Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dance of the Reddish Egret

Birding Sanibel Island and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
A soft breeze was pushing across the shallow waters of the eastern impoundment of the tidal basins off Wildlife Drive in the Ding Darling NWR, ruffling our hair and providing cooling relief from the ever-strengthening sun overhead. It was quiet, and an adult and juvenile Pied-billed Grebe were bobbing and preening in the shallow saltwater tidal flats on the right side of the rode--the Pine Island Sound side. Matty and I were crouched in shaggy grass behind a small red mangrove stand watching the two birds, captivated by the baby as he dove every now and then under the water only to pop up nearby, water beading and dripping from his dull brown feathers (just like his mama!). Eventually, however, a bird on the other side of the drive--the eastern impoundment side, which is the brackish freshwater basin, stole our attention and pulled us across the road and into the breeze. "What is that bird doing?" Matty asked. "Dancing!" I told him, "...and fishing..." Matty had spotted one of the birds I wanted us to see most that day, a Reddish Egret (our rarest egret), and even better, the reddish-bluish bird with a half pink and half black bill was doing his famous dance!

...a Reddish Egret runs in circles and "dances" through the shallows of the eastern impoundment along Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling. He's not just having fun...or running away in terror from an alligator, he's employing the same foraging techniques used by his ancestors for centuries.

A Reddish Egret raises its wings to form a canopy over the water, casting a shadow that reduces the sun's glare, making it easier for the bird to see the fish in the water. The shadow also lures in small fish and frogs, tricking them into its "protective" shelter.

...prancing and hopping around in the shallow water with wings outstretched and flapping, running back and forth in his own ballet...all to drum up a little lunch!

...every now and then he pauses from the dance and assumes the canopy stance...luring in the unsuspecting prey churned up from his spastic movements. He also may shuffle his feet a bit to stir up the mud, releasing other tasty creatures.

...flicking the wings...and prancing....

...more flicking of the wings...and prancing...

...charging through the water... (These shots always make me laugh. It looks like he's shrieking in the stereotypical "I just saw a mouse" posture...or maybe the standard, "snake...")

...getting ready...

...direct hit!

Matty and I saw this bird on March 22, 2011. For last year's visit to Longboat Key, Florida, and another post on the Reddish Egret's fishing dance, click here.

20 comments:

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Outstanding images! What a treat to see the hunt.

Dina said...

Nice shots of the reddish! They are so much fun to watch. You really captured his personality.

Montanagirl said...

Fabulous series, Kelly! LOVE THEM ALL!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

The Reddish Egrets are so pretty, Kelly. You captured some great pictures of their 'dance'...

Glad Blogger is back...
Hugs,
Betsy

Birding is Fun! said...

So cool!

Roy said...

Nice sequence of shots! Egrets and Herons are such a hoot to watch when they go fishing.

Kah-Wai Lin said...

Great capture!

Little Brown Job said...

Never heard of that one before, lovely shots.

Janice K said...

Wow! Like going to the ballet. Awesome pictures!!

E said...

Beautiful, Kelly, congrats, well done, hugs

International Vagabond said...

Check out this awesome video of a snowy owl in Nunavut, Canada

Larry said...

Awesome series of the Reddish Egret Kelly! This would be yet another lifer for me. I would love to see this dance in person, yet you have captured it so well, I feel as if I were there. Your photographs get better every time I visit your blog.

Thank you for all the information and joy you bring into our lives. I sure am glad I subscribe to your feed ;-)

oldcrow61 said...

Wonderful shots of the egret.

texwisgirl said...

wow, those are beautiful captures! just gorgeous! :)

Midmarsh John said...

A brilliant series of photos. I would love to see it in action.

Gary Keimig said...

Beautiful photos Kelly. What a wonderful opportunity to observe and photograph this bird.
I had a great opportunity this past week and shot over 200 pixs of a grizzly in a 5 day period. Bighorn Sheep yesterday

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! What a show the Reddish Egret puts on. It's funny...fun...and incredible. They definitely know how to rustle up their dinner!

*Honest Abe said...

I have heard they dance like that to stir up the bottom and the things stirred up attract smaller fish that then becomes their meal. Nice shots.

Lynette said...

Astonishing series of photos and the text to go with them. Wow!

dAwN said...

I love Reddish Egrets..that make me laugh! Awesome captures Kelly!