Capturing a shot of a great blue heron catching a sunny at your local large lake, is about as rare an occurrence as someone capturing a shot of an ape at the zoo scratching his ass. Great blues are all over the place, and sunnies breed like rats in any lake they find their way into. Therefore a photo of this happening is inevitable if you set your mind to it. So this sequence of shots capturing this young great blue spearing his lunch is not a rare thing by any means. Yet the odds of someone capturing this particular scene on this particular day was far more rare then simple mathematics would suggest.
For one this shot wasn't captured at either of the first two of the three giant lakes here at Clove lakes, which are just chocked full of fish and several great blues that keep their numbers from skyrocketing out of control. It was captured in the shallow stream that connects the first two lakes together. Water from Clove lake (the first lake) flows over a waterfall (actually two), then down into this rock strewn brook which in turn empties into Martling lake about a quarter of a mile down stream.
For any fish washed over the falls, this trip is almost a death sentence as there is nowhere to hide in the 6 inch deep waters, and lots of hungry mouths looking for them. Somehow I believe the fish instinctively know it, and avoid getting trapped in the falls current.
In my experience most fish unfortunate enough to get swept over the falls don't even make it this far down, as young herons camp out at the base of the falls to beat others birds to the punch, and grab them there. So much so that in my dozen years of coming here with my cameras I'd yet to ever capture a shot of one getting lucky in this stream, anywhere but at the base of the falls - with the sole exception of the wonderful sequence you can find in this gallery of that night heron catching a young sunny a little over a year ago, the day after the city got hit with rainstorm of near biblical proportions, which washed fish (and even a rowboat) over the falls in countless numbers.
Even that shot was within 100 ft or so of the falls. The odds of a lone fish getting this far down is extremely unlikely. So now you see why I said this sequence of shots is far more rare then any of the million recorded shots of herons catching a sunny would suggest.
On top of all that is the quality of the image. This shot was not cropped. So no image quality had to be compromised by having to enlarge the picture file. I just happened to be walking by this spot looking for hummingbirds feeding off the biggest jewel weed bush in the park when this fellow came walking by.
He walks the length of this stream all the time. And I come to this bush during the peak blooming period for jewel weed all the time (for 2 or 3 weeks in late August early September). So we are quite familiar with each other. I've taken lots of shots of him while waiting for hummers (usually from a comfortable distance for his tastes). More often than not I just kept my camera aimed at the bush and the birds I hoped to capture feeding on the nectar from it rather than on him walking by with little chance to capture him doing something interesting.
As this stream runs right past the bush, and often I'm there on the back side of it, he's seen me quite often over the last few weeks, and totally ignores me when he passes by on his regular patrol. So now this time when I by coincidence ran into him as he was on patrol, our close proximity didn't faze him in the least and instead of taking flight he just kept his head fixated on the water, as I raised my camera to my face.
The only shot I expected to get was one of him walking by in the nice open lighting. As no fish are ever here to be had, it was an amazing coincidence that he, the fish and I all ran to each other, at the same unlikely spot for a fish to ever be, and me with the perfect lens camera combo in my hands at the time.
Even that was a stroke of good fortune. As finally after over ten years, I was able to afford a two camera setup. With my full frame camera attached to my 105mm micro lens for the many macro shots I took (see them pictured just before this sequence) I didn't have to switch lenses to get this shot, and probably miss it, like I so often did in the past with my one camera setup.
And even when I had my old D300 or D300s, I still almost certainly would not have gotten this whole sequence as back then I was using my 70-300mm nikkor to capture most of my nature shots. Neither camera or lens was great at quick accurate autofocus. And they made an abysmal combination paired together for nature subjects (though quite a superb pairing for street shooting). Countless times failing to focus lock on large animals in plain sight, in decent enough lighting. But this D500 and Tamron 100-400 are a fantastic combination by comparison.
When this heron unexpectedly slammed it's head into the water my camera lost focus lock on him, as I still had my camera pointed up, never expecting him to find a fish over here. But in a second or so, my camera with its new generation sensor reacquired focus, and locked in for the whole series, from spearing it to gobbling it down. Quite an amazing mix of good fortune, planning and luck. And I'll take that combination every time.
Clove Lakesbirdsgreat blue heronnaturesummerStaten IslandNYCheronssld10