Friday, April 27, 2007

Chicks are Here!

The great-egret chicks are here!

The memorial garden is a good site from which to see the parents feeding them. If you go there, you will notice the much noisier atmosphere. The concert of "quak-quak, quak-quak,....." is coming from the begging chicks. They cannot yet walk or fly. They are in the nests, from which they regularly pop up their very fuzzy little heads!

The smaller white birds with yellow beaks and blond chests and rumps flying around and walking in the grass are actually adult cattle egrets.

Still no work yet for us. Let us hope the cool and wet Spring continues a bit longer.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Parade of Late Arrivals

The Heron and Egret Society has a new member: welcome Heather!
So far, so good. Water is plentiful, and the egrets look well. I have jotted down some notes on developments at the rookery that I can now share with you.
The first egrets appeared this year on February 12th. I counted 12 great egrets on the canopy that day though there were none the previous day. A cold spell soon caused these few optimistic individuals to vanish. Did they return to the Gulf? I have no idea. It was wise to leave, though. Apart from the frigid weather, during the various storms the rookery lost quite a few trees.
The lasting bird returns really began on February 21. Sixteen birds appeared on that date. Their numbers about doubled the next day (30 birds) and the day after that (62 birds). By March 7th, I could count 120 great egrets on the canopy of the rookery. They have been mostly occupied with courting and nest building: much fluffing of feathers, bobbing, and transporting of twigs.
For several weeks, the population consisted entirely of the great egrets. Most of these birds are now incubating their eggs. Their chicks should hatch in about two weeks.
As one might expect, it takes all sorts. Some stragglers are not yet done courting. Others still can’t seem to get the hang of finding the right twigs for nest building.
By the way, even after their nests are built, the great-egret mates continue to bring gifts of twigs to each other, as part of their changing-of-the-guard ceremony. Great fun to watch!
It is usually at this time that the other species of birds begin to appear, in anticipation of recycling some of the nests “soon” to be vacated. I suspect they also come to celebrate the first hatchlings of the season. All is proceeding according to schedule.
I made my first sighting of a different rookery bird on the Saturday before last (March 24th): a little-blue heron flying overhead. Since then, it has been one group after another.
Last Friday (March 30th), about a dozen night herons flew by around dusk, heading, no doubt, toward their evening meal.
During a walk by the rookery today, I sighted several snowy egrets.
Small parties of cattle egrets have been passing all afternoon.
One of the more pleasant sightings of the day was a large flock of ibises (about 50 birds), just playing and swirling around in unison. They are the most gregarious of the lot, and they seem to relish flying together.
To summarize.

Within the last few days, the bird population more than quadrupled. Still, the birds seem happy, and our rescue services are not yet needed. The Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center can, of course, always use help, and there is much that we can learn from them about bird anatomy and rehabilitation. I know that some of you are already volunteering there. I recommend that as many of us as possible do the same. Of course, I also hope the rains will keep up, and 2007 will turn out to be a kinder year for egrets.
By the way, we have found some of the most experienced great-egret parents to be the ones nesting within sight of the Memorial Garden. The first hatchlings usually appear in their nests. If you notice any fuzzy little white heads bobbing in those nests (or anywhere else in the rookery, for that matter) please be sure to send me the news.