REDDISH EGRET HUNTING ON THE MARLS, ABACO


REDDISH EGRET HUNTING ON THE MARLS, ABACO

The trouble with reddish egrets is simple: they come in two colourways. There’s the conventional one which is indeed reddish, as one might hope and expect. Then there’s the snow white type (or ‘morph’). That’s the one featured here (with the other dark variety below, for comparison).

Both types are common breeding residents on Abaco. There are theories about which kind outnumbers the other; on balance I’m not sure the difference is very significant. Maybe reddish are a rather more frequently encountered than white, but there doesn’t seem to be much in it.

Looking back at photographs I took last spring, I found a sequence of a hunting white egret. Now these are not exhibition-quality photos. They were taken quite far out on the Marls, and a fair distance from the skiff I was standing on the front (prow?) of.

I had a smallish camera, and a fishing rod tucked under my arm rather hoping not to hear the usually welcome call “Hey RH**, bones at 10 o’clock moving left – 4 of them – give it 30 feet…” So this sequence is designed to give an idea of how the bird hunts the shallows. Rather than standing stock still and suddenly stabbing down to catch a fish, sometimes the egrets will stride purposefully though the shallow water, taking their chances as they move.

A small success at the start of the hunt (look carefully at the tip of the beak) A pause (and a slightly bad hair moment)

I always enjoy watching the actions of these birds make as they go about their work. But now the hunt is over; the egret has worked his way along the shoreline and he’s thinking out his next move… 

…which is to fly off and try his luck elsewhere

Your compensation for some mediocre – but hopefully illustrative – shots is a header image from the camera of the highly experienced birdman and photographer Danny Sauvageau. 

Finally, the way to tell that you are looking at a reddish egret, whichever version, rather than one of the other available egret / heron candidates is to look at the bill – pinkish, with a black tip. No other egreto-heronish species has this. 

A ‘proper’ reddish reddish egret taken in one of the brackish ponds at Crossing Rocks – always a good place to pull in and check for herons and egrets. This one, photographed in March, is in his handsome breeding plumage. Compare the bill with the white morph above – just the same.

** This not in fact how I am customarily addressed. I have a real name. Probably.

Credits: header image, Danny Sauvageau with thanks as always; all mediocre white morphs RH – also the rather better effort comparative photo of a ‘proper’ reddish one; cartoon by the inimitable Birdorable.

REDDISH EGRET (WHITE MORPH): A FISHY TALE…


Reddish Egret (White Morph) Hunting - Danny Sauvageau

REDDISH EGRET (WHITE MORPH): A FISHY TALE…

And one with a happy ending! There’s something very satisfying about an expert birder /  photographer’s capture of a perfect sequence, as these fantastic photos show. It not something I’ve ever achieved, not having the skill, the equipment or (probably) the patience required to get a sequence of perfect shots. Instead – and as a guest post while we are having some downtime somewhere nice – it’s a pleasure to feature this reddish egret stalking its prey, photographed  by Danny Sauvageau. #4 has it all – drama, movement, clarity and triumph captured in a fraction of a second.

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All photos by ace Floridian birding photographer Danny Sauvageau (with thanks)

“HANDSOME BIRD, BLUE EYES, LIKES FISH, SEEKS MATE…” REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO


Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

“HANDSOME BIRD, BLUE EYES, LIKES FISH, SEEKS MATE…”

REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO

Reddish Egrets come in two colour schemes, reddish and pure white; and both are available on Abaco. ID hint – among the 10 heron and egret species found on Abaco, these are the only ones with a black tip to the beak. In March, these birds are thinking about fish. They do that every day of the year. But they are also thinking about finding a mate. The colouring of the males intensifies, and in particular the greyish-pinkish base of its beak turns a bright ‘hi babe, how are you doing’ pink. The male RE in this post is resplendent in his breeding plumage. We encountered this RE at Crossing Rocks in the brackish pond area on the opposite side of the highway to the bonefishing jetty. This in an excellent place to check out for herons, egrets and other wading birds such as yellowlegs. The island is at its thinnest point here, with the hard dry land over which the highway passes just a few yards across. On either side it’s basically water, mangroves, and other wetland plants. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) The RE noticed us at the edge of the pond and put on a little display. This is unlikely to have been a ‘come on’… Conceivably, he wanted to show off his distinctive ‘bad hair day’ styling. More plausibly, he was probably put out by having his fishing disturbed. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) He wasn’t diverted for long, though, and soon got back to business hunting fish. Sometimes he would stand stock still, poised for a rapid strike into the water with that lethal beak. This is the RE’s classic fishing method, the static hunt. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) However, there are times for being proactive and chasing down the prey. While bonefishing out on the Marls, I have seen this done from a distance, especially by the white RE morphs. They splash about near the edge of the mangroves, moving back and forth, lifting their long legs high in the vegetation as they hunt down their small silver snacks. Our Crossing Rocks RE was suddenly on a mission…Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) We had to tear ourselves away from this performance, grateful to have seen it at such close quarters. However we went back a few days later while on a birding trip to the pond at Gilpin Point. But that’s a post for another time…

RELATED POSTS

REDDISH EGRETS (WHITE MORPH)

GREAT EGRETS 

SNOWY EGRETS

GREAT BLUE HERON

GREEN HERON

CATTLE EGRET

All photos RH; cheers to Woody Bracey for stopping the truck here during our warbler expedition!

IT’S ALL WHITE – IT’S A REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO


Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 5

IT’S ALL WHITE – IT’S A REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO

Contrary to appearances from the header image and the one below, Reddish Egrets (Egretta rufescens) do not yet use cellphones to communicate. Nevertheless, the trick of having a good ear-scratch while standing in water on one leg is a good posey accomplishment.Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 4

All these photos were taken while we were bonefishing from a skiff far out on the Marls in the mangroves. Ishi poled us closer so that boat-partner Tom – a real photographer – could get some shots. Meanwhile, I did my best with my little camera that I take out on the boat – the one that won’t matter too much when it slips from my hand or pocket into the drink. These things happen: I lost a good pair of Costas that a gust of wind unkindly whisked away when I took them off to change a fly.Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 3Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 2

This egret comes in two very different ‘colourways’. The classic version has a slatey-blue body and a reddish head and plumes. The white morph is pure white. The only similarities between the two are the two-tone bills with the black tip; and the blue-grey legs and feet.

True Reddish Egret, as you might expect it to lookReddish_Egret Wiki

The white morphReddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 9

I’m not certain of the proportions of each type on Abaco, but I have certainly seen twice as many white ones as true reddish ones. There seem to be quite a few around – there are plenty of fish for them and dozens of square miles of human-free space in which to stalk them. However as with many (most?) of the bird species, there is a declining population for all the usual man-related reasons, and these fine birds have now had to be put on the IUCN ‘near-threatened’ list.220px-Status_iucn3.1_NT.svg

The bird kept an eye on us as we drifted closer, but was unperturbed. It continued to poke around in the mud, and occasionally it moved delicately but quite quickly to a different patch.Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 8 Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 7 Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 6

We watched the bird for about 10 minutes. Then we returned to what we were really there for – Tom to catch bones with practised skill, and me to wave the rod incompetently around until some passing fish took pity on me and grabbed my fly, knowing it would soon be released once all the fuss was over…Reddish Egret (White Morph) Abaco 1