Snow in the Summer

Just got back from another exciting two days of dog shows up in Spring Grove.  Normally that means hours of sitting around waiting for each of my dogs to make their two minute runs.  I lucked out this weekend – sure, it had the standard waiting around for hours waiting for each of the dogs to make their two minute runs, but this time I was able to spend some quality time at the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park.  This is actually the park Linda bribes me with every time they have a show up there.  There’s been a lot of good bird sightings up there (link here and here) and in general a very nice park (complete with snakes).  Saturday I got to get my 10.5 mile training run in on their very nice trails although I underestimated how hilly those babies were which pushed me pretty good (give Linda credit for waiting around for me to finish that long run).  Today I had the opportunity to go back and spend a few hours walking a few of the trails with the Beast.  Not a lot of birds in the water but did catch a few tree birds in between sprinting away from the mosquito hordes.  Surprised there wasn’t much in the water but the trails were pretty noisy with people which might have spooked them before I got there.  No harm (other than the 50 bites all over my body) it is always good to be out with the Beast especially if I in place of sitting around in a cold building with people strategizing on whether to go behind or in front of the dog to get to the next obstacle.

Although I didn’t find any birds enjoying the backwaters, I figured it would be fitting to bring out another NEW bird from the shoot that did have a lot of water sightings – that’s right, our old friend the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve produced, yet again, another birding list check mark.  What wonderful bird are we featuring today?

It is a difficult to distinguish from this particular shot but the yellow between the eyes and the black bill gives some pretty good clues.  The critical part isn’t visible from this particular shot because it chose to stand in the water while looking for breakfast.  I’ll ruin the suspense and tell you it has very yellow feet which you will see in a shot further down the post.  It is still not a lock because there seems to be some confusion in the various books on Snowy Egret vs the Little Egret.  The Stokes book clearly calls out the Snowy Egret having the yellow coloring between the beak and the eye where the Little Egret has more of greenish hue.  This seemed like a lock until reading further in the Little Egret description and learning that breeding times it can change to a red, orange or yellow hue.  Hmmm … wait wait .. it looks like when this happens the feet turn red or orange.  So based on that, I am definitely going with the Snow Egret unless someone has more knowledge on this particular species and can provide a more definitive answer to the contrary.  Until then I’m happily putting the check mark in the list!

I spent a lot of time with this particular bird trying to find the best way to compensate for the somewhat harsh light.  Not wanting to blow the shot completely I actually tried a lot of different settings to help bring out the detail in the white that didn’t blur in the wind or bird movements.  These white birds cause havoc in good light, much less late morning direct light.  A big thanks to Adobe for some nifty tools in the digital darkroom that lets me tweak the shots in an attempt to make the good shots a little better.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt these birds are extremely photographer friendly being such still hunters.

Hit the jump to read more about this pretty bird

The following shot brought a smile to my face and not just because it provided a badly needed identification feature.  It looks very much like Linda and I at Chula Vista a few weeks back trying to whip up enough willpower to enter the cold water.  More on the Dell’s visit in a future post, but Murphy struck again – the week before we headed there the heat index was over 100.  We get up there and it turns 61 and rainy – not the most ideal time to be at a water park but we were bound and determined to get our money’s worth .. makes me shiver just thinking about it and we didn’t have feathers to keep us warm!

Looking at this again, maybe it spent much time in front of the TV watching Sharktopus or Sharknado (for the record have to be the WORST two movies I’ve ever seen and trust me… I’ve seen a lot of bad movies.

We spent at least 30 minutes with this particular specimen (and a few others that were hanging out with it) until we opted to tear ourselves away from this particular pond and moved on to explore the numerous others on the property.  Towards the end of the day we came upon a huge gathering of Northern Shovelers doing their whirlpool routine to stir up food.  Around the corner from the main mass of Shovelers we came upon this severely outnumbered SnowyEgret hanging out on a rock.  Since I would never waste any reach with the Beast, it is pretty much a given this bird was much farther out than the previous Egret.    Guessing it was just hanging out seeing as there wouldn’t be any food it was interested in hanging around with all those Shovelers hanging about.  Maybe it was holding court among the little people at the pond… although not sure it was getting the respect it thought it deserved…

If you look real close it almost looks like the duck to its right just might be publicly mocking it.  … here, let me bring you in a bit.

Lookeee at me standing all cool like on one leg.  I’m sure there was a number of quack insult hurled in the Egret’s general DIrection.  Based on the following shot, guessing Mr. Snowy was not too appreciative of this public display of degradation.

All the shots of the Egret giving that duck a swift kick in the ass came out blurry – now that would have been the shot for the competition season.  There is never too many smart asses in the flock apparently – it wasn’t too long before another Shoveler took its place on the rock and starting mimicking the poor Egret again.  This shot shows the growing frustration in the Egret

Based on the observations of the course of that day, clearly the Snowy Egret doesn’t get a lot of respect in Waterworld (sticking with the horrible movie theme).  Looking back at the shots of the first Snowy Egret sighting I came upon this shot.  This is definitely not up to quality specs (49 more and I’ll have my style according to Rick Sammon), but once again the Egret is getting shown zero respect from none other than the chicken of the pond – the American Coot.  “Oh, were you hunting for food here… like right in this spot here.. where I’m paddling and making noise.. right about ummm here .. in this little bit of water you happen to be standing in front of Mr. Snowy?   sorry about that … NOT!”.

Truth be told, the shot above that looked like the Egret was trying to test the water temperature.. in truth it had just finished drowning that damn Coot.  They may be white and purdy, but being ridiculed by a Coot is just taking it too far.

Ooops, I ran out of picture and I didn’t even get to any interesting facts!  Crap .. off to our friends at Wikipedia.  That little yellow patch just past the eye will turn red to go along with their plumes during the breeding season.  Those plumes ended up being fashion statements for women’s hats causing significant damage to their population but now protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Thanks to that they now enjoy a Least Concern Conservation status.  Interesting, the allaboutbirds.org site actually refers to these Snowy Egrets as White Herons – actually Wikipedia does as well – so why are they not called Snowy Herons?  I’m totally confused – trust me, there is no shortage of frustrations being a birder.  Good thing I like a challenge.

Well, gotta get some sleep – the worst thing about these dog show weekends is I have to get up WAAAAY to early.

Have a good one!

6 thoughts on “Snow in the Summer”

  1. Cute! I have to agree that the Snowy Egret is getting right ticked off at the ducks taking turns mocking him. Ha!

    More interesting facts on the Snowy Egret:

    Widespread killing of egrets for the millinery trade nearly caused the species to be extirpated from Connecticut by the late 1800s. (That might not be interesting, but it’s a nifty pronouncement to make next time you’re out birding with someone!) Their beautiful, white, silky plumage is (are?) called aigrettes.

    The snowy egret has also been known as the lesser egret, little egret, Brewster’s egret, snowy heron, little snowy, little white egret and little white heron. (Why can’t I read that sentence without mentally saying “little white heroin”?)

    While feeding in shallow areas of ponds and marshes, snowy egrets use one foot to stir up the bottom, flushing prey into view. Snowy egrets will also hover, then drop to the water to catch prey in their bills.

    There is evidence that a pair of Snowy Egrets cannot recognize each other except at the nest. Even there, a bird arriving to relieve its mate must perform an elaborate greeting ceremony in order to avoid being attacked as an intruder.

    They choose urbanized nesting locations over isolated ones, because isolated locations have more predators. Egrets use flight to escape predation from terrestrial animals and they are known to have innate recognition and avoidance of poisonous snakes.

    A group of egrets has many collective nouns, including a “congregation”, “heronry”, “RSVP”, “skewer”, and “wedge” of egrets. (A skewer of egrets sounds good to me right about now.)

    The areas between the eyes and bill are known as yellow lores.

    I saw that mustelids are among their predators, so I looked up what those were: “Mustelids are mammals that belong to the weasel family. Mustelids include 65 species (and 25 genera) of weasels, badgers, ferrets, fishers, grisons, martens, otters, polecats, stoats, minks, tayras, wolverines, and more.” I’d look up grisons and tayras, but I’m beat.

    Ron

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  2. Ah, I didn’t catch the word similarity:

    The word ‘egret’ comes from the word ‘aigrette’ which refers to the lacy breeding plumes of 6 species of white heron. The word egret has since been used to name other all-white herons, even those that do not have these fancy breeding plumes.

    and…

    All members of the family Ardeidae have specialized feathers called powder down. These are never moulted but fray from the tip and grow continuously from the base. While pigeons have similar feathers all over their bodies, in herons, these are concentrated in patches. The fine powder that is generated as these feathers fray is used by the bird to remove slime and oil from their feathers.

    Another interesting heron feature is their 4 long toes, 3 pointing toes forwards, and one backwards. The claw on the middle of the forward toes has a rough, comb-like inner margin that the Egrets use to preen (comb) their soft feathers.

    The egret’s method of spearing its prey is called the “Deathblow.”

    …and I’m done.

    Ron

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  3. This is AWESOME!!!

    Talk about a haul of of Egret facts. Hey, didn’t I call it “snowy heron” — although somehow the concept of heroin completely escaped me – I can visualize coming after dark and seeing people getting a wedgie and snorting the feathers (admittedly cheaper than cooking up Sudafed). Who the hell studies whether Egrets can recognize each other – is this another government funded activity? If so we know where to start when it comes to Sequestration.

    Wow, I must correct my first comment – not only a haul of Egret facts but we get Mustelids facts too (although I think everyone prefers saying WEASEL – a truly factafivourus comment .. eh commentS. I think I might be able to abuse this help – next post will just have lots of pictures and the one line text “A Bird” and wait for another extremely informative comment – hehehehe.

    I admittedly never knew the origin of Egret – interesting that it is just sub-classification of Herons. They think their so cool they need their own name.. no wonder all the other birds mock them!

    Thanks a BUNCH for helping out with the facts. Something tells me you might have spent some time on Google hehehe

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  4. Google?? I went to the library and browsed through their birding and encyclopedia collections, writing down information into a notebook, and then came home and typed it all into the comments.

    Google, hmmph.

    Ron

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  5. Don’t know, I just made that all up. I think it’s a vast collection of ebook readers on shelves with just enough memory in each one to hold a single Wikipedia article.

    Ron

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