These two Great Egrets looked like they were dancing a pas de deux. Actually they were being chased away from a fishing spot by a fierce Great Egret that was overzealous in guarding its feeding station.
As predicted, the eggs in the Night Heron nests have begun to hatch. I went to the Ocean City Welcome Center today to look at them, and saw little balls of fur moving while the parents were busy preening or redecorating their nests.
At another nest, the male heron brought a twig back.
At yet another nest, no eggs had hatched.
There were many other birds around the herons. I only managed to get shots of Ibises and Great Egret.
Snowy Egrets are probably among the best egrets at catching fish. Here’s a series of photos I took at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge last week when there were many of them, together with Great Egrets, flying around and fishing.
The Great Egrets were not so successful at finding fish. At least I did not see any of them catching anything while the Snowy Egrets were plucking fish now and then out of the same pond.
Around this time of the year, breeding season makes the Great Egret grow long feathers called aigrettes. Those were much in demand by women more than a hundred years ago, leading to the extermination of 95% of the Great Egret population by the end of the 19th century. Today, they are no longer an endangered species and can often be seen in wetlands in North and South America. The one pictured below was standing by itself, occasionally straightening his neck to look for fish.
Two days ago, a Great Blue Heron was stalking fish at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
I saw it repeatedly stab at something in the water, but never saw it catch anything, unless it swallowed its prey even before coming up for air.
Meanwhile, a nearby Great Egret had better luck and seemed to enjoy its tossed fish.
Monday was a cloudy and rainy day. At the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge a Great Egret was standing by himself, very dainty and haughty in full breeding plumage.
A family of Cannada Geese with nine goslings loved the weather and went in for a swim.
Of course, the goslings thoroughly enjoyed the water.
Spring means mating season for many birds, and to be at their best their feathers change to more vivid colors, their breeding plumage in other words. Here are a few photos of this phenomenon taken at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge within the past two weeks.
As its name implies, the Black-bellied Plover displays a black belly in breeding colors. Normally its belly is white.
The Willet is of a gray dull color when it is not breeding, otherwise it is mottled brown and much more noticeable.
Incidentally, in the 19th century people used to eat Willet eggs and meat for food, just like chickens. That brought this bird almost to extinction until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped that practice. Now it is abundant again and very striking when it flies with blank and white stripes on its wings.
The Great Egret is always white, but during breeding season it shows some green color on its face and it sports long plumes of feathers. Those airgrettes used to adorn ladies’ hats in the 19th century. That fashion craze led to a serious decline in egret population until the fad was eventually banned.
Yesterday at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, several egrets were standing enjoying the rising sun. They were wearing their breeding plumage with long airy feathers (see https://janthinaimages.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/she-sits-in-her-beauty-upon-her-nest/).
One was playing pickaboo as it preened itself.
This past Monday was Labor Day and, like many humans, the egrets were having a fishing festival at one corner of the Edwin B Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. This was where water from the Atlantic Ocean poured into the marshes as the tide rose. It was an excellent fishing spot and we saw many egrets there looking for a meal.
Every few minutes, as one of them flew up into the air, I pressed the shutter on my camera hoping for a nice picture of an egret in flight. It was only when I got home and looked closely at the photos that I realized those who flew up had caught a fish and were holding it in their yellow bill. It was a good fishing day!
After sunrise (see my previous post) I drove on Wildlife Drive and saw many birds, perhaps thousands, feasting in and around the marshes. Many dove into the water then flew up with a small fish clasped in their beak. Every once in a while there were food fights, not only between different species but also among kindred birds like the two great egrets in the following photo.
The great egret on the right was fleeing from an attack by the one on the left. Usually these fights only lasted a few seconds and there was no actual damage inflicted. The marshes are vast enough that a bird could just move away a short distance and resume their search for breakfast.