The Great White Ghost..
One of my first photography workshop instructors is a relatively younger fellow by the name of Maxis Gamez from southwest Florida. His bird photographs have graced the cover of National Geographic at least five times. This is truly a significant accomplishment considering his age and years of experience. I recently signed up for his five-day bird photography “Boot Camp” hoping I would capture “the Great White Ghost”.
The Reddish Egret (dark morph) is one of the most photogenic birds I have encountered, and it was a photo of this beautiful heron that got me my first award as a photographer. It is a medium to large sized heron, with a grey body and rufous colored neck and head feathers. The adults are over 3 foot in height with wings spans of nearly four feet. Almost hunted to extinction at one time, they have rebounded to about 12,000 mating pairs in the tropics and Gulf of Mexico states including some sightings in southern Florida. The feeding antics in the surf or shallow water are like a matador with a cape challenging the bull. They leap, prance, and use their wings like a cape to spook fish. So why do I call it the Great White Ghost? Like an albino, or the white morph of the Great Blue Heron, the Reddish Egret has a white morph variant too. About 20% of Reddish Egrets exhibit this white morph coloration of all white feathers, and a pink bill with a black tip. It is rarely seen and its breeding behavior is the subject of an ongoing study by wildlife officials. White morphs of the Reddish Egret can only have White Morph offspring. However, a dark Morph Reddish Egret can hatch a White Morph. The latter is very rare though. It is this rare white morph, or Great White Ghost , that I was seeking to capture.
Maxis spotted a white morph in a tidal pool as we were about to leave on our second day of the boot camp. It took off quickly up the beach. Maxis looked at me and said are you in? I nodded in agreement and was determined to follow it. It quickly outdistanced us. Though exhausted, I kept plodding through the surf determined to capture this rare beauty. Then “Lady Luck” smiled on us. The “Great White Ghost” grabbed a needle fish in the surf and flew back right towards us. Quickly raising my camera, I pushed the Doohickey. Holding my breath while reviewing my shots, I prayed at least one would be tack sharp in focus. My prayers were answered. This particular white morph had a radio tracking device on its back and was being tracked by local Florida Wildlife officials.
Seek and ye shall find. This day the promise was fulfilled. My thanks to Maxis Gamez and most of all the one who made it. Hope you enjoy it too. Blessings. Harry