Keeping an Eye on the Prize

 

Given the form of the ripples, I suspect this juvenile Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) had its eyes on a crab rather than a fish.

Its yellow feet, sometimes called ‘yellow slippers,’ make these birds unmistakable as adults, but it can be easy to confuse young Snowy Egrets with juvenile Little Blue Herons. In this case, the lime green leg color, the black bands on the front of the legs, and the crouched foraging posture helped to confirm its identity.

Although I watched and waited for nearly ten minutes, the strike I anticipated never came: the prey continued to swim, and the bird continued to watch. If patience be a virtue, this is a very virtuous bird.

 

Comments always are welcome. Click on any photo for greater size and detail.

Snowy Flurries

For some, changing colors on trees or shrubs provide a first hint of the coming fall. Here on the upper Texas coast, autumn arrives differently, flying in on the wings of migrating birds.

Teal arrive first, followed closely by peripatetic mallards. Last week, the calls of returning osprey began echoing across Galveston Bay. Yesterday I realized the swallows had flown away, but their space soon will be filled by an assortment of geese, raptors, and cranes.

A snowy egret (Egretta thula) shows off its ‘golden slippers’ as it prepares to land

While snowy egrets stay with us throughout the year, their numbers increase in the fall as birds return to their favored coastal marshes, inland mudflats, agricultural land, and drainage ditches.

Like the proverbial birds of a feather, they roost and nest together; last weekend I found a large flock hidden away along a canal in the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge.

Touching down

Sometimes referred to as ‘Golden Slippers’ because of their yellow feet, egrets also have yellow lores (the area between their bill and their eyes), which change to a deeper salmon or pinkish-orange during the breeding season.

Showing off, perhaps?

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, their plumes sold for nearly twice the cost of gold, and were used to decorate women’s hats. Inevitably, they were hunted nearly to extinction, but after the passage of laws meant to protect them, their numbers increased. Today, they’re a common sight: their golden slippers worth as much as any gold, and their developing plumes a hint of courtships to come.

 

Comments always are welcome. Click any image for a larger, more detailed view.