Hungry Hungry Hippo Heron

Quick change of post plans. Originally scheduled to have a two-parter from Brad for these next posts, but I forgot we are sending him on assignment to a dark foreboding destination in a forgotten corner of the world in search of new post fodder. Sure, he was reluctant at first, but got onboard when I explained it was for the good of our loyal readers at the cost of relatively minor inconveniences (Malaria shots for starters). Personal concern for safety was quickly replaced with thoughts of National Geographic level grander and notoriety. Let’s all thank Brad for his dedication and commitment to you and the Intrigued family. If he makes it .. I mean when he makes it back we’ll pop some posts off his queue to feature while Linda and I are sipping umbrella drinks around the pool in a popular desert destination.

In the meantime, you are stuck with me and this here rather gruff looking Egret.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about this blocky Egret more apt to be found in a dry field than standing in the water alongside the rest of its kin.

I suspect if you live anywhere in the lower half of the US you are already very familiar with today’s feathered friend. That is as long as you’ve had the opportunity to visit a coastal field, open grasslands or even a roaming livestock farm that gives explanation for its odd name.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

The Cattle Egret is a fine example of a bird that has adapted to the land and leverages the resources available to sustain itself. In the case of those found near livestock, they will take advantage of the insects and other small creatures, such as Grasshoppers and Crickets, stirred up by grazing cattle. I am sure the larger mammals graciously tolerate these white clad lurkers milling about their feet and backs in return for keeping the Horse Flies at bay and picking off those blood filled Ticks.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

The Cattle Egrets are quite adaptable and can also thrive in more coastal settings sustaining themselves on fish, frogs and related whatnots more akin to the usual Egrets and Herons encountered in those areas. I will say for the record, I have never seen a Cattle Egret actually fishing. All of my encounters to date have either been at the previously mentioned farmlands or recently in a local Hidalgo County, TX ..oh, and this discovery which happened to be at a zoo.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

The San Antonio Texas Zoo to be specific. While wintering in Texas back in January 2022, Linda and I decided to check out the Alamo – my first time and Linda had not been there since she was a kid. Ended up having some extra time – that place was smaller than imagined (nor did I expect it to be located in the middle of downtown surrounded by urban sprawl). With the extra time we decided to check out the local zoo having heard good things about it. A bit of a sticker shock as they wanted around $25 bucks a person – luckily Linda remembered our membership to the International Crane Foundation which cut the price in half.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

I must say, that zoo is really nice – clean, lots of interesting residents with primarily “natural/native setting” containment. Linda made it very clear she didn’t appreciate the massive yellow colored Python or Boa the handlers had brought out for people to experience “up close”. Once I got her extracted from the safety of a nearby building the rest of the visit was very enjoyable. I am a sucker for exotic birds and San Antonio has a mighty fine collection – many of the birds I have never seen before. Someday I should make a post of my favorite captive birds from our numerous zoo visits. We try to focus on the more free to roam wildlife here at Intrigued, but that might be a fun side adventure – not to mention our birding rules do not allow us to take credit for a captive subjects (link here).

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

You are probably asking yourself – “then why is he featuring a bird at San Antonio Zoo” – maybe with some demeaning word like idiot, lily-livered or bird-brained thrown in to spice up the delivery. There’s an easy explanation! Like Linda and I, our specimen was simply visiting the Zoo. Not sure how it paid the entry, but that is another story. No plucked flight feathers, no ball and chain and surprisingly no band – free to leave anytime it wants. I do think it was rude of this particular Egret to fly from pen to pen wearing a shirt with “Got flight?” on it. I made him take it off before I would agree to take its picture.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

Astute photographers probably noticed this series was taken in the harsh mid-day sun. The Egret was busy strutting back and forth along a faux rock wall at the edge of a small pond where the resident ducks were entertaining zoo guests – putting on its own show trying to garnish some of the attention. White bird in a harsh light makes for some difficult exposure settings. Tried to retain as much of the feather texture I could without losing the detail in the rocks – ended up making the Egret a little greyer than I wanted. They are quite white with the exception of their signature brownish wash on their foreheads which become more pronounced during breeding season.

Cattle Egret found at San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX in January 2022

The western mature adults will also morph into yellowish legs. From what I can tell from the references, the western immatures and the eastern variety as a whole have a darker leg coloring similar to our specimen here. Will leave my international readers an interesting tidbit. According to Cornell, these birds are also known as “Cow Cranes, Cow Herons, Cow Birds (oh great, more naming confusion ugh), Elephant Birds, Rhinoceros Egrets and Hippopotamus Egrets (shouldn’t they have used Heron here) – yep names based on their chosen foraging companions.

That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed today’s Hippo Heron (yeah, that is my new go to name for them). Best of luck to Brad, hope he took a lot of bug spray.

43 thoughts on “Hungry Hungry Hippo Heron”

  1. Well, I’ll be pleased to add “Hippo Heron” to my list of sightings. You did a great job keeping the feather texture in this sun-drenched images – that’s an on-going challenge for me. Your observation that they don’t often appear to fish has really made me stop and think… and you’re right, I don’t think I have any photos of Cattle Egrets fishing. Nest building over water, probing for goodies in flooded rice fields, riding the heads and backs of cows (horses won’t stand for it)… but not fishing. Now I have a new challenge – see if Cattle Egrets fish!

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    1. I’m hoping Hippo Heron catches on – I will have to start using it in the field when I’m around a big group of birders and see what kind of looks I get hehehe. You saw it hear first if the ABA makes an official change. Linda noted I was scaring the other animals as I was swearing at the sun while trying to get something dialed in that didn’t just show a giant white blob with a beak. Ted (in comment above) was able to provide some helpful evidence that the HH’s do in fact fish from time to time. Thanks Ted. Like you, I am going to be on the lookout now to see if I can get that behavior tinned – my list of desired shots just keeps growing and growing, would be nice to actually be able to get a few of those checked off sigh. Great catch on the horses – as soon as I read that it occurred to me that I’ve never seen them by a horse either – it may be a side effect of personally trying to stay as far away from those “beasts” as I can! Linda used to teach horseback riding for the Girl Scouts and early in our courtship/marriage she convinced me to take a ride out in Colorado – baaaaad move and forever scarred – thankfully our bonds overcame this horrific, life altering, nightmare eliciting moment in our relationship. From time to time I’ll have a flashback that will leave me in the fetal position in the middle of the living room floor shaking uncontrollably for hours – doing my best to suppress that involuntary reaction as I type this comment, better put a wrap on this reply before Linda has to call a therapist – as always, appreciate you coming by Sam.

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  2. Gruffy put on quite a show for you. Sending Brad to unexplored and dangerous places? Make sure he doesn’t have any Chinese made balloons on him.

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    1. Gruffy sure did and pretty patient as well waiting for me to get an exposure setting that worked for the horrible conditions. We made sure Brad didn’t have any balloons on him as our corporate medical plan has specific exclusions for being injured by fighter jets. Always thought that was an odd line in the insurance waiver, now I know the reason ha. Thanks for dropping in Tim.

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  3. It took me years to actually see Cattle Egrets fishing πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. As far as I knew they were in fields sitting Water Buffalo type critters. The β€˜deep’ end of Okefenokee swamp, Georgia, has a huge rookery of Cattle Egret. Nothing but fish all around. Unless the swamp water is near all time high it’s inaccessible. But they eat fish there πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ€£

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    1. A big thanks for the confirmation Ted! We have had a couple of other comments pondering whether they do or do not exhibit that behavior – bit of the if a tree falls in a forest philosophy – and I’ve now put that on my list of shots to track down (along with a chick/cygnet riding on a mother’s back etc.). I need to get back to Georgia. Really enjoyed the birding there, although we missed Okefenokee the time we were there – I was too focused on Harris Neck to shoot the Stork rookery. Thanks for dropping in and helping out.

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  4. We’ve seen the bovine version many times on the Big Island. In addition to volcanoes, they have one of the top ten largest cattle ranches in the U.S. And with cattle in the tropics comes…wait for it…cattle egrets! I liked the high stepping photo.

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    1. Jet (above) mentioned sightings in Hawaii as well – maybe Linda and I should finally book our trip there (we say it every year and every year something crops up and we push it another year). I had no idea they had ranches that big there, quite fascinating. Then along with the abundance of Cattle Egret, my guess is they also have Cowbirds out the yingyang. Any chance you can see these Egrets riding on Hippos!?!

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  5. Oh Brad, he is the great adventurer in all of us, our representative, for those of us who will hold down the fort while he is gone. I don’t like shots. πŸ™‚
    I saw my first cattle egret down in Florida a few years ago and was so surprised because I had not heard of them. I thought they were shore birds and to see them hanging out with the cows was a surprise. I never did get a photo of one. So thanks for all of these. πŸ™‚

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    1. Sandra, thanks for your concern. So far the expedition is going well. We’ve avoided the alligators on every occasion. Photos as soon as I can get them sorted, identified, and storified.

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    2. My aversion to shots is well known (Linda finds it quite entertaining and is known to roll out elaborate stories to entertain our guests). Thankfully I can just send Brad out to the far away places instead hehehe. The Hippo Herons, sorry, the Cattles are rather unique compared to the rest of their kin and as a result, a lot harder for me to find every year. Tickled pink that one happened to be standing in a parking lot in a Hidalgo County public park while on our January trip to Texas. We were there to get the Red-crowned Parrot giving me a +2 for that day. Keep your eyes open, I am sure you will find one again during your travels. Stay safe!

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  6. Are you gruff looking, too.

    The Alamo… That was one of the places my ex & I hit, shortly are moving to Texas. I realize the historical importance but, in general terms, it’s not really exciting. I enjoyed the Riverwalk, more and the great restaurants. That was back in the Autumn of 2002. I am sure much has changed since we were there.

    Past that, the only times I went back to the San Antonio area was for rock concerts.

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    1. Linda says “yes” to your first question ha. The Alamo as a structure didn’t do much for me. We did get the obligatory photo outside and even used it as our Christmas Card this year. We did enjoy the placards scattered about that gave more of the history and details of the battle. My American history is a bit weak (it was eclipsed by religion classes growing up) and try my best to close some of the gaps as I have gotten older. I did find myself wanting to know where Ozzy Osbourne felt obligated to relieve himself – especially since there are plenty of appropriate places right across the street. The Riverwalk was a big disappointment when we were there. Linda had been talking it up based on her childhood experience. Covid is possible to blame, but there appears to be a homeless problem there now as we had multiple encounters just trying to get to the walk and then a few times once there. Worst of all, we chose what we thought was a nice barbecue place to eat at – after standing at the host area for a significant amount of time, someone finally came up and felt put out at having to seat us. Went through the menu, made our selection and continued to wait and wait and wait and wait for someone to take our order – not a single server ever came out onto the patio that we could flag down. In disgust we left and had a pleasant experience at the Hard Rock Cafe. We completely passed up going into San Antonio our our way down to Texas this year. Thanks for dropping in Vic, appreciate it.

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    1. Nope, no friends – just a walking around hurling insults at the residents – pretty sure I saw a Wood Duck whip a rock at it. He was acting pretty proud of himself, prancing back and forth, until the zoo handlers came out and started giving their clients warm towels, mud masks, wing massages, beak shines, pedicures and umbrella drinks- The Ibises were laughing so hard they turned Scarlet (heheh, thanks for the applause, here all week) – take that you gruffy Cattle Egret!!! Appreciate you stopping by Lisa…for the record I had a salad for dinner the other night… what is happening to me!

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  7. Great post on an internationally interesting bird which does not get the respect it so richly deserves!

    Watching a few hundred Cattle Egret following behind farm machinery is fascinating. When you think of how many insects these birds eat on an annual basis, insects which WE would otherwise have to contend with, one should develop a whole new level of appreciation for the “lowly” Cattle Egret.

    I like your nickname but could also vote for something like “Elegant Elephant Egret” – unless it means we have to import elephants to Florida. Yikes!

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    1. Thank you Wally. I am definitely a fan for any bird/animal that vacuums up insects – could use more in our parts that munch on Asian Lady Beetles – when the farmers take in their crops those things become a living nightmare. I can tell you, I’ve never seen more than 1 to 3 of these Egrets in one place at a time, seeing a few hundred would be something to see. Must say, they are quite smart and one could argue one of the few “tool” (cattle legs/combines/etc) using bird species. “Elegant Elephant Egret”… I could definitely get behind that for sure,maybe E3 as an easy acronym – time to drop a line to the ABA hehehe. Take care Wally (and Gini). We will be heading in your direction come April to hopefully catch the migration.

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  8. Fun to see this cattle egret series, Brian, and hear about this visitor to the SA zoo. A beautiful bird. I’ve seen some that get more brown markings simply from being in so much mud and dirt. The first cattle egret I ever saw was in Hawaii. And the best siting was a flock of them standing atop the backs of hippos in a hippo pool in Africa. Thanks for this enjoyable post.

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    1. I can definitely see them getting a lot browner based on the muck I’ve seen them walking in around the Cattle – fortunately most of the specimens we have found have kept themselves pretty clean or they know where there is a good public shower ha. Brad also mentioned the Cattle Egret in Hawaii – had no idea they were there – learn something new every day! Seeing a flock of them in Africa would be a really cool experience – actually just being on an African safari would be a thrill on its own – your life experiences are so amazing (and so glad you share with us on your blog). Glad you enjoyed the post and, as always, appreciate you stopping by and joining the conversation.

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  9. If you are a history buff, particularly about battles, Alamo is…history. If not, it is pretty ho-hum.

    I must have missed the Ozzy thing. That’s new.

    That is a damn shame about the Riverwalk. There was no homeless problem in 2002. The place was pristine and SO many restaurants bustling. I’m not sure the convid caused the homeless problem but, would certainly cause restaurant closures & lack of staff. The porous border is to blame for the homeless. As I recall, even early on being in the Austin area, there was a huge homeless encampment in southeast Austin, under many overpasses. And, that was the early 2000s.

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    1. Yep, Ozzy got arrested there, but nothing shocks me with him anymore. That was my one and only visit to downtown San Antonio so not enough to form an assured opinion, but our takeaway was that they now have a very bad homeless problem – not as bad as what we witnessed in Reno, NV (also a tent city situation). We spent this New Year’s Eve on the eastern outskirts of Austin. Never made it into the city itself (drove around it to get to the west side for birding). That night around 7:00pm, celebratory gun fire erupted in the surrounding neighborhoods of the campground we were staying at – that continued nonstop until well after midnight – was busy rattling off to Linda all the different calibers and would predict the end of the corresponding magazine. I can’t imagine the final number for the cost of ammunition that night – holy cow. We did get to see Tesla’s new HQ which was not too far from there.

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      1. Ozzy is an odd dude. No doubt.

        Shame about San Antonio. I’ve never seen Reno. I’ve been to Las Vegas, Henderson & Boulder City back in 2000.

        On New Year’s Eve, were you still in Travis County or were y’all in Bastrop County? Just curious…

        Birding…Loop 360? LOL on the caliber sounds. A .380 will have an eight round mag, a 9mm will have ten rounds, a .40 will have ten rounds and a .45 will have eight rounds…IIRC. Not too up on rifles. I couldn’t tell you how many .22s will fit in my lever action Browning. I don’t own a shotgun…yet. I bet shells were everywhere.

        Yeah. Tesla wasn’t there when I left in 2011. I do, however, remember attending a yoga class and, when I was done, I came out to see one of the early Tesla roadsters, parked out front. It was cute and the top was off. I remember thinking that somebody had plenty of money.

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        1. Beyond a convenient place for us to fly in to get to Tahoe, we have no plans to Reno “just to visit”. We’ll be able to give you an update on Vegas and Henderson after we get back from there in a week or so (Henderson has some incredible birding locations).

          We were one mile down the road from Lake Walter E Long which as far as we can tell was in Travis County, although from the maps it must have been close to Bastrop.

          On 12/30 I was desperately trying to find any bird that would inch me closer to the 300 mark and a place called Commons Ford Ranch Metro Park had ebird reports of a Raven and a Spotted Towhee so we decided to circle Austin and check it out. Strange place, not what I expected based on the pictures on Google, but I did get the Spotted – no go on the Raven unfortunately.

          Impressive on the calibers, they had double stacked 9s and guessing their 40s had extenders or they’re John Wick speed mag changers ha. There was a healthy dose of .223 and a few .556 thrown in – they were sparing no expense for their celebration – oddly no shotguns.

          I honestly figured with the influx of Tesla employees I figured there would be Teslas all over the place – didn’t appear to be the case, in fact I probably only saw 4 or 5 EVs our entire time there. Speaking of money, we found a biiig difference in money between the East side of that city and the West, can probably tell which side the Dell and IBM execs live on ha.

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          1. My ex-Marine graduated high school in Boulder City and still has family (maternal) in Henderson…I assume. We split in early 2011.

            I nearly forgot about that lake. It’s on the west side of FM130, with the top end close to the US290 junction (a highway a burned up more than one, headed to Houston). It does sit in the middle, between downtown Austin and the Bastrop line.

            I am unfamiliar with Commons Ford Ranch Metro Park. I had to look that one up. I don’t recall that one. I am familiar with Barton Creek.

            Heh. John Wick. Bullets flying everywhere. Even with the beard, he is still Neo.

            I have a neat extended mag for my .380 (which makes it look like a little Tommy gun), which, BTW, is a Texas special. When then Gov. Rick Perry notified the public that he had shot a coyote that was after his dog:
            https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/texas-governor-shoots-kills-coyote-during-a-jog/
            Ruger put out a limited amount of these cool .380s. You could not get one unless you were a “Texan.” On the right side of the barrel, it says “Coyote Special”. On the left side, it says “A True Texan.” On the top of the barrel is the Texas star and a coyote, howling at a full moon. They all came with lasers. When the public started to snatch them up and jack up the price, Ruger released more to drop the price. That second batch was different…no lasers and the printing was different.

            Teslas are expensive on a ridiculous level. Plus, thousands are under recall for that self driving thing that goes crazy. There are so many videos on Telegram of people not being able to control the damn things when that self-driver kicks in. They are scary. I wouldn’t have one…run into something, blow up and burn for four days…no, thank you.

            Yep. East Austin was slummy when I was there. I can just imagine how bad it is, now. The money houses are in the Hill Country area…Loop 360 and towards Lake Travis & Lake LBJ. There are some incredible mansions, nestled in the rolling hills of the West.

            I don’t know about now but, the main Dell Campus was directly across I-35 from where I lived. We were just outside the Round Rock city limits in Brushy Creek, behind Cat Hollow Park. You could throw a rock across I-35 and hit a Dell building. I tried to interview there, once. They didn’t take people in, directly, no matter how talented you were. They had a third party employment agency that did all of their screening for them. That was a rat maze nightmare. I didn’t even bother. Years later, I met my yoga teacher’s boyfriend, whom worked for Dell as a programmer. I’m glad I didn’t get hired. He had no good things to say about the place. It was a grind mill and he was worn out. They worked programmers to death. This guy had trouble sleeping. There was a running joke in my building, downtown. “You can always tell a “Dellion.” They are tagged like cattle (body badges), have a faraway look in their eyes and drop to the ground to bow to HQ.” The irony to me was, in my building, we were tagged like cattle, too. ID badges got us into the building. Ha!

            When I left, IBM was struggling. They had been attempting to build another plant in downtown Austin and, when I left in 2011, that building had been sitting as bare bones for four years.

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          2. To be honest, my only relationship to Henderson is in the birding arena so holding my judgment on the non-feathered residents ha. Walter lake was pretty nice, could do without the daily entrance fee, but plenty of access to the water, combination of woods, park and the ..guess it is a dam I walked down to.

            The Commons Ford area was a bit strange – looked at pictures, expected a nice water setting, think it even had pics of families enjoying the water etc. Get there and there is no water to be seen, eventually found a trail maybe somewhere between half mile or more that takes you to the river which was just a small open area with a dock. Birding was rather dead, but did get the Towhee I was looking for so all was good.

            Took me awhile to find that Rick Perry special edition Ruger (that wasn’t behind a paywall or thinks I’m willing to disable my ad-blockers for them). Very nice piece! Even found the drum magazine as I had never seen that addition before. Linda loves her laser Sig 380, but I must say that Ruger version looks snazzy. (and the company our youngest Poodle is named aftger)

            I will say, that we drove maybe 4-5 miles from where we were staying (I think north, don’t hold me to it) and wow, what a change. Found several very nice parks/watersheds/sports complexes etc. ..all full of birds yeah. My company was heavy into Dell so being an IT professional there I am pretty familiar with that supplier. At one point I think Linda was involved with procuring and getting their base install customized for big yellow. I can imagine they worked their employees into a lather. Oh, and we were electronically tagged as well as we both worked in our high security world-wide compute center – funny thing is they hardly changed our ID pictures so we all looked 20 years younger than we were ha.

            Can’t say I have any updates on the IBM situation. I also have along history with that organization as they were a main consulting service for us – won’t go into it, but I wasn’t always their biggest fan, aaaahhhh, those were some days, don’t miss any of it.

            Thanks for all the comments Vic, I’m not sure we will take the time to pass through Austin again on our way to the border, but I do know we will try out the KOA on the other side of the city if we do. We saw a lot of those mountain houses/mansion in our brief run through there. Take care and hang on to that unique 380!)

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          3. Most of our dogs have been named after Egyptian gods (Kerberos ‘Kerby’, Osiris ‘Rizzi’). Linda put her foot down on the previous one and his official name is “Anubis Nevermore, Now Raven” (Raven for short) as a statement of not wanting to hear me go on and on about naming it Anubis (the plan was to call him Nub..as in Noob). Little agility competition dogs need to have a name that will intimidate the other competitors ha. We took a different tact with the latest and probably keep that theme going forward for any new dogs we may acquire.

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    1. Luckily I have adventurer extraordinaire Jet (see comments above) who has already put eyes on the Hippo riders so I’ll rely on her good word – trying to remember if San Antonio had a Hippo or not…I’ll check and if they do I’ll send Brad out to get us pictures!!

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  10. Thanks for showing your egret pictures. We have lots of egrets here in the marshes just behind our house. We just blogged about herons as well. It seems to be heron-time.
    Keep well
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    1. You are welcome Klausbernd – as they say, great minds think alike! Something about Egrets that always makes we smile when I see them – assume you have a variety of species over there that we are not fortunate enough to see. Take care and appreciate you dropping in.

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