The ever elegant egret was the subject of a post on this blog in August last year. I have long wanted to see and photograph this bird displaying its breeding plumage, which until yesterday evening I had only ever seen in photos. The mud flats and tidal shallows near the mouth of the Barham River play host to many species of birds especially around dusk.
So as the breeding season for this egret is October to December, yesterday evening I walked slowly along the banks of the river when the sun was an hour or thereabouts above the horizon, hoping the egret might make an appearance. Golden evening light alternated with duller light as occasional low clouds west drifted through the area. As it turned out, I was rewarded with the arrival of this solitary eastern great egret. For an hour or so, he walked up and down his side of the river, and I walked up and down mine. We kept a close eye on each other. From previous experience I know that a river width is about as close as this bird will let me approach without taking off. It was a most enjoyable hour.
But as usual when I’m on a mission armed with a camera and with a particular subject in mind, serendipity threw irresistible distractions across my path. The first was this new holland honeyeater, which momentarily alighted on a solitary fragile looking reed waving in the wind.
The next five photos are a sequence showing the bird doing a hover-like vertical takeoff. It took some creative and very energetic wing movements before it was safely airborne, with the landing gear retracted, and the head in a streamlined position directly in front of the body.
Two photo sequence of the very effective feeding routine.
Three photo sequence below. This bird just kept striking beautiful poses. The lush banks of bullrushes and the foliage behind them provided protection from the wind. Good for egret fishing, and for photos.
Four image sequence of the egret feeding on edge of the water near the mud flats. Beyond the mud flats was the banks were crowded with lush green foliage, visible in these photos only as reflections in the water.
A most enjoyable hour.
When not being the star of the sunset feeding rituals performance as shown above, this egret lives just a few hundred metres upstream, on a quiet corner of the Barham River away from the public and paparazzi (well, most of them anyway). The extras also retreat to this spot.
4 thoughts on “An Hour with an Egret”
Fabulous series of shots John.
So what is it about that breeding plumage that somehow makes him more attractive? I personally think the elegant pure white unruffled plumage is far more attractive, but, hey, I know he is not trying to impress me.
And that long, long neck must be an invitation to a predator, not that I know who would tackle such a big bird. Wedge tail eagles down that way, so maybe one of them.
Thanks again John
Thank you Richard. I agree with your assessment of the breeding feathery outfit when compared with the entirely elegant non-breeding plumage.
I’ve never heard of a wading bird of this type being attacked by an eagle. I’m pretty sure the eagle has more nutritious unfeathered food on offer in conveniently smaller creatures.
I enjoyed reading this post again. Thank you referring me back to it. Your luck was in and you maximised your time, both you and subject feeding an urge. I’m interested to know how you identified the bird as male. I am not aided by Menkhorst et al. I put that aside and indulged my imagination of the egret as female, the bridal finery the equal of any garment I’ve seen adorning a woman on the threshold of marriage. “She” was the belle of the ball. But if “she” was a “he”, your later photography, beautifully judged to my eye, evoked Narcissus, a reflection surely more delicious than a flat fish.
Whoever chose the sobriquet, “Great”, nailed it. Your five shot sequence parades a ballerina, in full command of her body, elegant and confident, perhaps rising in flight slightly disappointed to be performing for an audience of one.
You must have caught the judges’ eye.
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Pleased to hear you liked these shots of the egret Hunto. I made the assumption the bird was male because of its size. The adult male egret is slightly larger than the adult female. But I readily accept that there are perils in making such an assumption based on viewing a solitary bird. As you would know, both male and female sport the breeding plumage seasonally.
At the foot of the text of this post above is a link to an earlier post on the egret which you might find interesting. That post is titled ‘The Eastern Great Egret’. The flying ability of this bird amazes and fascinates me.
The feathered finery of the eastern great egret in the breeding season is a thing of beauty, as is their balletic movement both on the ground and in the air – what a contrast to the less sophisticated ‘courting’ habits of the male koala!