September 2011 Dancing Egrets

The Reddish Egret is a medium-sized, long-legged, long-necked heron with a long pointed bill with pinkish base and a black tip.

Reddish Egret

It is one of the most active herons, and is often seen on the move, frequently running energetically and using the shadow of its wings to reduce glare on the water once in position to spear a fish.

Reddish Egret “Shadowing”

The action is sometimes fast and furious, resulting in a fascinating dance.

Reddish Egret “Dancing”

These egrets were performing their ritual along the inlet shore at Huguenot Park.  Meanwhile, in contrast, a small less active bird, the Loggerhead Shrike, sits on a perch in the nearby dunes waiting to swoop down and capture its prey.

Loggerhead Shrike

At Hannah Park I watched this Green Heron repeatedly drop a stick in the water and pick it up.

Green Heron (Fishing)

At first I thought it was just having trouble hanging on to the stick.  But then I remembered that the Green Heron is one of only a few tool-using birds that use a variety of baits and lures (floating objects) to “fish” for prey.  They put the “bait” (feather, insect, etc.) on the surface of the water and wait for the prey to attack the bait, and then grab the prey.  In this case it appears the heron was dropping the stick in the water to “stir up” prey.

Lastly, I went on my first field trip with the St Johns County Audubon Society to Vaill Point Park in St. Augustine, Florida.  It’s a beautiful 23 acre park located along Moultrie Creek and the Intracoastal Waterway.  Diane Reed led the search for migrating warblers and water birds.  The highlight was a pair of adult Bald Eagles that had just returned to their nest.

Bald Eagles

Terry Jennings, who has been monitoring the eagles, said the adults have been returning to the nest for six of the last seven years.  They return in September, get re-acquainted, remodel their nest, and mate.  Their two eggs will hatch in late January or early February.  The parents feed and nurture the eaglets until they fledge the nest in March or early April.  Then they teach them to hunt and fish for up to a month, and after that they are on their own.

Just as I was leaving the park I heard and then saw this resident Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

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Thanks again,

Phil Graham–Photo Naturalist

NEXT POST   – Howell Park Migrants: Warblers, Vireos, Tanagers, Thrushes and More!