Mercer Slough, Bellevue, WA
I had an appointment in Bellevue so I brought my camera along and explored Mercer Slough Nature Park which was nearby with its large marshy canal feeding into Lake Washington. This preserve hosts a wide variety of seasonal and permanent residents, including the Great Blue Heron which is on my wildlife list for this spring.
A few minutes after beginning my walk with my Nikon D700 and mono-pod in hand I was pleased to see a Blacked-capped Chickadee feeding on the leftovers of last year’s Bull Rush. This friendly bird didn’t mind me shooting from about 20 feet off using my 70-200mm zoom lens with a 1.7x teleconverter.
Though the Chikadee was a a great find, I was still on my hunt for the Heron and walked on. Around a bend in the trail came upon the u-pick blueberry farm that is contained within the park. It was afternoon and I shot this facing west — not ideal conditions. I plan to return in the early morning light to capture this scene differently. The small irrigation canals in this field alone are worth at least a day-long visit under different lighting conditions and trips throughout the year.
I had come to photography a Heron so I moved on. Mercer Slough is a natural canal running into Lake Washington. It is frequented by the kayak and canoe enthusiasts. The Herons and other water foul take flight along stretches of the canal and can be as close as a few feet away. The canal is only 50′ at its widest point so you are never too far from opportunities to photograph wildlife even on the opposite shore. Perhaps the most dramatic experience you may have at the Slough is to have a Heron fly by within 25′ or so of your lens. You just have to be ready when the Heron is!
So I walked a distance along the canal stopping for up to 15 minutes at a time to wait for my Heron. I finally settled down on a small dock used by the paddlers. Successful wildlife photography requires a good measure of knowledge of you your subject, a secure hiding place and time. Yes, lots of time. In my case I only had about two hours to watch and wait and get lucky. After about an hour a Heron, with its 4 – 5 foot wingspan started making its way towards me. It would fly about 100′ and stop in the dense shrub along the canal. After about 15 minutes it would venture closer, often gliding from bank to bank. I shot away during each segment of its flight and waited with anticipation as it fed only about 30 yards from the point I was sitting, though hidden from my view. Its next flight would take it right past my lens! Much to my chagrin, as it left its spot this beautiful bird did a complete u-turn and flew back along its path. In spite of the wonderful experience in nature and a shot of the departing foul I was not a happy camper. The least the Heron could do would have been to reward me with a better shot for my patience!
But I did have a pleasant afternoon in nature with great light from the overcast sky so I am willing to return for another attempt to get the shot.
The weatherman is predicting little rain during the next few days so you might want to take a trip to the Slough to capture your own vision of this wonderful resource. Perhaps I will see you there.
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