Stand your ground
The story of an eagle that tried to bully a great blue heron but came up empty-handed.
Story + Photography by Sophia Schade
Editor’s note: Local photographer Sophia Schade had a front-row seat for an epic showdown between an eagle and a great blue heron at Donnelley Wildlife Management Area in Green Pond, South Carolina. Here she shares details and photos of the once-in-a-lifetime encounter. Spoiler alert: The catfish got away.
People say serendipity can be a beautiful thing. A well-worn photographer’s adage is “f/8 and be there,” with an emphasis on “be there.” Here is a recent experience to illustrate a bit of truth in both. I was driving home from Charleston; I had been there for four days helping a friend move. I needed some me time. Just me, my camera and nature — my happy place. I called my husband, Dennis, and told him I would be a little late but promised I would get home in time for us to have dinner together. I was so excited and exhausted at the same time.
As I turned off of U.S. 17 into Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, I immediately felt that everything was going to be OK. My life is great. My friend was starting a new life in Delaware, and she was going to be OK.
About 20 minutes after I entered the refuge, I got to my favorite spot: The pond with the tree. Most photographers that visit there know all about the tree. It is where all the action happens. It is a resting place for many different species. On this day there was only one anhinga in the tree. The white pelicans were swimming, and everyone was having a lazy late afternoon. Some of the waterfowl and shorebirds were fishing, and some were getting ready to roost. I relaxed and enjoyed the scene before me, taking random pictures.
Too quickly my alarm rang, and I knew it was time to head home.
I could not believe what I just witnessed. My heart was beating so fast that I needed few minutes to just breathe. Quickly, I grabbed my camera and started looking at my photos and started praying, “please God, let them be good!” I took about 30 photos. Not all good, but enough to make me really happy. And then the tears started streaming down my face. God knew I needed that moment. After I got home, I realized there was a lesson in what I had witnessed. In life some people might be bullies and come after you, but stand your ground. If you do, eventually, they will go away. It’s a lesson well worth missing dinner for.