Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snow Today! - FOY Snowy Egret

This Snowy egret was wading on the clam flats of Phippsburg today. It is my 'FOY' or 'first of year' as we birders like to say. The medium sized herons migrate to South America in the winter. They breed on large inland and coastal wetlands from the lower Great Lakes and southwestern United States to South America. Their breeding range in eastern North America extends along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Maine to Texas, and inland along big rivers and lakes. They nest in colonies, often with other waders. There is even a report of a hybrid Snowy egret and a Little Blue heron in Florida. They make platform type nests of sticks in trees or shrubs. Last summer, in nearly the same spot that this one was fishing, I saw 27 of them in the trees. To me, they look pretty silly in trees but quite elegant otherwise. I'm going to be on the look-out for them now. I want to get some shots of them displaying their breeding plumage, recurved feathers on the head that give them a shaggy look. I guess this would make me a "plume hunter," of sorts. The breeding plumes were so popular for women's hats that Snowy egrets were nearly wiped out by plume hunters by the mid eighteen hundreds. The conservation status of the birds is now on a state by state basis, at risk though not endangered. Snowy egrets can be quite comical to watch feeding. They stalk crustaceans, small small fish in shallow water by moving one foot around in the water flushing the victim into view. Then they skewer it with their bill. Sometimes, they run or shuffle their feet. This one was jiggling its feet ever so slightly. They also "dip-fish" by flying with their feet just over the water. Snowy Egrets may also stand still and wait to ambush prey, or hunt for insects stirred up by domestic animals in open fields.
In Phippsburg, one is not likely to see an egret in a field, but wherever there is mud there are apt to be egrets. And we have a lot of mud in "The Burg!"
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  1. I never tire of watching Egrets. Gorgeous flight shot Robin.

  2. Why, thank ye! More to come with any degree of luck.

  3. "What great pictures!"

  4. "Hi Robin, I like your blog! Lots of very nice photos. Vic Berardi.".