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

This 2014 photo of the Reddish Egret (dark morph) shows the beauty of this birds feathery neck and head and was my first award winning photo. 

The Reddish Egret hunts in the surf zone and shallow waters using its wings like a matadors cape to find food. There is a white morph also of this bird and that was the one on my bucket list that I call the Great White Ghost because it is rarely seen.

On day one of the "Boot Camp" we found a Reddish Egret,  Photo of me by and with permission of Maxis Gamez

On day one of the "Boot Camp" we found a Reddish Egret,  Photo of me by and with permission of Maxis Gamez

Reddish Egret "dancing" in the shallow water as it hunted for food in the early morning light.

View through the lens of "Big Red" the Reddish Egret (dark morph) in early morning glow

Can you do this to your neck? 

Big Red's wing spread can be up to 4 ft or more.

Big Red, the Reddish Egret in flight...

A Marbled Godwit searches the shoreline..

Morning traffic jam on the beach...where are the air traffic controllers when you need them?

White Ibis scratches an itch..

On day two of the "Boot Camp" Maxis challenged me to up my game and get low to get the shot that separates the pros from the by and with permission Maxis Gamez.

Getting low to capture a Black Bellied Plover resting in the tide. 

Maxis spots a White Morph Reddish Egret, it flies off and the quest is on to capture a photo

Lady Luck smiles on us at the White Morph grabs a needle fish and flies back in our by and with permission of  Boot Camp photographer Kathy Williams

I Press the Doohickey and pray...the bird is wearing a radio transmitter for tracking by FWC officials

I finally capture a photo of "the Great White Ghost", a rare White Morph Reddish Egret..Thank you Lord and Thank You Maxis..One less on the Bird Bucket List now...


All photographs and materials copyrighted and possession of Harry D Selsor. All rights reserved.

Photos are avail for purchase framed or unframed.