Dinner and Photo Op are Served – Daily Prompt: Served, Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside, and Cee’s Color White

The egret skulked stealthily closer and closer, unseen by the fisherman on the shore until the last minute.

Egret lunging from the shore to catch a fish.

Egret lunging from the shore to catch a fish.

The fisherman and the egret stared at each other. Clearly, the fisherman was the more surprised of the two.

He didn’t miss a beat, though, following through on the cast he had just played out with a flick of his wrist.

Soundlessly, he reeled in a small fish, and as though guided by instinct, he unhooked it and tossed it back…

Back Into the waters directly in front of the egret, who lunged after it in an explosion of white, wings-akimbo, feathers flying.

Egret flips fish into her bill.

Egret flips fish inside her bill.

Nature presents us with scenes of exquisite beauty.

When it comes to wildlife photography, so many of those experiences are never caught with a camera. Wildlife is shy and fast and elusive and unpredictable. Weather conditions don’t always cooperate. Digital film cards fill up at inopportune moments. Lens caps left on the camera inadvertently cause missed shots. Sunlight can be too bright or too dim. Insensitive gawkers scare off the wild creatures. I could go on and on.

On this day, however, the universe conspired with the egret and fisherman and served up a tasty morsel for the egret, and an unexpected photo opportunity for me there along the shoreline.

It was thrilling to watch these two interacting, fishing man and fishing bird. How I wants to be fishing with them, fish fishing instead of camera fishing. How I wanted a fish, myself, to toss to the egret like the fisherman, who was practicing catch and release. How I wanted to know the feeling of the bird coming to me for a fish, the way Border Collie Rogue gambols up for a Milk Bone at the boathouse.

Just once.

But that would be wrong.

As the Wildlife Code of Ethics says, “Never feed or leave food (baiting) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.”

Which brings me back around to catch and release fishing. I’m sure that for as long as man has been trying to catch fish throughout the millennia, opportunistic birds have been trying to get man’s leftovers. Is there ever a fishing trawler that pulls into port without a flock of birds trailing along after it’s stern? How about the gulls circling and lurking above the sea walls up and down our coasts where anglers try their luck? It’s not the fishermen’s fault – the birds are very smart.

There is a socialization between man and wild bird that has been taking place for eons, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we like it or not. Speaking for myself, I’m not sure I like it. I am disheartened when I hear photographers talk about how tame the birds are in such-and-such a place and encourage others to come on down to see the tame birds up close.

There in the cove that day, I felt torn. While the photographer that I am was thrilled by the photo op served up, I felt heartbroken to see this magnificent egret so very tame. It wasn’t the fisherman’s fault – I’m sure that egret has been panhandling fish for a long time. The egret has been lucky so far, but the risk of being snagged by a wayward fishhook from a poorly-cast line is real. The risk of being entangled in fishing line is very real, as I blogged in The Taxi Driver’s Tale.

And so I love this gorgeous, graceful egret as an artist loves all of her models, but I can’t help thinking: wild birds needs to be just that to survive safely.



Thanks to Michelle W. and WordPress for both the Daily Prompt nudge and for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside prompt.

Thanks also to Cee Neuner and WordPress for the Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: White and Purple nudge.


(This took place August 19, 2013)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Posted on September 19, 2013, in Art, Bird photography, Birds, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, daily prompt, Egret, Fishing, Inside, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Such a gorgeous white egret!! thanks for adding it to the challenge!

  2. You are so right about how we invade their territory and take away the mystery….the challenge is to capture them in that moment..that many never see..:-) robbie

  3. Your first photo in this post of the white Egret is just stunning ! And i appreciate your text.
    // Maria 🙂

  4. Excellent shots and story. Nice work Babsje!

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