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Posts tagged ‘great egret’

The Show

The Great egrets of South Florida’s wetlands have been putting on the most wondrous displays in the rookeries. Appropriate timing for Valentine’s Day…. It’s hard not to think that I should be trying a wee bit more, after observing such grand shows of attracting mates.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands: Check me out.

The feathers of the Great egret are stunning, almost unreal; sadly, these beautiful birds were hunted mercilessly — nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers decimated by 95 percent — towards the end of the 19th century. Their breeding plumage was especially prized, and their treasured feathers were used in hats across the globe.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Taking a breather in the rookery

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.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

The setting sun has nothing on me….

During the breeding season, the Great egret displays long, elegant plumes on its back, which are used in courtship displays. Like a peacock, these feathery plumes spread out like a fan. (Outside the breeding season, these long feathers disappear.) During this time, the lore (the area between the bill and the eyes) may turn vibrant green. Nature’s colors are brilliant….

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding plumage

The male Great egrets will choose a specific display area, which will later become the nesting site. Nests are usually over water, far off the ground — high in the rookeries, as in our area. He (HE!) builds the nest with long sticks and twigs before pairing up with a female, at which point they both work to complete the nest — although it’s usually the male who finishes it.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Green lore appears during breeding season

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Glow

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

The Fan

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

And the final stage of the display, the reach….

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

Peek-a-Boo

During a recent dusk trip to the wetlands, a Great egret preened…extensively…in a rookery, in preparation of the night. And human males complain of women’s bedtime preparations.

Preening Great egret in the Florida wetlands: Where are you…

Peek-a-boo!

 

 

The Last Rays of the Sun

Great Egret meticulously preens its most lovely breeding plumage (captured from the early Spring), the gossamer feathers lit in the setting sun over our protected wetlands.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

May your weekends be just as luminous and carefree as this lovely creation!

A Great Egret preens its breeding plumage in the Florida Wetlands

Great Egret shaking that lovely breeding plumage in the Florida Wetlands

Great Egret in breeding plumage overlooking the Florida Wetlands

Stalking at Dusk

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. —Anais Nin

One of the birds I most enjoying 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. I recently watched one lovely Great Egret hunting at dusk in our nearby Everglades preserve.

Great Egret Hunting in the Florida Everglades

Boasting brilliant all-white plumage, the feathers of the Great Egret are stunning, almost unreal; sadly, these beautiful birds were hunted mercilessly towards the end of the 19th century — nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers decimated by 95 percent. Their breeding plumage was especially prized, and their 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. During this time, the lore (the area between the bill and the eyes) also turns a vibrant green (see The Greening of The Great Egret).

Great Egret Wading in the Florida Everglades

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….

In 1953 the Great Egret was chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society, the environmental organization formed to protect birds.

National Audubon Society Logo — The Great Egret in Flight (Courtesy of The National Audubon Society)

A Portrait in Patience

A Great Egret patiently stalks its meal among South Florida’s protected wetlands, with the purple stalks of the aquatic plant, pickerelweed, reflecting on the water’s surface. Both egret parents feed the chicks during the nesting period, which remains in high swing. Fortunately, they don’t have to travel far to forage for food, as there’s an abundant supply in this wonderful preserve; and within a few miles of these wetlands lies the Everglades. Observing the egret’s focus, intent, and diligence is a true lesson in patience — but a few humans have had poetic insights into this state of steadfastness:

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. -(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy. -(Saadi)
Patience is the greatest of all virtues. -(Cato the Elder)
Patience is the companion of wisdom.
-(Saint Augustine)

Endurance is patience concentrated. -(Thomas Carlyle)
He that can have patience can have what he will.
-(Benjamin Franklin)
Our patience will achieve more than our force.
-(Edmund Burke)
Patience and Diligence, like faith, remove mountains.
-(William Penn)
Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.
-(Thomas Huxley
)
Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention. (Paulo Coelho)


A Great Egret Patiently Stalks Its Meal in the Florida Wetland

The Greening of the Great Egret

As mentioned in my previous post, I had to save an image of one Great Egret for its own space. At the beginning of this year’s breeding season I was able to catch a lovely model, sporting a shocking green lore — the area between the bill and the eyes. During the breeding season, the lore may turn a vibrant green; the Great Egret will also display long, elegant plumes on its back (evident in the second picture, slightly blocked by the swamp vegetation), which are used in courtship displays. Like a peacock, the feathery plumes will spread out like a fan. Outside the breeding season, these long feathers disappear.

Great Egrets are striking to spy in the swamp — their ethereal beauty, graceful stalking, and quiet strength is captivating. But the brilliant green lore and feathery plumes add yet more stunning display to an already magical scene.

Great Egret with Green Lore in the Florida Wetlands (Close-Up)

Great Egret with Green Lore in the Florida Wetlands


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