Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cattle Egret

and it's fascinating breeding plumage

One thing that draws me out each spring to photograph birds is their attractive breeding colors.  I find changes in coloration fascinating, and in most species it renders a far different look from the same bird seen at other times of the year. 

Today I am highlighting the cattle egret.  It is a very common bird in Florida, and often seen in high numbers.  During breeding season, the cattle egret undergoes a transformation from a very common looking bird into one that is a joy to behold.  The most fascinating change to me is the lore, which turns a vivid purple right next to the bird's eye.  The headshot above shows this purple lore better than any other cattle egret photos I have made to date.  It was cropped from the image that appears directly below.   

The bird's legs, which appear red here, may be also be pink or yellow, and in the winter they are darker, or even black.

[click on any image to enlarge]

I have photographed this bird on many occasions over the past few years and the examples shown here were not captured in the current season. I am showing these particular images because I believe they show the colors very nicely.

The images below show a different bird that is not at peak color.  It also appears to be younger than the one above.   I have shown it from front, back, and both sides below.  You can clearly see the differences between a bird that is in peak breeding plumage and one that is not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anhinga Catches More Than A Mouthful

The Everglades National Park

It's been too long since I've posted, and even longer since I've posted on birding topics.  Generally I enjoy getting out with the camera in the springtime, when it's breeding season for many of birds that are native to Florida.   It's still early and that time has not yet arrived here in the northern part of the state.   

Today I am revisiting some images from an earlier outing in the Everglades National Park, where I saw an anhinga catch a pretty big fish and then actually struggle to swallow it.   In this particular instance the fish was so large compared to the size of the bird, that the anhinga actually brought it to the shore and smacked it on the ground a few times before attempting to swallow it.   It was interesting watching the anhinga actually toss the fish into the air and catch it several times, apparently trying to get the fish to land in a position that would allow it to easily slide down the birds throat.   You can see some of that in the images below. 

In what may seem amazing to some, this ordeal continued for no less than 22 minutes as verified by the time stamps on the 112 images I shot while witnessing it. 

[Click on any image to enlarge]

And finally, 22 minutes later......