Spider Bittern Chic

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Phocal, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Spider Colony
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The above photograph was a great find and the perfect place to start this story. Part of my motivation to concentrate on kayak photography this summer was finding baby Green Herons to photograph. At the beginning of the year I did some research and found that Green Herons hatch mid to late June and put it on my calendar to search them out. About 4 weeks ago I headed out in search of nest and baby Herons, turns out I was looking at the perfect time as I found a number of nest with eggs. I did find a group of newly hatched Green Herons but with 25mph winds they could not stay in the reeds (got knocked to the ground) and I was having a hard time getting into position because of the wind. My plan was to return in a week and hope for better weather as well as giving time for the eggs I found to hatch, a few of the nest are in perfect places to get some great photos.


    All of that changed shortly after my last kayak trip. I think it was on that trip (not 100% sure when it happen) that I got bit by a spider just below the belt line on the right buttocks cheek. Needless to say this set off a very painful 2 weeks. Ended up at the doctor and they had to not only open it up to drain the infection butt cut away dead skin and muscle. During that two weeks I returned every day to every other day to have the packing removed and have the hole (which I refer to as my ass hole to differentiate it from my asshole) repacked.


    For 2 weeks I could sit as long as I didn't lean back, butt after an hour or so it would really start to hurt from the upward pressure of sitting down. This basically meant I could only lay on my stomach pain free (as pain free as you can get with a gapping hole in your ass that is draining nasty infection juice out), which is an uncomfortable position for me. I slept like shit this entire 2 weeks and still don't feel like I have recovered from the lack of sleep.

    After 2 weeks they stopped packing it (it was nice not getting my ass packed every other day), butt I was not comfortable going out in the kayak with an open wound. Plus it still hurt to lean against anything for a extended period of time, which is hard to not do in my kayak seat. There are also to many nasty things in the water and I didn't want to risk further infection.


    After another 2 weeks I just couldn't resist getting back out there. The hole is still in my ass, butt healing up well and I figured I could risk a trip out in the kayak (doctor said it would take 4-6 weeks to fully close up). I really wanted to capture the Herons when they had no/little feathers and knew that opportunity was gone. Figured I could still get some cute baby bird photos, butt knew that window of opportunity was closing fast and I needed to act.

    So.......................I loaded up the kayak and headed back on Friday to see what I could find. Needless to say, when I saw all the spiders in the photograph above I started laughing my ass off. It just seemed so appropriate to see all of them when I was recently bit and still suffering the effects of that bite. It was also unusual to see those spiders out this early, then again it could be the location (I don't spend a lot of time near the coast). Normally it's early to late fall when I see the Golden Orb Weavers every where in the swamps. A friend who is really into spiders also commented about it being early for them. Butt............I had to capture a photograph of them the best I could and hoping they are there this Friday when I go back because I have some ideas on how to better photograph them. Oh, that photo was taken with the 150/2 and EC-14.

    EM1 w/ ZD 14-54 - 17mm, ISO 200, 1/800 @ f5.6, handheld from kayak
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The first thing I did after launching was cruise by the 6 nest I had marked to see if I could find the babies. Out of the 6, I only found babies at one of them and they were really shy. I tried 5 different times to sneak up on them and they seemed to spot my kayak as soon as it would come into view. This would cause the 2 Herons to retreat into the tree their nest was in.

    Now................I am good at getting close to wildlife, but these two Herons would not allow me to get within 100 feet before taking off. I tried every trick I knew and nothing worked, so it was time to try a new tactic. Before making my last approach I set the tripod up so I could minimize my movements when they came out. I decided that the less I move the better and this would allow the least amount of movement when I wanted to snap a photograph. I really need to get to work on the little camo hide I have designed for the kayak, would have been very useful on Friday.

    Baby Green Heron Setup
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The only place I could get a good view from a distance that I felt would allow good photographs with my 150/2 and EC-20 and be far enough away to not stress them was right in the middle of the bayou and the stupid hot sun. It was so hot Friday (with no wind) that my iPhone overheated just from it sitting in my kayak. Noticed the warning when I grabbed it to do something, had to throw it in the cooler to cool it off. After two hours of sitting there perfectly still (feeling like an egg frying in the sun) watching them, one finally came out enough to allow a photograph basically good enough to see the baby.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-20 - ISO 500, 1/500 @ f4.0, shot from a tripod on the kayak
    Green Heron Chick 002
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The sun was super bright when I took this photograph, but he was up under so much shade that I needed ISO 500. The camera in Aperture Priority was giving me really low shutter speeds and ISO 200 but I really wanted faster speeds to ensure sharp photos. I prefer when I can to shoot 1/1000 from the kayak because you are always moving some, up/down or side/side..............there is always some movement in the kayak. So I switched to manual and set my shutter to the lowest I was comfortable with and let the ISO fall where it may.

    In between my attempts to photograph the baby Green Herons (I would paddle away for 30 minutes or so to allow them to settle down before another attempt) I came across this Least Bittern that I was able to snap a photo of before he flew away. I was about 15 feet away according to exif.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - ISO 200, 1/800 @ f2.8, handheld from kayak
    Least Bittern 009
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Before my last attempt to photograph the Herons I came across this Least Bittern hunting and he let me get within 11 feet while following him along the weed line for about an hour. He never really came out into the open and this made getting good clear shots very difficult, especially in a moving kayak. Because he was slowing working his way along the weeds I had to keep in constant motion as I followed him. Trying to put the focus point on a bird thru heavy cover is hard enough without being on a drifting kayak. It was challenging but so much fun to watch this elusive bird hunt from such a close distance.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - ISO 200, 1/160 @ f2.8, handheld from a kayak
    Least Bittern 011
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - ISO 200, 1/160 @ f2.8, handheld from a kayak
    Least Bittern 010
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - ISO 200, 1/200 @ f2.8, handheld from a kayak
    Least Bittern 012
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - ISO 200, 1/200 @ f2.8, handheld from a kayak
    Least Bittern 013
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    You may notice the low shutter speeds for these shots. I tend to shoot in Aperture Priority when able and these are the shutter speeds the camera was giving me. I did notice it while on the water and decided to roll with it to see how well it worked. As I said earlier, I prefer shutter speeds of 1/1000+ when in the kayak because of all the movement. I was really impressed with how many sharp photos I got from this series, even with all the challenges of shooting. Granted, it was really calm out there Friday and that helped with getting sharp shots at these shutter speeds. If it had been windy with some chop on the water it would not have been possible. It is nice to know that I can dip down to those speeds in the right conditions.

    I will be going back this Friday and hopefully can get a few photos of the babies. I was hoping mom/dad would show up with food but never saw the adults, maybe that will change. This will probably be my last attempt to photograph them because I want to start exploring some swamps that are closer to me as well as a few spots that I hope to find Black Bears. Yes, we have Black Bear in Texas.............well they are starting to make a come back and becoming my new obsession.


    • Like x 11
    • Winner x 2
    • Agree x 1
    • Funny x 1
    • Wow x 1
  2. alex g

    alex g Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2016
    New York / Bath
    How much is known about the short term memory of birds such as those, with regard to effective stalking tactics? For example, once they see a man in a canoe appear and depart again, how long is it before they forget about men in canoes, or do they retain the info, filed under "Infrequent, unclassified potential threats with yellow feet" or something? I guess it depends to a large degree on how often it happens — eventually they will become conditioned to whatever it is, provided it doesn't attack them — but I wonder what the dynamic is in the "very infrequent human presence" case. If one was to paddle stealthily past them every 30 minutes, say, would they think "WTF is THAT?" each time, or would it be more like "oh geez... AGAIN?"?
    • Like Like x 1
  3. sprocket87

    sprocket87 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 29, 2011
    Crazy story, nice captures. Any pics of the spider bite? ;-)
    • Funny Funny x 1
  4. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 13, 2015
    Troy, NY
    Jock Elliott
    Lovely shots!

    Cheers, Jock
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  5. Underwater

    Underwater Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 1, 2014
    Eugene, Oregon
    Let's hope not :)
    • Funny Funny x 1
  6. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Yowch! I saw the opening spider colony photo and went Uh... Don't like spiders. Was it one of those that bit you?

    But, I guess it was worth the pain and effort to get those shots. Your patience (and stamina) was rewarded. Whew.

    But spiders... not my favorites. :)
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  7. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Crows can reportedly distinguish a farmer with a hoe from a hunter with a shotgun, and thus ignore the farmers.
    I have no idea if that's only learned from experience, or if it can be communicated and shared between crows.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. retiredfromlife

    retiredfromlife Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    I used to see spider colonies like that in my younger days in the mangrove swamps (that have since been filled in for housing) One would often walk in a long way before realising you were surrounded by spiders and had to find the way out. These colonies would cover half a football field.

    Nice story and photos
  9. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I really don't know how long or how many interactions it take. From my observations in places that see a lot of human activity compared to not much if any human activity the animals do react differently when approached. It seems when on foot the ones with less human activity seem much harder to approach and more cautious of letting a human get close to them. This is especially true of gators, but that could also be because they are hunted in the places that see little human activity. But when in my kayak I am able to get really close to the ones that see little human activity, it seems they don't realize it's a person unless you talk or something and allow you to get much closer. Those Bitterns in the photo's above are very elusive birds and I have a very hard time getting close to them even in places with a lot of humans, but in a kayak I am able to get close to even the ones that see few humans (as the ones I photographed). This area I have been in the kayak sees very little in the way of people on the water. You can only get into this bayou from the Wildlife Refuge and only in a kayak, needless to say very few people come here in kayaks. Mostly because Anahuac NWR has a reputation of being full of gators and most people are afraid to even attempt to launch here. On a Facebook group for wildlife in Texas I get asked all the time about being afraid to launch there and what about the gators. Honestly, they take off before I can get 100 feet from them and that's why I prefer my full of people state park for gator photography (they are use to people and you can get close).

    This is why I only tried to approach them 5 times and none of those times did I get very close. I am hoping they will learn that kayaks are not a threat and in the future I will be able to get close to them. I always try to stress wildlife as little as possible when I approach and when I see signs of stress I always back off and leave the animal alone. Whenever I see really close photos of baby birds in nest I always question the practice of the photographer and at times it is really hard to not say something. Especially when I can tell that they had to get way to close and defiantly stress the animal to get the photos.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks and there are but only for my special friends. If you want to send $250 to my paypal account I will make you a special friend, big_ass_spider_bite_hole@yahoo.com
  11. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks Jock
  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    LOL, I love spiders. No, I am pretty sure it was not one of them............they are pretty harmless spiders actually.
  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Pretty sure it is learned and probably passed down from parents to child.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks. I am use to seeing these spiders in colonies like this but much later in the year. Was a shock to see them in the middle of summer, but I also don't spend a lot of time in swamps close to the coast.
  15. alex g

    alex g Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2016
    New York / Bath
    The "on foot" versus "not on foot" human factor seems to pervade much of the animal kingdom — the larger mammals of the African plains, for instance, are generally extremely tolerant of a human presence, either ignoring it or retreating from it, provided that the humans aren't on foot. The moment that we assume our unique, erect, bipedal outline, however, we are perceived as a threat, and are much more likely to provoke aggressive defensive behaviour. For example, lions will typically ignore the presence of vehicles, or at most show mild interest, whereas they will voluntarily keep their distance from us if we're on foot. Similarly, elephants — especially those with at least some human conditioning, which these days is sadly most of them — are quite happy to be observed by humans sitting quietly and calmly in open vehicles (the humans, not the elephants), even from really close quarters, but will frequently become restless, adopt an alert defensive formation and possibly charge in response to humans approaching too closely on foot. No animal likes to be taken by surprise, of course — stumbling across a dozing lion is a bad idea, since by doing so one will have suddenly materialized well inside their run boundary or, worse still, inside their attack boundary, meaning that there's a good chance they'll make a defensive attack. I imagine the same sort of thing applies to your alligators, too?

    The "on foot"/"not on foot" distinction fascinates me though. I believe that many species of animal have vision systems which are tuned into movement and outline, so I guess that sitting down quietly in a car or kayak will be a pretty effective way of confusing them. :)
    • Like Like x 2
  16. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    How they react to humans is something I always find fascinating. I have also seen that it does vary by area and the type of human interaction they are use to. At my favorite state park to photograph gators all the animals are fine with people on foot. Yet a few miles away at a different park you can't get close to them on foot but in a car they are fine. Gators seem to avoid kayaks and boats naturally, unless it's a place where they are use to people feeding them from boats. There is a state park that has a lake completely inside the park and it sees lots of visitors. People are always feeding the gators and it's one place I hate going in my kayak but do so because the fishing is just amazing. But the gators will come up and swim right a long with you because they expect a handout, there where areas in Florida when I was in grad school that were just like this. Nothing will make you more nervous then a 12 foot gator swimming alongside you because he wants you to give him food. Have had a few bump my kayak to get my attention that they wanted a handout.

    Because of the very different reactions I have had with gators depending on the area, I always ask people who have been there before what I should expect. Before I launched at this location I asked in one of my Facebook wildlife groups what others had experienced here (which was no info because no one had been there in a kayak, actually I am one of a handful in a 36K group that shoots from a kayak). I was told by a few people that if I have to ask then I must be afraid and probably shouldn't go there. Which is far from the truth....................I just want to know how they react before launching at dark when I can't see them and because they act completely different in different areas. I know a few places that I like to fish that they are super aggressive to kayaks (don't know about boats because you can't get one in there) and it's always an adventure to fish there.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Wow Wow x 1
  17. D7k1

    D7k1 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 18, 2013
    Did you see the spider that bit you. Some times Yellow Sac spiders produce a bit that can mimic a Recluse bite and they are very wide spread here in the US. The various species of Recluse spiders live in very specified locations (many don't know that there is a Desert Recluse that can symptoms similar to its famous cousin or that in a very specific location in LA that a South American species lives in a particular building - this spider is much more dangerous than any US species. The symptoms of a Brown Recluse are "A red ring forms around a white wound (looks like a target or bullet). A blister develops on the skin surrounded by red, although some systemic reactions have been reported. Not much is known about most spiders venom as many don't have fangs that can penetrate human skin. Bites in areas of poor circulation can cause problems like you had from a Recluse. Here in the NW the Hobo was thought to produce such bits but there are no longer listed as a species of concern.
  18. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    No I didn't, which is unfortunate because I would really like to know. Pretty sure it was not a Recluse, got bit by one many years ago and this has not been as bad. I guess it could have been a young one that got me, but it has been nothing like my Recluse bite (which I actually caught the Recluse that bit me and yes, I did let him go). My brother was moving stuff around while building me a little covered area along side the garage and my kayak ended up leaning against the wood pile. It is a possibility that a Recluse ended up in my kayak and then bit me while out on the water in the kayak. Doctor didn't want to hazard a guess as to what type it was.