Lone Cattle Egret Forages Along the Edge of Lake Ontario

November 13, 2016

A solitary Cattle Egret has been lingering at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto, Ontario since the beginning of November. Yesterday I headed out there in my SUV looking to upgrade my Cattle Egret photo library on a beautiful sunny morning and as luck would have it, the Cattle Egret proved to be a wonderful subject. It was rather tame despite numerous dogs and their dog walkers passing by. At one point, the egret flew briefly to the rocky edge of the lake and foraged for food, preened and posed for photographers along the Lake Ontario shore. The direction of light was excellent and I spent several minutes photographing it.

Cattle Egret poses on rocky edge of Lake Ontario
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Unlike other egrets, Cattle Egrets do not wade in open water but they may forage along the edge of lakes as was the case here. They prefer grassy fields and, where common, are often seen feeding among cattle.

Cattle Egret forages for food along lake shore
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Cattle Egrets have broad adaptable diets and this individual did not appear to have any difficulty finding food, mostly insects on this occasion.

Cattle Egret forages along rocky edge of Lake Ontario
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

I was fortunate that the lighting was excellent on this morning and this egret was very co-operative, often posing perfectly in the morning light with the sun directly behind me. I also enjoyed the simple uncluttered backgrounds I obtained in several of these photos. The favourable light meant that I was able to keep my ISO settings low. At this time of the year in my local area the sun remains quite low in the sky for a longer period of time, which helps significantly when photographing birds and provides more hours of good sunlight direction.

Cattle Egret basks in the sun
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 125, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

I enjoy bird portraits that depict detail, but I also look for opportunities to show bird behaviour. This next series of pictures captures the egret preening.

Cattle Egret preening
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm
Cattle Egret preening
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm
Cattle Egret preening
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

In non-breeding plumage, the orange to red-orange legs turn black as on this individual. If this were an immature, its bill would also be black.

Cattle Egret poses while looking out on Lake Ontario
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Cattle Egrets most closely resemble Snowy Egrets (see below), but they are stockier, heavier billed and shorter legged. Snowy Egret also have yellow feet. In non-breeding plumage, the orange to red-orange legs of Cattle Egrets turn black as on this individual. If this were an immature, its bill would also be black. 

Snowy Egret
San Diego, California

When I first arrived, the egret was foraging in a grassy area and successfully capturing bugs and insects as we see here.

Cattle Egret feeding on insects and bugs
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Here the Cattle Egret poses in its more typical grassy habitat.

Cattle Egret standing on grass covered by fall leaves
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

New Gallery Photos Added                       Gallery

Cattle Egret                                           Bitterns, Herons and Allies

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

 

References:

Dunne, Pete, 2006. Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York

Comments

Excellent blog and photos Claude, nice bumbing into you down there. Looking forward to seeing your shots from Antartica.

If you like you can check out some of my shots at www.flickr.com/photos/sspike/

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