Thursday, August 31, 2017

Egrets and Herons at Newport Back Bay

One of my favorite spots to go in the LA area is the bay behind Newport Beach.  There's a paved road along the bay but it's one way and slow speed for cars and mostly for bikes and runners.  The tides affect what kinds of birds you can see there, but usually there are snowy egrets like this one, with golden feet.  They often hang out along the edge of the water, shuffling their feet to stir up small invertebrates to eat.  A snowy egret being still is an unusual sight.  This one was crossing the road at a time of low traffic.  My husband Mike and I discovered that across the road was a small trail through the rushes and tall grasses that from time to time shows glimpses of an egret rookery back in the hidden area.  It's fun to go in there with a spotting scope and see how the young egrets are doing.

Great egrets are a lot bigger and very stately compared to snowy egrets.  They stand and wait for a small fish or large invertebrate or frog to pass in the shallow water, then spear it up with their beaks in a flashing strike.  That behavior is much like the Great Blue Herons from Newport Back Bay.  They stand, often near but not too near other GBHs, and wait for a meal to swim past, then strike.  Both the Great egrets and the GBHs can swallow whole fish of an amazingly large size considering the size of their tiny elongated necks.  The necks bulge as the food travels down them.  Often the birds seem to be shaking their heads and necks or swallowing convulsively to get the too-large food down. 

Here are phcots of a lone great egret and a group of great blue herons at Newport.  Watching these birds changes my sense of time.  They never seem to be stressed, and after I watch them for a hour or two, I am not stressed either.  I breathe in sagebrush, hear red-winged blackbirds, and watch the water ripple, and I gaze at an egret or heron for a long time, imagining how life would feel if I were one of them.  Today's human problems fade away from my consciousness.


Anonymous said...

Why do these particular birds fascinate you? Most people like songbirds they can see more often and hear too. I would guess egrets and herons don't have beautiful voices but I'm not sure. Did you like them as a child, when they were bigger than you? I was kind of intimidated by herons when I first saw them at about 4 or 5. Just curious.
Christie M.

Lorelei said...

Hi Christie,

I don't remember seeing any until I was about 10 when they weren't bigger than me. But I do think their size is part of what interests me. I also enjoy cranes and went to China to see wild cranes in nature reserves. You are right, herons and egrets sort of croak. But I love the gurgle sound that cranes make.