Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Egrets: A Quick Look

Although they are called cattle egrets, you often see them in areas where there are no cattle. In a car park on the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, for example, which is where I saw these egrets. Not a cow in sight.

Egrets are one of the most easily identifiable birds in Jamaica, with their white plumage, long legs and necks, bright yellow beaks and their distinctive walk and head movements. A pretty common sight in many parts of Jamaica.

Yet they haven’t always been here. I found this report interesting, of an early sighting by Dr T. P. Lecky of egrets among the cattle at Bodles on November 21, 1956…nearly sixty-seven years ago…

I am so used to seeing egrets around that I hadn’t really thought about their origin and that they haven’t always been in Jamaica or been a common sight here. They are a fairly recent invasive species and a very successful one.

This article by Wayne J. Arendt – “Range Expansion of the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) in the Greater Caribbean Basin” – gives more information about the advent of egrets in the Caribbean:

Abstract

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) was first reported in the Greater Caribbean Basin from Old Providence Island in 1933. It was not reported again from the region until 1944, when an individual was sighted in Aruba, Southern Netherlands Antilles. Within 4 years, the species was reported in Puerto Rico and Jamaica more than 800 km north of Aruba in the Greater Antilles. By 1957, Cattle Egrets were successfully nesting in nearby Cuba and St. Croix. Today, the species is known from more than 50 major islands throughout the Caribbean Basin. Cattle Egrets show strong dispersal tendencies and migratory behavior. The first Cattle Egrets to reach the Caribbean islands were probably migratory individuals. Rapid range expansion in the Caribbean and throughout the neotropics was concomitant with increased animal husbandry and intense agricultural practices, including irrigation and burning regimes. The success of the Cattle Egret in the Caribbean region is also attributed to its high reproductive rate, exponential population growth, extended breeding seasons, and few vertebrate predators, owing to the region’s insularity.

And it’s not only in the Caribbean that egrets have been successful. In this article – How Egrets Took Over the World – Justine E. Hausheer discusses the fact that “In the past 150 years, cattle egrets have self-populated nearly every continent on earth” but says “Just how, and why, remains somewhat of a mystery.”

Hausheer says “These birds are so closely associated with their mammalian foraging friends that one birder I know refers to cows as ‘cattle egret attractant devices.’ And while most birders will see cattle egrets with cattle, they’re quite happy to follow any large, herding mammal, whether it be cows, wildebeest, or elephants.” 

Cattle egrets originated in tropical Africa but can now be seen in almost everywhere in the world. “And while it may seem like they have nowhere else to go, vagrants are still turning up in Alaska and offshore Antarctic Islands.”

So back to Jamaica and the UWI (Mona) campus, where I photographed these egrets…

…that weren’t following a large herding animal, but rather a ride on lawn mower. It was stirring up the insects in the grass just as well as hooves.

Gaulin…Bubulcus ibis…cattle egret…

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Bird & Old Man’s Beard at Sunset

There was a time when once a week I did a blog post consisting of a photograph and a few words. It was in response to an online photo challenge. I really enjoyed the practice but when the photo challenge ended, my weekly photo post ended too. I’ve sometimes thought about reviving it. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But just for today, here’s a photo and a few words…

A bird and a plant called Old Man’s Beard…on wires…at sunset…a view from a window of my house….


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Potoo In A Pink Poui: Weekly Photo Challenge – Unlikely

“Maybe you can’t predict it, but you can still take a photo of it.”

I slowed down when we approached the pink poui in bloom. She is a beauty. As we drove past, Elizabeth asked what the big bird in the tree was.P1290835 “What bird?” I asked. “Or is it a piece of stick?” she said.P1290812 I reversed the car so we could get a better look. It was a Northern potoo, on its daytime perch. (And just to note that it’s not a patoo or owl, but a potoo.) I will always remember that day as the day we saw the potoo in the pink poui.P1290819 (2)
Weekly Photo Challenge – Unlikely


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Two Birds Today: Baldpate & Nightingale

When I sit on my roof in the mornings, I share space with many birds. Last year I thought about documenting all those I see in our garden, but haven’t really done much about it since. And maybe I will never do anything in a remotely organised fashion, not being a remotely organised person. But today, here are photos of two types of birds I frequently see in the garden.

P1200847This is a Jamaican Baldpate, aka White-crowned Pigeon, aka Columba leucocephala. It paid no attention to me, as it perched and fed while I drank my cup of tea.P1200990 (2)And perched on the edge of the roof is a Jamaican Nightingale, aka Northern Mockingbird, aka Mimus polyglottos. These are such brave and feisty little birds, which I’ve seen taking on hawks to drive them away from their nesting areas.

Just two of the birds I saw from my roof this morning…P1200942


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Gliding Birds, Rising Moon: Weekly Photo Challenge – Delta

“This week, share a photograph that signifies transitions and change to you. It can be the very beginning of a phase, or the very end. As you pick up your lens, explore the ways in which a single photograph can express time, while only showing us a small portion of any given moment.”

The moon has been doing this for millions of years, “rising” and “setting”, in its different phases…long before we humans were around to witness it.  The birds have been gliding across the sky for a far shorter time, but certainly time measured in many millenia. That afternoon, I watched in awe as the moon rose and a flock of birds glided in slow motion, on invisible currents, across the cloudless blue sky. Gliding birds, rising moon, a moment in time….

Gliding past the moon 2017

Weekly Photo Challenge – Delta


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Hawk Deh Near…But Not For Long: Weekly Photo Challenge – Danger!

“This week, share a photo that says Danger! to you.”

The presence of a chicken hawk (Red-tailed Hawk/Buteo jamaicensis) caused great consternation among the neighbourhood birds that morning. From the moment I went on the roof, I could hear them making loud calling sounds, as though warning each other that danger was near.P1130480I then watched them mount an amazing co-ordinated effort to drive the hawk away. They dive-bombed it repeatedly…nightingales…P1130502…cling-clings…P1130472…and even a streamertail hummingbird at one point, though I wasn’t lucky enough to get a photo of that! In the end, the hawk was chased away and the danger passed. At least, until next time….

Weekly Photo Challenge – Danger!


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Atop the Poinciana Tree: Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop

“This week, consider your point of view as you respond to this challenge’s theme, “Atop.” If you’re physically on top of a thing or a place — a mountain, a skyscraper — what type of scene do you want to share in your frame?”

I am in a bird frame of mind again this week. Atop my roof, I watched an American kestrel (Falco sparverius dominicensis) atop the poinciana (Delonix regia) tree.P1100794Perhaps it was watching me too…P1100796…perhaps it wasn’t….P1100807

Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop

 


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Just The Right Moment: Weekly Photo Challenge – Against The Odds

“This week, share a photo that says “against the odds.” Maybe it’s a photo of an unlikely occurrence. Maybe it’s the photo itself that goes against the odds — a shot you never thought you’d get. Maybe it’s a photo of something you’re not sure you’ll be able to do.”

Sometimes you are there at just the right moment…IMG_0772…and sometimes you are not.img_4154

Weekly Photo Challenge – Against the Odds