flight. Another fortunate element is that this heron also flew between me and the sun. This allowed me to capture the heron in silhouette as the heron flew by me. I learned many years ago to always be prepared for anything when photographing wildlife subjects.

I was photographing the heron in a more scenic composition while it was in the smoky water. However, I always make sure that my ISO and shutter speed is high enough to stop action if my bird subject takes flight. Being prepared with those settings allowed me to photograph the same heron in flight.

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) taking flight over the York River in silhouette at sunrise in Yorktown, Virginia.
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) taking flight over the York River in silhouette at sunrise in Yorktown, Virginia. This image was photographed using a very high ISO of 6400 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/4000 at f/8. During low light times, using a high ISO essential when capturing action images of wildlife.

Great Blue Heron Standing on Jetty Rock

This great blue heron caught my attention as I headed back to my car to leave the area. I really liked the composition of this great blue heron standing tall on a rock. Using a rather large aperture, I was able to blur the background of the blue water. The water background gave a very clean and non-cluttered look to this portrait of the heron.

This in the field experience photographing the great blue herons at Yorktown Beach was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the many different opportunities of capturing images of these great blue herons in diverse situations. I was able to create habitat images, portrait images, dramatic feels and even action images. Sometimes there are opportunities to capture common and well photographed bird subject such as the great blue heron in other than usual situations. I enjoyed being creative and capturing images of a common and well photographed heron with such different perspectives and compositions.

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing on rock at the shoreline of the York River on a late summer morning in Yorktown, Virginia.
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing on rock at the shoreline of the York River on a late summer morning in Yorktown, Virginia.

Thank you for reading my Field Notes blog, and I hope you will share this post with others.

Let’s protect our wildlife and nature!

All the very best,

Lori

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