Sunday, June 22, 2008

Out of the Garden VIII - Great Egrets

This picture doesn't do justice to the sighting we had today while out birding. We were driving along a portion of the Patoka NWR in Gibson County, IN when we looked up and saw a flock of at least 80 Great Egrets descening into a wooded edge of a shallow pond. Now this is a most unusual sight for this part of the country. After all we were in SW Indiana not Florida.

We thought we might be witnessing a migration of some post breeding birds but upon closer inspection we saw that these were adults. Some still in breeding plummage. As a matter of fact the one that was closest to us I tried to take a picture of but as you can see I didn't have much luck. Even the closest one was far away. However the picture is good enough for you to see it has a big stick in its bill. I watched as it broke sticks from the tree it was standing in and started stacking them at its feet. You can sort of see its breeding plumes fluffed out as it stands there. When another Egret would fly close this Egret would puff out its feathers and poke its bill at them. It was intent on making a nest.

Previously I had only seen Great Egrets with breeding plummage one other time. Usually I see them in video or in pictures while they are sporting their beautifulbreeding plumes.

We were wondering if these poor birds were flooded out of their rookery someplace along the Mississippi where all this flood water from these parts is flowing. I guess we will never know. It will be fun to go back here to see if the Egrets do indeed nest here.

24 comments:

Joyce said...

We just saw an egret two weeks ago at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. That makes me think your guess is right- these have been flooded out. There are several wildlife reserves in Illinois between the Illinois and Mississippi that might potentially have a flock like this.

Cheryl said...

Hi Lisa.....beautiful birds, sad when they lose their original nestings site. If they do build a nest it will be wonderful to follow the journey......

Gudl said...

Great find and photo!

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful photo of an egret at work. It's great. I hope they're in the right place at the right time!

Sherry at the Zoo said...

Cool birds! I'll look forward to seeing more pictures of these birds (you will check up on them, won't you?!)

beckie said...

I can't imagine seeing that many Egrets at one time. How fortunate you were to be in the right place at the right time. Do you report something like this? As you said very unusual. The picture was more than good enough to see what you meant by breeding plumage. Thanks for the great shot and the info.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Joyce, one could expect to see small numbers of Egrets and other large waders this time of year but not the numbers we saw at one time. Something was definitely amiss in their world.

I will keep an eye on them Cheryl.

Hi Gudl. Glad that you stopped by.

You are most welcome Sandy. I too hope they are successful.

Yes Sherry, I will be checking on them. We usually go to this area once per week.

Hi Beckie, It was awesome to see this many Egrets flying about. It is amazing how that many birds that size can disappear into some trees. I have only seen this many one other time and it was when the Mississippi was flooded about 10 years or so ago. We usually report on a birding site. We also will tell the State Biologist about this. He will find it interesting.
I am glad you liked the photo. It is not in focus at all. I must be getting worse close vision. UGH...

Teri C said...

Wow, what an exciting find. I'm so glad you were there to see it so we could too.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I'm sure that made your day! What a great catch!

Jayne said...

Wow, what a sight that must have been! Can't wait for the update to see if they indeed nest.

Diana said...

The flood displacement sounds like the right theory. How amazing it must have been to see so many of them at one time. They are such exotic birds -- I love to catch a glimpse of them and herons. We get blue herons around here every once in a while around some water. And it's a great photo.

Rose said...

What a great find! You are probably right about their being flooded out of their homes. It will be interesting to see how long they stay in your area.

Karen said...

Wow that many? I've never seen that many together myself it must of been a beautiful sight!

Q said...

Dear Lisa,
Fantastic sighting! I hope they do nest and you can watch. Amazing birds.
Sherry

Annie in Austin said...

Lisa, I started to ask if there is a way for you to report these kinds of observations - then saw your answer to Beckie and am so glad you have that well in hand.

Isn't it thrilling to think that you might have seen something not just interesting for your readers but important for the egrets' survival?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

There's a large breeding colony of Great Egrets & Great Blue Herons near my house (its on an island in a lake). I went with my daughter's 2d gr. class on a field trip to an overlook of the area. I told her we were spoiled because we can look out our windows & see them sometimes when they come to the pond behind the house. I just love these birds. I'm glad you got to see so many of them at once.

Stephanie said...

wow what a great pic

Carol said...

What a great discovery! I look forward to more reports. I think your theory that they were ousted out of some flooded area by the Mississippi River sounds quite plausible.

They are beautiful birds. Who knew you would find them in SW Indiana? (I was down that way a week or so ago, but not near you I don't think.)

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Carol said...

What a great discovery! I look forward to more reports. I think your theory that they were ousted out of some flooded area by the Mississippi River sounds quite plausible.

They are beautiful birds. Who knew you would find them in SW Indiana? (I was down that way a week or so ago, but not near you I don't think.)

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Barbara said...

A sort of egrets must always be nesting near our little stream as there are so many to watch during summer. I hope you can continue to watch them and discover how and where they are nesting. Good luck and ..patience!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Thank you all for your comments about the Egrets. I will give an update when I can. We probably won't go down there until next sunday, our birding day. It is a 45 min drive and with gas as high as it is we aren't running here and there so much.

Yes Annie, I do hope they succeed in nesting but I really doubt it. The conditions have to be just so so for them. It is really sad that they are as stressed as they were to make them come to this area.

MrMcD, I didn't know that Great Egrets nested way up north by you. Very interesting, I always think of them as a southern nester. Hmmmm

Carol, if your IN travels ever take you south on hwy 41 please stop by. I just live a half mile off hwy 41, easy to find. You had mentioned being in Santa Claus. That is over an hour drive east from my house.

cyndy said...

Fantastic! What a thrill it must have been to see them!

I always get confused with egrets...(snowy has a black bill with yellow feet?? and greats have yellow bill and black feet...is that how it goes?)

Marvin said...

A great opportunity for you and certainly an awesome sight to see, but too bad the egrets were flooded out of their normal rookeries.nft

Meems said...

Lisa: How I love the Great Egrets and still marvel to watch them even though they are an everyday occurrence in Florida. If the ones you saw are relocated due to the flooding I hope they adjust and can manage their new homes. Nature has a way of making the best of these things.
Meems @Hoe&Shovel