Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Reddish Dance

Some serious birders refer to “it” as active foraging while others refer to “it” as drunken dancing. Regardless the adverb/verb pairing, the Reddish Egret’s fishing style is great fun to watch.  And these days, just sighting a Reddish Egret makes for a great day in the field. 
These beauties were almost driven to extinction one hundred years ago.  Seems every well-dressed lady of the early twentieth century needed their feathers for her hat; and the Reddish Egret was victimized by the ignorance of that time period.  This beautiful egret’s recovery to healthy numbers remains slow.  The reasons are debated and discussed, but not here.  This story is about watching the Reddish Dance.

My Thanksgiving sib and I were photographing a Semipalmated Sandpiper, when whoosh—a Reddish Egret lands on one of the marsh-side ponds of Galveston Island State Park.  My excitement was instant—my first Reddish for the season:

Local birders, as well as most coastal residents, are familiar with the “big bird” fishermen that grace our gulf shores, bays and bayous (not to mention drainage ditches).  The Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron are favorites among elementary-age children. 

These birds are easy to spot because (1) they are large, and (2) they are the
most patient of fisherman, standing frozen-still for long periods of time.  And if you stand still long enough, you will most likely be rewarded by watching their sudden thrust of large bill into shallow waters, spearing their fresh catch of the day.

But the Reddish Egret is the one exception to the big-bird, ever patient fishing style.  This beautiful bird dances the fish into deliverance.  My photos do not pay tribute to their movement.  A live performance should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The Reddish Egret looks about, for safe keeping, before beginning to dance:

The dance begins when the Reddish lower’s its head and “trots” forward, much like the lowered head and quiet running of a Border Collie, herding sheep:
And then the Reddish will suddenly pull up from their trot, and begin a beautiful and comical side-to-side stumbling (drunken?) movement.   Wings are flared in-and-out, casting patterns of light and shadow on the water.  The fish are drawn toward the dappling of light and shadow, making for easy pickings of the dancing fisherman:

I’m delightfully drawn to this unique fishing style. It was great to hear my sib’s reaction, his first viewing of this unique performance.  

Ask any seasoned birder; they will tell you their tale of watching this dance. It is a memorable sighting.  And maybe, just maybe, you can get the birder to mimic the bird.  The birder’s dance is almost as delightful as the Reddish Dance.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago when I saw this dance first, I thought the bird was brain damaged!

    They are so very entertaining


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