Snowy’s Breakfast

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

When the sun rises on a clear day with a low tide it’s a photographer’s paradise down at the Schoolhouse Cree mudflats. Here a Snowy Egret stalks in ankle-deep water — the joint about halfway up the bird’s leg is its ankle, not its knee — and catches a couple of small fry. It’s a small feed for the bird, but for a photographer it’s a feast because of the wonderful slanting light and the almost glassy water surface.

With fish this small, the bird skips the elaborate foreplay that it sometimes devotes to larger prey. It’s just a few adjustments to get the wriggling fish’s head aligned to go in first, and then good-bye. The bird does take a little nip of water, possibly as a chaser. Then on to the next.

The Snowy Egret has only other snowies for competition in this game. A Great Blue stalked slowly in the shallow water for a few minutes then gave it up and stood like a statue next to the channel, waiting for prey to come to it. A pair of Mallards dabbled in the mud. The shorebirds — Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels, Black-bellied Plover, Willets — showed no ambition to capture fast-moving protein having fins and scales. The ever-active, clever, and resourceful Snowy Egret had the shallows all to itself.

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