A Tale of Two Great Egrets (Ardea alba)

A Great Egret (Ardea alba) catching a small fish in a marsh along St. Lawrence Lake in Ontario, Canada.

great egret ardea alba fishing in lake st. lawrence

Great Egret Hunting at Lake St. Lawrence in South Eastern Ontario (Purchase)

When I visited Ontario in October of last year I photographed this Great Egret (Ardea alba) searching for fish in a shallow area of Lake St. Lawrence. This area had a large number of Great Egrets foraging along the shores. They are very easy to spot in comparison to the other Heron species I am familiar with in British Columbia – the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Great Egrets mainly eat fish, but will also ingest amphibians, small birds, small mammals, invertebrates, and insects. The Lake St. Lawrence area appears to be a migratory location for the Egrets – they do not commonly breed in that area.

This particular Great Egret has a small fish in its bill which is hard to see in the image above. I photographed this with a fairly fast shutter speed, and made a burst of photographs just as the Egret appeared to be about to strike at something in the water. The image above was the result, but I also pieced together a “video” of the sequence of images that you can find on Vimeo: A Great Egret (Ardea alba) Catching Fish.

great egret ardea alba hunting for earthworms in the fraser valley of british columbia

Great Egret Hunting for Earthworms in a Fraser Valley Field (Purchase)

The second photograph here also shows a Great Egret – but in a location far from Ontario. This is a field in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. The birding community was excited about this particular Egret. While not unheard of in this area, it is not a usual migration route or breeding area (especially in January). I drove by after buying some groceries to see what kind of circus it might be. Nobody was there, and the Egret was hunting in the field fairly close to the road. I stopped to take a look, and it was unbothered by my presence. So I drove home, got the camera and my longest lens and returned. Luckily the Egret was still there after coming back – how often does that happen?

A few people stopped to take a look at this Egret, but 2/3 stopped to ask me why myself and a lot of other people they’d seen (a bit of a circus on the weekend, apparently) were stopping. I’m not a birder really, and I tend to avoid the rare birds that people, uhm, flock to view. I avoided another species of rare bird in Abbotsford at around the same time to avoid adding to the stress it might potentially face with a lot of visitors in an area where it had little food available. This Egret was eating a lot of large earthworms in this field, in contrast, and so I suspect it was in a fairly good situation. It certainly seemed unbothered that I was photographing it only 16 meters (52 feet) away.

More of my Bird photos can be found in my Bird Photos Gallery.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: