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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Barn Swallow "Mama"  
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
  » Just Another Golden Eagle 
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
» Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ...  
» Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
 » Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
» Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
» A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets and Canopy Feeding 
  »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
» Hospital Hallucination  
 » What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 

Canopy Feeding Reddish Egrets at Snake Bite 

by Sally Blanchard

     About 1978, I went to the Everglades for the first time. I was separated from my ex-husband but we talked on the phone from time to time. Paul had been reassigned to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery Alabama and suggested that I come down for a visit so we could drive to the Everglades. He had never been a bird watcher and had made fun of my for my love for birds on more than one occasion. I remember being very excited about seeing my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak only to have him mock my enthusiasm about it. I don't know if he had actually developed an interest in birds but it really sounded as if he had. So I flew from Wichita to Montgomery for a trip to the Everglades. From a bird watching perspective, it was a wonderful trip. I had a gallery that carried my bird sculptures on Sanibel Island off the west coast of Florida so we stopped there. The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge was a wonderful bird watching environment and I saw quite a few water and shore birds that I had never seen before. I particularly loved the anhingas and skimmers. 

    Once we got to the Everglades, I saw bird after bird that delighted me, the herons and egrets, the roseate spoonbills, various ibis, wild flamingos, wood storks, rails, and more ... all seen for the first time. I love brown pelicans and had seen these bird skimming the waves off of the California coast but it was still great to see them in Florida since their populations had been so threatened by DDT.  
    As we were driving around, I was reading my bird watching guide to the Everglades. I saw the road that went to "Snake Bite" and asked Paul to turn there. He was hesitant because there was a gate but the gate was open so I convinced him to go down the road. It turned out to have some incredible bird watching but he just went on and on about how he didn't think we were supposed to be there. My attitude was that the gate was open and as long as we were there, I wanted to see all the birds that were there. 

    I was fascinated by three Reddish Egrets that were canopy feeding in the shallow water in Florida Bay near the pier. This is an interesting fishing behavior in herons. They spread their wings forward until they form an umbrella shape. This creates a shadow area that attracts fish. As a fish swims into the shadow, the egret spears it and then flips it over so it will go down their throats. While other herons and egrets do this, it is a behavior that Reddish egrets are particularly known for. 
    I was sitting quietly trying to study the birds but Paul kept telling me we needed to get out of there. I got very frustrated and angry. I wanted to take a long walk off the very short pier and I remember dramatically exclaiming that I was going to walk to Cuba. At that time, the egrets stopped feeding and looked up at me. They can be silly looking birds and seemed to have a very quizzical look on their faces. I imagined them having a conversation. The first one said, "What the heck is that?" The second one replied, "I think it is a Sally Blanchard." and the third one replied, "Yes, you can tell from her behavior!' 
    I gave up and walked back to the car and the egrets went back to their canopy feeding behavior. As we were driving away, a pickup truck appeared on the road and a park official stopped us to tell us we weren't supposed to be there. It was obvious we were leaving and the man informed us that someone had forgotten to shut the gate. I pointed out to my soon to be ex-husband that we weren't given any kind of a ticket or arrested or suffered any punitive measures. I would have been happy to pay the cost of a reasonable fine to watch the behavior of those reddish egrets.  


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