Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cattle Egrets at Pinckney Island

Birding Hilton Head Island and Pinckney Island NWR, SC 
...continued from Monday's post on the baby Tricolored Herons.
I did a double-take when this beautiful white bird stepped into view. I was only about 40 feet from the nesting Snowy Egrets, so for a split second "just another Snowy" formed in my mind, but my brain knew something was up and its power of recognition spit out that conclusion quickly and replaced it with that "It can't be...but I know it is...at least I hope it is...It has to be...but it's probably not" feeling. (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about!) Hope seared through me, and I held my breath, watching. He was perched deep in the shadows of a scraggly willow, hidden by a thicker curtain of leaves than those hiding the baby Tricolored Herons. But then he moved, and he stepped into an open patch of sunlight, and with one long stretch of his leg moved up a branch, turned around, and revealed those beautiful pale orange plumes on his back seen only during the breeding season. I couldn't believe it. Another new species...a Cattle Egret, and nary a pasture or cow in sight! 

You can always see the pale orange feathers 
on his head, but the the plumes on the back 
only remain during breeding season.

"I have a haughty glare in my eyes, but truly I'm gregarious 
and friendly. Please don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

"Don't underestimate my beauteousness, 
and make sure you get the profile."

"I'm in love...I'm all shook up!"

After I photographed this Cattle Egret, I noticed a small flock of about five birds to the right of him (or her), but they were deep in the branches. Later on, I came back to this spot and two were in open view. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Cattle Egret chicks or nests. Either they weren't born yet, or they were nesting closer to the interior of the heronry. 

Beak Bit
Jim McCormac writes in his book, "Birds of Ohio," that Cattle Egrets can be found anywhere in Ohio during migration. During the breeding season they have been found nesting in a small heronry near Lake Erie in Ohio. (With all this Ohio action, why did I have to travel to South Carolina to find one?) Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but have spread to every continent on earth (except Antarctica). They often hang out in pastures where they eat the insects stirred up by the cattles' hooves. 

28 comments:

NatureStop said...

Great captures of the Cattle Egret.We did catch a glimpse of the cattle egret here too.They are beautiful!

Elaine said...

Another gorgeous bird and gorgeous set of photos! I really like the fluff he's showing you in the last shot. Poor Cincy birds......

dAwN said...

More amazing photos! Are you digiscoping or using dslr?
you captured the colors beautifully!

Sue said...

Though the cattle egret isn't quite so exotic as some of the others, I found myself saying "lucky lucky girl" to myself as I read this post. Great pictures. Such a handsome bird.

holdingmoments said...

Beautiful pictures again Kelly.
The last two, with the fluffed up feathers are special. What a handsome bird with that breeding plumage.

Susan Ellis said...

Have never been to, or even heard of, Pinckney Island, but it's definitely on the list now. Beautiful photos!

Abe Lincoln said...

Just flat out pretty.

Jayne said...

LOL... sort of like seeing a wood duck up in a tree. Just doesn't compute really! What a great series of photos Kelly!

Connie said...

So many gorgeous birds. Your photos show them off well. Second best thing to actually being there.

ShySongbird said...

Gorgeous!! The beautiful peachy colour is just lovely. Lucky, lucky Kelly!

Kelly said...

Nature...thanks. This bird is amazing since he's made it all over the world. Beautiful...

Elaine...haha! Yes....poor, poor Cincy birds....

Dawn...not digiscoping, dslr...Nikon D700. I'm using at 70-200mm lens with stabilization and a 2x tc. But...I'm just so darn close. This island in the middle of Ibis Pond....on Pinckney Island is home to so many birds they just sit and pose for the tourists. They are nesting and are completely protected on this little island. The place is amazing.

Sue...I guess this guy is everywhere, so he's not as exotic, but I've not seen any in Ohio. He has a certain beauty I liked. I guess those peachy plumes...

Keith...thanks Keith!!

Susan...yes...you've got to go. Head to Hilton Head Island and visit.

Abe....thank you....I like your description!!

Jayne..."does not compute" just went through my head in that computer voice...you are so right!

Connie...thank you. I want to be there again!

Songbird...I love that peachy color against the white as well. :-)

Richard said...

Great capture and beautiful pictures.

Kelly said...

...thanks, Richard!

Roy said...

I'm laughing about the "does not compute" comments. It would've thrown me, too!

Great eye, Kelly, and great pictures.

Shellmo said...

These birds are pompous looking but beautiful at the same time!
:-)
P.S. I didn't see that Mutt's cartoon - don't get the paper, but maybe I can find it online??? thanks for thinking of me!!

NCmountainwoman said...

Gorgeous photographs. I loved them all.

Cindy said...

I can't believe it! I took some photos the other day of a bird and I've been trying to find out what kind it was. Was it a Heron, Egret, Crane... and I come here this morning and you have one posted. They are gorgeous birds!! Their coloring is amazing. Have a great day! ~Cindy

Nick S said...

You are very lucky to get so close to these Kelly. I've only seen them from afar !
Lovely !

Warren Baker said...

You must be racking up a long list of bird species now Kelly. Yet another lifer!

JKoenig said...

As I have been following you on your journey, I have seen more exotic and beautifully colored birds than I ever dreamed you could see in one place--and right here in the USA.

Your photography is so outstanding, and the information you have shared about each of the birds has made this a real learning experience.

Thank you so much, Kelly.

Jenny said...

You really hit gold with this place Kelly! I'm gob-smacked at all these fabulous photos in these Pinckney post that you've taken. You really REALLY need to do a heron calendar you know! (-:

DK Miller said...

He's beautiful! I love the fluffy shot.

JRandSue said...

Stunning Images Kelly,colour looks perfect.
Images to be proud of.
Lovely pictures.
John.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

That is so weird to find the Cattle Egrets there on Pinckney Island. Weird!!!!! I guess that makes him VERY special!!!!!

Great photos..
Hugs,
Betsy

Cindy said...

Kelly, I got a shot of a bird at Emerson Point Preserve here in Florida yesterday. I'm not sure what kind it is. The closet I could come to was a Tricolor Heron, but I don't know if that's right. Could you take a look and let me know what kind it is? I'd really appreciate it. ~Cindy

Kathiesbirds said...

What a great series of photos! You did a great job! Congrats on the lifer! I did not know that cattle egrets are on every continent except Antartica. Amazing!

Laure Ferlita said...

What is interesting to me is that you don't really get a sense of size with these photos, but when you see them wondering around in the pasture beside some huge cow, you get a sense of how fragile these birds "seem".

Great photos!

Vickie said...

Beautiful images! I especially like the fluffed up expression.