Monday, June 1, 2015

Egrets, I've Had A Few

Back on July 2, 1998 there was a very accommodating Little Egret in Newmarket New Hampshire.  I made a road trip up there and was able to see this species very well. At first, it was located quite a distance away as viewed from the road. It was across a very large field that stretched all the way down to the water’s edge. Even at that distance the shape of the head and especially the two plumes sticking out of it were quite obvious.

So when I received an email on May 20, 2015 that Pete Murrlet had found one some 12 minutes away from my home, the wheels in my mind began to turn. Of course, I was still at work at the time, so I was thinking about whether it would be possible to esca..., er, leave earlier than usual, and try to see it. Then two critical things happened: another email stated the bird had flown away, and a text message reminded me of the meeting I had to attend that night! Embarrassment averted!

That night I conspired with Phil Jabiru, and we planned to meet at Gardner’s Park at 6:30 the next day. We walked briskly down the path to the bay, and upon getting nearby I heard Willow Flycatchers and Marsh Wrens, 2 YBs. We headed east towards the creek, hoping that the bird would return to the scene of the crime.

On the way, a Black Skimmer flew by, Semipalmated Plovers were on the beach, and a LBJ was spotted in the Marsh Grass. Spishing confirmed it was a Salt Marsh Sparrow, and another 3YBs. There were a few egrets about as well, and they revealed themselves to be Great Egrets and Snowy Egret. Further east still, and at the furthest point visible along the shore were a few more, and one looked different. I got my scope on it as quickly as possible, and there it was! The Little Egret had returned as hoped. This bird is #408 for me for NY state, and one I had thought was way overdue for making an appearance in New York; New Hampshire and Maryland but not in between? Not anymore!
Little Egret
Phil could not believe our good fortune, and was even second guessing my ID because of the distance and the haze. The bird had also perfectly positioned itself in front of the rising sun. But I said: “look at the plumes, there is no Snowy Egret that will ever have those long plumes” and there was much rejoicing. I send out a quick message to the NY list, and if I listened closely, I could hear the sound of many birders hastening their footsteps.

The bird moved further east and was obscured behind the point it had been feeding at,  just in time for Mike Scythbill to miss it upon his arrival.  Then the phone began to ring. Eventually we were joined by Derek Roller, Dave Clapper, Bobby Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Pat Pallas Bunting.

With the bird relocated we were able to get some pretty nice views and there was more rejoicing. Many more people came to see it and it played hide and seek for much of that time, sometimes flying off a great distance.  In the end many got to see it.

Yes Little Egret, take a bow.