Monday, March 11, 2013

Reddish Egret, Clown of the Bird World

Every year before my trip down to Florida I flip through some bird guides, looking for a species or two that I really want to see. Several years ago it was a Northern shrike (check!). Last year it was a painted bunting (check!). This year I didn't have so much a specific bird in mind but any bird within a whole family of birds--the Rallidae, or rail family. Small and elusive, I had never seen one. A few years ago Lisa and Lori caught a quick glimpse of one along the road at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, but I was not quick enough and missed it

So Friday was the big birding day for my mom and me, when we drove north to the Merritt Island NWR. Entering the Black Pond Wildlife Drive I told my mom about the rails and the habitat where they're found. I figured our best bet was to look along the edges of the marshes nearest the road, where they tend to weave in and out of grassy hummocks and mangrove roots. We drove along slowly, peering into the ditches.

When we reached the first big pond, where the girls and I had seen the American avocets and had our close encounter with a roseate spoonbill last year, I caught sight of another bird I'd seen in Sibley's. I remembered thinking, as I looked at the illustration, huh, I've never even heard of that bird--that would be cool to see. 

That bird was the reddish egret.

Reddish egret at MINWR.

I of course leaped out of the van. I tried not to rush getting my equipment together but I was so excited!

I remembered that Sibley mentioned how animated these birds were when foraging. I was not disappointed. The bird ran and jumped and pirouetted through the water. He would run one way then stop abruptly and run the other way. I laughed out loud watching this clown catch fish, which he managed to do with surprising frequency.

He would often throw up his wings in a sort of semi-mantling technique, sometimes while he was running.


Occasionally he would pause,

and strike.

It was a windy and chilly morning for central Florida, about 45 degrees at 10am with north winds around 15 to 20 mph.  I had all the warm clothes on that I'd brought, along with ear muffs and gloves. But the wind made for some interesting images.

 What a joy this bird was to watch!

A rare moment of stillness.

I shot some (very) amateur video of this bird because photos didn't do justice to it energy and fishing style. I will try to figure out how to edit it and post it down the line.

Next: Target bird in sight!


  1. The colors and dynamics are amazing. Oh, but I can see you drawing the second and tenth photos, Marie.

    Hmm, have you checked out Gail Dixon's blog (LouisianaBelle--she left a comment to link)? She takes photos of LA birds. Perhaps the two of you could link up???

    1. Hi Kittie! Actually, the ninth image is on my list. I love the motion in it. I am always looking for poses that are a little different. I don't know if I'll do one at all since these are not birds seen in my neck of the woods, and I don't know if it would sell up here. I am market driven, after all--sad but true!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Sharon! He was really fun to watch.