Sunday, April 8, 2012

Show Me Your Plumes!

For a long time, I've been so envious of those stunning photos of a Great Egret displaying its breeding plumage like a fluffy white fan. I have seen a few Great Egrets with breeding plumes and those bright green lores that develop during mating season, but the egrets have just been standing still in water or just going about their business, doing things other than trying to attract a mate at that very moment. So many times I would say to them, "Show me your plumes!"

View of the rookery at Harris Neck NWR. I couldn't even fit the whole scene in one shot.

Some nesting Wood Storks and Great Egrets

I loved how you could see the wispy Great Egret plumes sticking out from the nests.

Well, finally, we had some obliging Great Egrets! Last weekend we went to Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge about 60 miles south of Savannah. We were told that this is THE place to go to see breeding Wood Storks and Great Egrets. It was indeed, and it did not disappoint! The main stop along the wildlife drive is a spot of open water with a shore and scattered little islands full of trees just teaming with nesting and courting Wood Storks and Great Egrets! This rookery was a magnificent spectacle! We could just see tons of white birds as far as the eye could see. Some had already settled down and were starting to incubate, others were still building nests, and yet others were still courting.

Mating Great Egrets.

Pretty good shot digiscoping with my iPhone and Zeiss scope.

I didn't get THE ultimate shot that I wanted, but I got pretty close. Ideally, I would have wanted to see a Great Egret head on, doing its display dance, and showing off its beautiful plumes. Instead, I got a less desired position of its backside, but still showing off its gorgeous, delicate-looking feathers. So for now, I'll take it! This one egret in particular was a good subject as he was the closest and not only showing off his plumes, but also giving a little dance. It was definitely fun to watch as he would spread those lovely wispy plumes in a circular fan, bend his legs, and elongate his neck, hanging it low and then whiping it high with his bill pointed straight up. Then he'd do a sultry little sway from side to side, shimmying his fluffy white plumes as to say, "Hey ladies, look what I can do <wink wink>." 

Doin' a little dance, hoping to make a little love. Gettin' down tonight!

Great Egret displaying his gorgeous plumes. 

Displaying Great Egret

I could see why these feathers were so desired back in the day to make beautiful fashions. Thank goodness for those pioneers who founded the National Audubon Society as a response to the massive killing of birds for their plumage.

Another avian friend seen here - Swamp Sparrow

I believe there were Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons getting ready to nest here, too. We saw this YCNH and then we just kept seeing them speckled in the trees. 

Just a pile of baby gators.

I'm very happy to have seen a displaying Great Egret, not to mention the great numbers of other nesting egrets and Wood Storks. We also got a look at some other reminders of baby-making season - an assortment of baby alligators. There were groups of young gators of various ages hanging out close together at the bank of the lake leading to the rookery area. 

Baby Gator face off. 

A different view of the faceoff.

Close-up of a baby gator

This little guy is trying to blend in, but he doesn't fool me!

If you're ever in the area during nesting season, Harris Neck is definitely the place to go. And it'll have you saying, "Show me your plumes!"

Common Buckeye

Little Wood-Satyr

Long-tailed Skipper


  1. Wow Maureen! And by 'Wow', I mean, fantastic job on this post, which is filled with great b=narrative and photography, both from and ornithological, entomological, and herpetological perspective. I say 'Wow' only cause brevity is cool these days.

    Those are some sexy satin Great Egrets there. There are some plumy Snowies in Phoenix, but not so with the Greats. The rear view of those plumes reminds me of those dandelion poof balls on which people blow and make wishes. It'd me neat if that worked with herons, but not if their feathers blew away too.

    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for such a nice complement, Laurence! You're right about the dandelion poof balls. The plumes do look as delicate.

  2. Beautiful! The thing I'm actually most envious of is birding in locations where you find alligators hunkered down in camo. :) I have yet to photograph anywhere near a gator, and am in awe of the imagery of these great reptiles in such stunning settings. The "trying to blend in" shot is fantastic. Great work.

    1. Thanks, Ingrid! Just stop by Coastal Georgia, or even better, Florida, and you'll definitely see a gator hanging about!

  3. Gorgeous photos Maureen! The Great Egret displaying is amazing; what a great sight that must have been! Love the gator face off as well! I often see turtles posing on the log like that, but not gators; great shot!

    1. Thanks as always, Tammy! Yeah, I've also seen turtles do the log faceoff, but never gators before until now. It was funny watching them because the one on the left kept inching closer and closer to the other one. And they would just stare at each other, but nothing else happened while we were there.

  4. Nice bird photos, the scenery is outstanding