Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cattle Egret!! A BIGBY life bird!!!

This morning was beautiful, but the birding was pretty slow on the Indiana University cross country course...only 39 species total. Even some of the daily regulars were conspicuous by their absence (no Common Yellowthroats, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, flyover Canada Geese, Turkey Vultures, House Finches, etc.)

But I had a big highlight that made up for an otherwise uneventful morning: a Cattle Egret!! That's the first time I've ever had a BIGBY Cattle Egret, so it's a BIGBY lifer for me!! The first new BIGBY life bird since the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher graced the XC course for a couple of days last fall. It's been a long time since I've seen a Cattle Egret anywhere.

I was in the north section of the XC course, where it borders the IU golf course, looking for some Savannah Sparrows that I'd seen in the past. I found a few Savannahs, and figured that would be the high point of my outing, since I was ready to head home. Suddenly my attention was drawn to a large white bird circling low over the golf course driving range. It landed, foraged for a bit in the grass, and then took off, flying low over the golf course to the north.

The interesting thing is that two large mowers were out cutting the grass on the driving range. The mowers were disturbing the grass sort of like a herd of cattle might, which probably is what attracted the egret. BNA Online notes: "Generally forages in close association with grazing cattle or other livestock, but may glean elsewhere, especially around margins of aquatic areas and fields where fire, tractors, or cutting/mowing machinery are used."

It was a great finish to what otherwise had been a slow morning.

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