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!