Days past

Just before leaving on this most recent trip, we got a text from a neighbor that the nearby pond was hosting a surfeit of great egrets, so we set aside a few minutes to go over and see them. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa had passed through a couple of days previously, and this was potentially what fostered their appearance; I know a pair had shown up a few years back in similar circumstances, but we generally have at least one egret visit for several days at some point in the year regardless. A flock was a different matter, however, especially since they don’t tend to flock.

On the way over, I saw a juvenile hawk fly up to a branch and sit, regarding me warily but without too much fear.

juvenile sharp-shinned hawk Accipiter striatus or cooper's hawk Accipiter cooperii watching photographer over shoulder
The long bare legs and especially long talons peg this as an accipiter, one of the bird-eating hawks, and the gold eyes tell this is a juvenile, but whether it’s a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) or Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) I can’t say, because they only good way to tell is the tail in flight and I failed to note it in the brief moment before it landed here. I’ve been seeing more Coopers, though, so I’m leaning in that direction. It stayed put for a lot of frames, but I liked this one for the sun on the head.

That wasn’t what we were after, though, and we soon moved on (actually, we moved on when I attempted to circle around a tree for a different shooting angle on the hawk and it tired of my suspicious activity and flew off, but that’s neither here nor there.) The great egrets (Ardea alba) proved very spooky and thus hard to draw close to, not at all helped by the oblivious people strolling around the pond chasing them off as soon as we were closing in ourselves, so I only have two photos to feature here.

great egret Ardea alba perched in damnable longneedle pine tree
How long they actually remained at the pond, I can’t say, because I left that evening on my leg of the trip (The Girlfriend joined me later by air, and that’s another post or five,) but I know they’re not there now. This one was already hesitant over my approach but at least I could use the light; another was hidden in a nearby tree almost overhead and spooked before I even saw it, encouraging this one to follow. They remained within the perimeter of the pond though.

four great egrets Ardea alba congregating on pond edge
The neighbor who had alerted us counted seven, but we ended up revising that to ten, with some difficulty since the birds were spread out and tended to flit from location to location, or disappear behind cover, while we were attempting to confirm the counts. That’s a lot for this pond, or indeed most spots in the immediate area; they’re pretty solitary and usually appear in pairs at the most. And since we’re well away from migration season, I’m gonna blame Elsa.

But that was all we really had time for – I personally was already behind in my preparations, and had a long drive ahead. That part’s coming…