On a lunchtime walk I saw a great blue heron, several American egrets, a green heron, turtles sunning on logs. No frogs. Glad to see those turtles, they were absent in the heat. One of the egrets was trying to swallow a fish that was about 8 or 9 inches long. I guess, having watched this before, that maybe they just have to turn it and turn it until they get it in just the right position to swallow, because that’s what he did until finally it went down his gullet. Later- When I got home I looked up the American Egret in my favorite bird book, Birds of America, first published in 1917. I thought it might have a good description of the feeding habits, since it has wonderfully-written, very observant descriptions of bird behavior for many species. But what I found was far from that- T. Gilbert Pearson starts his description like this:
” The treatment which man has accorded the Egret is not only an evidence of his power over weaker animals, but stands as a blot on this country’s history.” He goes on to describe how the species was, at time of writing, nearly extinct as the result of hunters killing them during their nesting season, when they are caring for young and so will not abandon the nest, in order to festoon ladies’ hats with their mating plumage. Well. Not exactly what I’d hoped to find, especially after having to turn off the radio on the way home because I can’t bear to hear of melting Arctic ice and suffering polar bears and walruses. But Pearson also says “For several years past the National Association of Audubon Societies has been employing guards to protect the few remaining breeding colonies as far as they are known. … it is debatable whether the species can be saved, although without the efforts of the Audubon Society the bird would probably have disappeared entirely by this time.” Well. Thank you Audubon Society. I am always happy to see the species you helped to save. Polar bears are probably another story, but who knows? Maybe a few generations from now someone will read of a near-extinction that belies their current reality.