Monday, August 22, 2016

IBSP Winter Anchorage 8/19--Reddish Egret

It was in the early innings of a Blue Claws game on Wednesday that I got an email from Greg with the header "what do you think this is?" Once the picture opened up I saw a beautiful photo of a dark egret. A very gray egret. An egret that isn't usually in NJ. I looked at my Audubon app. The Blue Claws scored the only run of the game. I wrote back that my first reaction was that it was juvenile Reddish Egret. Greg wrote back, "good reaction. it's my call too." He had found the bird that afternoon canoeing around Great Sedge Island off Island Beach State Park. You should read his story and look at his gorgeous photos here.

4 years ago there was a Reddish Egret, juvenile, at Brig that Shari & I rushed down to see it. It only stayed at Brig for 2 days, but, presumably the same bird, was found a week later by kayaking birder off Great Sedge Island. Every time Greg and I have gone out there over the last 3 years, I have said to him, "Y'know, there once was a Reddish Egret out here." I was thrilled that he had found it, but crestfallen that I wasn't with him, since it would have been a great county bird. Over the next couple of days a veritable flotilla of kayaks and canoe went out to see the bird, but, though Greg offered a ride on the next day, I couldn't go because of family commitments. On Friday, when Bob & I were birding Brig I got a text alert that the bird was viewable from the boat launch of the Winter Anchorage. That's when I said, "Bob, we should go to Island Beach." 

From Brig to Island Beach is about an hour's ride, up the parkway and across 37. We had no idea what the traffic was going to be on a Friday afternoon and we had no idea what the tide schedule was but even with these factors potentially working against us, we still thought we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see this bird in NJ. Traffic wasn't bad and whatever the tide was in Barnegat Bay there was enough of a sandbar across from the bar launch to hold a lot of birds. 

But the light was terrible, backlighting the birds.  Slowly, Bob & I began scanning the birds. We could tell a lot of birds just by silhouette. An oystercatcher is pretty obvious. Some birds had enough front lighting on them to tell what kind of plovers they were. A Brown Pelican is hard to miss. But all the egrets looked dark. Bob was showing me some oystercatchers in his scope when I said, "And what is that egret?" It was dark, but it didn't have the same impression as the other egrets we could see near the edges of the marsh. 

And then it started to dance.  Reddish Egrets have a unique way of feeding. They raise their wings, lift their feet, stir up the water, run to one place, spin around, raise their wings. They look like they've gone crazy. This bird looked crazy. This bird was the Reddish Egret. Just as you can tell a Spotted Sandpiper by its "twerking," or a phoebe by its flipping tail. it was pretty easy to identify this egret once it started hunting. 

So two year birds for us that day and we didn't even have to get our feet wet for the second one. 

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