Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cool Snowy Egret Behavior in Florida

I was down on the west coast of Florida for work a couple weeks ago and had time before my flight on Saturday to sneak out to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It's famous, and so I wanted to check it out.

I had a goddamn blast. It was such a nice departure from the March birding blues here in DC to see tons of warblers, sandhill cranes, crested caracara and a whole bunch of up-close wading birds. March is the height of the dry season, and a lot of the deeper water at Corkscrew -- and all the birds that wade in that water -- were concentrated in just a few pools. Lots of species in close proximity: white ibis, wood stork, roseate spoonbill, and herons and egrets of all kinds.

I was particularly impressed with some Snowy Egret feeding behavior I had never seen before. The Snowies I'm used to fish with what I consider a pretty standard hunt-and-strike heron technique, which includes everything from just standing and waiting for a fish to actively hunting around using those cool yellow feet as stirrers or lures.

But a group of Snowies around one pond were feeding from the wing, flying low across the surface, dragging their toes into the water, and picking up fish that hopped out in front of them. I'd never seen anything like it. Here's are a couple videos (if you listen with sound don't mind all the shutter snaps, there were a lot of photographers on the boardwalk with me):

Cool, right? I had a blast there.

A quick stop later on in Naples for some sought-after Snowy and Wilson's Plover showed my something else I'd never really appreciated before: how well-camouflaged these birds are. I had seen lots of bird reports from this particular beach but didn't seen any birds at all until I stopped at an area sort of scattered with shells and sticks on other debris. "This looks like a perfect place for some birds to hide themselves," I thought. And I was right. There were a whole bunch of each species. Check out these pics to see how well they blended in. The top photo shows the area, and all of the birds are somewhere in there, Where's Waldo? style.

All of those images have two birds in them, can you find 'em?

Southwest Florida birding is the best, man.

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