Keeping Things in Check

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Sunday, during our 73rd Annual Ramble Festival, a great egret (Ardea alba) was seen walking around the plant sales area, probably looking for plants to purchase. It was, as the British birders say, "confiding," and allowed photographers to get close before flapping away.

I saw it again yesterday (Monday). I'm not sure it is the same individual, but it is still the same species. It was walking among our plantings with those wide black feet so carefully stepping like they do. Its neck sways like a snake charmer's cobra. I noticed when the swaying increased, and the bird lowered its neck it was about to strike!

Within five to ten minutes this egret caught and consumed two snakes and a lizard as I watched. This predation occurred among the plants across the lawn from the Garden House. I often bemoan the apparent lack of snakes, but this shows they are out there. I was saddened to see the two snakes only in the final moments of their lives, but I have to believe the egret is keeping the balance in check, as it should be. Nevertheless, I can't help imagining having to slide down that long egret neck on the way to being digested!

Great egret and black racer
Great egret consuming a struggling snake (I believe it is an immature black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus).
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