Thursday, August 18, 2016

All egrets are herons, but...

On hot summer mornings we get out on the local wetlands well before sunrise, often to be rewarded by colorful skies and placid waters:

Pine bank before sunrise HDR 20160810

Before sunlight touched the ground, the top of a single thunderstorm over the Bahamas cast a long shadow which stretched westward across the Everglades in the opposite horizon:

View to WSW before sunrise HDR 20160810


True, all egrets are indeed classified as herons, but all white herons are not egrets. I took this photo of two herons before sunrise, so it is not very sharp. Overlook the plumage difference and note the similarities between them. They are the same size and shape, their bills are blue-gray and tipped with black, and they have pale greenish legs. They are both Little Blue Herons:

Little Blue Herons 2-20160810

Immature white plumage is retained for about one year:

Little Blue Heron adult plumage 20160810

The other heron in the photo is this immature Little Blue Heron transitioning into adult plumage. At this stage they are sometimes called "Calico Herons:"

Little Blue Heron transitional plumage 20160810

Here is a nice adult Little Blue Heron in our back yard:

Little Blue Heron 05-20160204

They are deliberate hunters, moving slowly and stalking their prey, often adopting this characteristic pose, identifiable from a great distance:

Little Blue Heron 20150407

This Little Blue is dwarfed by a Great Egret:

Great Egret ans Little Blue Heron 01-20160716

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a nice reflection against that of a neighbor's fence:

Little Blue Heron 2-20151006

The plumage transition provides a variety of patterns. Early in the process there may only be a few dark feathers:

Little Blue Heron 20140422

The white flight feathers are replaced by dark adult ones symmetrically, as illustrated in this Little Blue which is being pursued by a Boat-tailed Grackle:

Grackle chasing Little Blue Heron 20110529

This past week I watched as a backyard immature Little Blue Heron caught a tiny fish (species not identified):

Little Blue Heron immature 04-20160813

Immature Little Blue herons seem to be at the bottom of the heron pecking order. While herons of all species may vocalize or chase others that approach them too closely when they are hunting, the immature Little Blue Herons seem to be picked upon just for being in the vicinity of adults of the same species as well as Snowy and Great Egrets. 

In this sequence, I first noticed two white herons on the far shore of the lake engaged in what appeared to be a hostile encounter, with much parrying and fluttering. It did not look like courtship or mating behavior.  As I raised my camera, a Great Egret flew in and intervened. Both combatants were immature Little Blue Herons. One ended up mostly under water with the other standing straight up on top of its back, as seen in the first photo. Upon arrival of the egret, the warring parties took off in opposite directions: 

Heron encounter 1 20121217

Heron encounter 3 20121217

Heron encounter 4 20121217

The Snowy Egret is about the same size as the Little Blue, but has a black bill with yellow at its base and black legs with "golden slippers." Here one chases an immature Little Blue Heron:

Snowy chases Little Blue 03-20150812

It is important to note the leg color of the following two white herons. The Great Egret has black legs:

Great Egret HDR 05-20160808

This is not an egret, but a Great Blue Heron white morph ("Great White Heron") in our back yard. Its legs are pale:

Great White Heron reduced 20140811

The Great White Heron is also much larger than the Great Egret:

Great White Heron and Great Egret 20140818

We do not venture out into the wetlands when rain threatens. One morning we visited nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve and walked the boardwalk with the car parked comfortably nearby. 

Chapel Trail boardwalk HDR  20160808

Swamp Lilies bloomed:

Swamp Lily 20160808

A young Marsh Rabbit nibbled on grass near the parking lot. This small dark cottontail rabbit without any white on its tail is a strong swimmer:

Marsh Rabbit young 04-20160808

Marsh Rabbit young 02-20160808


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue
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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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36 comments:

  1. Hello Ken, love the gorgeous sky shots. The Little Blues are gorgeous, but I love all the birds. Great series. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

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  2. your photos are so wonderful! love egrets (and herons). loved the crabby snowy shot! and the fence reflection shot, especially.

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  3. awwww love those twilight shots

    and who doesn't love to stumble across a bunny

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  4. Egrets are beautiful birds.
    Fascinating images of nature!

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  5. These are fantastic shots, and also great information about the herons and egrets that I did not know. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Hi Ken, I can't get over the magnificent details and gorgeous reflections in your photos! And thank you so much for sharing the information, too!

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  7. First I love your photo of the Heron and Fence reflection. The Egrets and Herons are gorgeous birds.
    The little Marsh Bunny was adorable and I also like the pretty white flower.

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  8. Absolutely breathtaking photography, each photo is a sight to behold. It is hard to pick a favorite. I thank you so much for linking with Today's Flowers and I wish you a very happy weekend.

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  9. Absolutely stunning, the Egrets are beautiful.

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  10. You're well rewarded for getting up so early. Love those sky shots!!

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  11. What a great walk to start the day, amazing shots.

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  12. great to see all the differnt staes of chuange in the plumage of the Herons and ALL the photographs are stunning Kenneth

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  13. I love their reflections in the water...what fantastic captures!! :)

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  14. Your photos are stunningly good! Bravo!!!

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  15. That second sky shot is just amazing!

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  16. wow- stunning photos of all the birds!!!

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  17. Beautiful bird shots,as always- some fantastic reflections and I love the sky shadow.

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  18. merci pour ce beau moment avec les hérons ! et le reflet est superbe !

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  19. So nice. Thanks for sharing. I love the little Blue which is being pursued by that boattailed Grackle. That's is a great shot!

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  20. Your reflections are superb especially the young heron in flight.

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  21. Beautiful, beautiful!
    Interesting information, too

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  22. Gorgeous images, stunning colours. Loved the action shots and the reflections are beautiful.
    What an informative post, thank you for sharing.
    Have a brilliant bird watching weekend :)

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  23. Hello, love the cute bunny and the herons. The juvenile mottled Little Blue is a beauty! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

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  24. Thanks for sharing the info on the herons & egrets,your photos are so beautiful!Thanks for sharing!phyllis

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  25. First before I forget, I think that fish is a needle fish. Not sure.

    Love the one with the fence reflection, and enjoyed reading about the heron/egret. Oh, and especially liked the term, 'calico heron'. Wonderful water fowl today Ken.

    Thanks for sharing this bird outing with us today at I'd Rather B Birdin' ... always a pleasure.

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  26. Love the reflection of the Little Blue heron. You are lucky to have access to all this nature!

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  27. Love that shot of the Grackle harassing the heron. Great post.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Darwin, NT

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  28. Hello Ken!:) Such an informative post. I enjoyed learning about the plumage transition of the Little Blue Heron, it can be difficult to distinguish them from Egrets at a distance. I enjoyed seeing all your photos, with great portraits, action,and reflection shots.:)

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  29. There are so many great pictures here. I can't pick between them

    Mollyxxx

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  30. I love the herons! Rabbit is pretty cute, too!
    ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

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  31. My goodness, I learned so much from your wonderful blog post. Thank you for sharing the information on little blue heron plumage - I would not have guessed they were the same species. Learning about all the white waterbirds that you featured was really interesting. Furthermore, I had no idea there were swimming rabbits. Remarkable!

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  32. I hope my comment went through. I always enjoy your amazing photos and learn a lot from your posts too! Thanks!

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  33. How lovely! All of these photos!!!
    Could that second photo have possibly been a waterspout? I've never seen one but that was the first thought that popped into my mind.
    Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/08/along-eno-river.html

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  34. Learned so much from this post; didn't even know that egrets were actually classified as herons. Did a crossword not too long ago with a clue something like 'white heron' and it made me mad when the answer was egret (good thing I didn't write an angry letter to Will Shortz ;>)).... I can distinguish between the adult varieties of egrets and learned about the Great White Heron recently. But I don't know if I will ever understand and be able to identify immatures (of any species, not just 'herons').

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  35. Liked the birding class a lot. It goes very well with your photos. The marsh rabbit is very cute.

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