For me, there is no greater beauty than to look up into the sky and see a lone Great Egret making its way back home to Bird Island or other rookery in the early evening light.
I see them often, and every time, I stop what I’m doing, and look and wonder where they are going, and where they have been. They are so elegant, with their perfect flying posture, always looking straight ahead.
When Ed and I first bought our home in Sewall’s Point we had a gold-fish pond behind the house and a very tall Great Egret would come to hunt. I would watch in complete fascination the ancient bird’s posture, patience, and beauty. Like a Japanese painting.
Today, I wanted to share some photos of local Martin County resident, John Whiticar, who I have featured before. John has a talent for capturing the beauty of the sky, the water, and the bird life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
These photos were taken recently on his way to Ft Pierce. Mr Whiticar states: “A bunch of White Herons were spotted on the way to Whiticar North this AM on Indian River Drive this morning. There were at least 10 in a group on the morning calm of the Indian River Lagoon.”
According to the US Park Service, the fishing habits of Great Egrets are among the most efficient of all birds. “They stalk their prey by slowly walking or standing motionless in the shallows and forage with their webbed feet, raking and probing the bottom, snapping up fish in a matter of milliseconds with their quick bill reflex.”
Great Egrets are solitary birds but do congregate during breeding season when both males and females get delicate breeding plumage and their faces take on a fluorescent green color along the beak.
During the fashion of feathered ladies hats in the late 1800s, the Great Egret and many other shore birds were almost hunted to extinction in the Florida Everglades. The bird’s beauty inspired the Audubon Society to adopt it as their symbol as they helped abolish the destruction of these birds.
Today, across the nation, the Great Egret’s numbers are strong, but over time have declined in many areas along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon due to destruction of shoreline habitat and wetlands for development.
So let’s help our feathered friends in every way we can, and the best way to do that right now to continue working to save our Indian River Lagoon.
Great Heron, IRL. John Whiticar.
US National Park Service, Great Egret: