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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

One of the birds I most enjoy watching in our wetlands and swamps is the Great Egret. It’s hard not to be captivated by these creatures — the epitome of ethereal beauty, grace and strength, they wade, stalk and fly in our waters with balletic poise. They’re the largest egret in the Old World — thus the great of their title. In the New World however, Great Blue Herons win the size competition.

To see their brilliant all-white plumage reflected on the water’s surface is always a stunning sight. These beautiful birds were hunted mercilessly towards the end of the 19th century for their gorgeous feathers — nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers decimated by 95 percent. Their breeding plumage was especially prized, and the treasured feathers were used in hats across the globe. During the breeding season, the Great Egret displays long, elegant plumes on its back, which are used in courtship displays. But with conservation measures enacted, their numbers grew throughout the 20th century. While wetland habitat loss is once again threatening their existence, these birds have a high adaptability to human habitation. Of course, the loss of wetland ecosystems remains another issue altogether for other wildlife and flora….

These egrets feed by stalking, wading in the shallow water, patiently waiting for fish — then grabbing or stabbing their hapless meal with sharp bills. I’ve also seen them dine on amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals; sometimes their eyes are larger than their stomachs.

Great Egret Wading, Florida Wetlands

Wading and hunting in South Florida’s protected wetlands

Great Egret Stalking Meal, Florida Wetlands

Patiently stalking a meal among the purple stalks of the aquatic plant, pickerelweed

Great Egret with Fish, Florida Wetlands

Snagging a meal in the wetlands

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

53 Comments Post a comment
  1. Loving your photos – Have a Great One:)

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks very much… And ditto, have a beautiful day (approaching evening!). 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  2. Beautiful

    December 2, 2012
  3. Grand pictures of a grand bird. Thanks. – Lynn

    December 2, 2012
    • They truly are GRAND, these amazing creatures… Thanks very much!!

      December 2, 2012
  4. bobca1947@comcast.net #

    These photos are AWESOME!  Some of your best ever.  Have you thought about entering them in a photo contest?

    December 2, 2012
    • Aw, THANK YOU! I actually have considered it…. But I’ll keep these in mind, if you think so. 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  5. Beautiful photos of lovely creatures! Your narrative is perfect! Thanks! 🙂

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks SO much! I realize I tend to be a bit repetitive, but some of these guys are too glorious not to repeat. 🙂

      December 2, 2012
      • You’re dong great! Your posts are some of the classiest I’ve seen! 🙂

        December 2, 2012
      • You’re so incredibly kind, THANK you!! 🙂

        December 4, 2012
  6. Those are absolutely gorgeous photos of a magnificent species!

    Every time I look at historical photos and notice a lady with one of those hats with the feathers, I get the chills. What a tragic thing that would have been to kill off the entire species just for fashion.

    Along those same lines, I get a weird feeling sometimes when I come across those suspiciously “cute” photos or videos of captive wild animals. I always wonder where these people got the animals, and why. It seems like the same sort of exploitation—but people on the internet seem to go nuts over it—not unlike the feather hats.

    I appreciate your work so much more, because you are celebrating wildness, not cuteness. Thank you!

    December 2, 2012
    • THANK you so very much!

      You are so dead-on… I likewise get the chills whenever I see these vintage photos. UGH. To think we nearly exterminated (many) entire species…for HATS. Intelligent humans, indeed. Obviously we’re still learning.

      I’m completely in agreement with you, too, on the issue of where and how one photographs animals — and the responsibility of the photographer in labeling an image as such. IE, “natural environment,” “zoo,” etc. Many fail to do this. As difficult as it can be to capture them in the wild, in their NATURAL environment, this is my utmost priority — to show the ecosystems we MUST maintain and preserve for their survival. I personally can’t enter zoos (wildlife rescues are another story). It’s not just about the animals, it’s about the land. There’s my mini-rant, I apologize… See what your kind compliment started, hahah? 🙂

      December 2, 2012
      • One thing I learned while researching my elephant story is that great changes are being made on behalf of those animals, and others as well. The Houston zoo, which has elephants, has tripled the space available for them. And all along the Texas coast, some of the most dedicated people in the world are working at expanding wetlands, stopping suburban sprawl into sensitive areas and so on.

        As with hunt for egret feathers, when attitude change begins, the people who are helping to bring about the changes – restoring wetlands, better managing forests, keeping an eye on zoos, etc., need support while things begin to turn around.

        Don’t you think part of the problem is that when there were so few people in this country, and such huge numbers of birds and animals, it was easy to think birds like the egret would always be with us? That got ingrained in the national psyche – now, more and more people are trying to put on the brakes before it’s too late. The egret’s a great piece of evidence that it can be done!

        December 4, 2012
      • You’re absolutely right…. I see both sides of the spectrum in this area, sadly. Giant swaths of land — first-growth wetlands and forest slated for destruction, for shopping centers — as nearby centers boast foreclosure signs. Sheer greed. The conservation movement here is critically lacking in many ways… Or, the developers have FAR too much control or power.

        But on the flip side, there has been much done to preserve large swaths of land, or returning areas to their natural state. Thank goodness for these educated, determined, and loving souls.

        But I also believe the human species tends to take gross advantage of the flora and fauna — what can they do for me. View them as unthinking material items, a belief in which of course I firmly disagree. And as you say, there is not a neverending “supply” to these “goods.” Just look at the big cats, the elephants… So many species, on the brink of extinction. It’s unfathomable that we’ll soon live in a world with no tigers or lions, but that may be the case if worldwide education and help isn’t implemented. People are trying to educate, and we need to LISTEN and ACT. And not view our fellow life as commodities.

        December 4, 2012
  7. Pam #

    Gorgeous pictues!

    December 2, 2012
    • Thank you!! It helps having such acquiescent, gorgeous models, heh… 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  8. I have read about these birds..but we still kill animals for fashion which makes me sad. These are amazing photos…

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks so much! They’re amazing creatures, and to see their beautiful white amid the swamp is breathtaking. It’s stunning and heartbreaking to think that they were nearly wiped out for…HATS, isn’t it? And apparently we still haven’t learned our lesson. Intelligent species indeed.

      December 2, 2012
  9. Very lovely photos! They’re gorgeous enough to make people want to come to the wetlands!

    December 2, 2012
    • Aw, thanks so much — that’s a wonderful compliment! I hope it’s enough to continue the amazing preservation they’ve done at least, and make efforts to preserve and restore more lost Everglades land… 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  10. Oustanding photos of these beauties! The egrets really are wonderful birds and they are displayed so well here.

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks so much! They’re such wonderful models… Especially at sunset, at which time these guys were feeding.

      December 2, 2012
  11. jimbey23 #

    Of course, I love any shots of our Great Whites. Running across one of these beauties makes ANY wildlife trip worth the effort.

    But what I really like is the mastery you’ve shown with colors and reflections! Your artistry matches the beauty of the subject!

    December 2, 2012
    • What a wonderfully kind and sensitive compliment… THANK you! 🙂 You’re absolutely right though; I never tire of seeing these lovely creatures, and I can’t tell you how long I’ve watched them, with camera and without. Their grace in the swamp…and their insane lightning-fast reflexes…I’ll always stop to gawk. They’re just amazing.

      December 2, 2012
      • jimbey23 #

        I saw a couple of the long-neckers yesterday as I prowled the Intracoastal (A1A from Lake Worth heading south). I never realized that they actually fly skimming the surface looking for an unwary meal. At another spot, some bait fish were driven to the surface by some bigger lurkers – and that caused a food-fight between a pelican, a couple Snowy Whites, and a pair of Osprey. They were all diving at the poor critters – but the Great White just stood there looking regal. Hmmm … do Great Whites swim?

        BTW, the same trip yielded a nesting pair of Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, along with a (maybe their own) juvenile. As I snapped away, I thought of you (and chuckled).

        December 2, 2012
      • Hahha!!! They’re always so regal, amid the to-do. Even when they’re hunting, it’s that surgical strike, then back to the graceful pose. So perfect.

        Are you serious?? Well, I’m rarely EAST… Perhaps that’s why I don’t see any Yellow-crowns? ARGH! Are you going to post them on your page? What is it again…? (My brain’s a sieve, especially these days!)

        December 2, 2012
  12. Wonderful pictures of these elegant birds, FeyGirl.

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks so very much! They are exceptionally elegant — always a joy to see in our wetlands and swamps!

      December 2, 2012
  13. I’ve never seen one of this beautiful birds in real life but you’ve posted three great images.

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks so very much!

      Ah, I have hundreds of images of these amazing, lovely birds. They’re common to our area, but always glorious to see in the wetlands and swamp!

      December 2, 2012
  14. These are fantastically STUNNING ! How fortunate you are to capture and Egret with his shadow.

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks lady!! I never tire of seeing these gorgeous creatures. 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  15. These are magnificent photos of the egrets and their reflections. You have done it again Fey Girl!

    December 2, 2012
    • You’re so kind, thanks very much!! They’re such lovely models — ALWAYS! I can sit and stare at them for hours. No joke. 🙂

      December 2, 2012
  16. Gosh – how very beautiful. That first one is stunning!

    December 2, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Catching these lovely guys at dusk (which was the case with all of them) is a treat, with their gorgeous white plumage)….

      December 4, 2012
  17. Majestic birds and ferocious predators….but not evidenced by their beauty.

    December 3, 2012
    • VERY true. Such an amazing and beautiful combination — it’s truly something to see them in action.

      December 4, 2012
  18. It must be ever so pleasant to photograph those birds! How beautiful!

    December 3, 2012
    • I can’t tell you how many missed photos I have, due to me just watching…. 🙂

      December 4, 2012
  19. The reflections on the 2nd one is just AMAZING 🙂

    December 3, 2012
    • Thanks so much! All of them were taken at dusk, which is a great time… IF you can get the lighting *just right* as you know! 🙂

      December 4, 2012
  20. marialla #

    AGAIN AND AGAIN YOU STUNTHE PAGES UPON WHICH YOU PRESENT YOUR FRIENDS. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

    December 3, 2012
    • You’re SO kind — thanks very very much!! I’m incredibly lucky to have these lovelies nearby… I need to visit them again, I haven’t in nearly a week, gasp!

      December 4, 2012
  21. Reflections are my fav…. add the beautiful birds and you have a truly enchanting experience.

    December 5, 2012
  22. Reblogged this on riverhoney.

    December 10, 2012
  23. Oh, so beautiful and graceful. These are fantastic photos.

    We get egrets through the Pacific NW. I saw one flying overhead during the summer of 2011 and I heard that there are egrets around the Nooksack River in Whatcom County. I don’t know if they’re migrating birds or residents.

    December 14, 2012
    • Thanks so much!!

      They’re lovely to see in flight. I wonder if they can survive your winters? I bet they can — they’re not too bad. These guys are incredibly graceful, in everything they do.

      December 14, 2012
      • Since I saw the egret in the summer, I have a feeling that they migrate here and then leave when the weather gets colder. I would need to ask the bird experts about that. When I saw that bird, the sight of it stopped me in my tracks. Really a magnificient bird.

        December 14, 2012
      • As much as I see them here — daily, really — I remain in awe of their beauty and grace. They’re just glorious.

        December 16, 2012
      • I would like to see more egrets next summer here. I regret that I didn’t see any this past summer. I did hear the caspian terns on the harbor when they were migrating through.

        December 16, 2012

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