The Great Egret

Pauline describes the majesty of herons and egrets by the river's edge as they hunt with spear-like beaks.

The Great Egret
Great Egret near Montreal, Canada, July 2023

Recently, I spotted my first Great Egret on my home turf. (I saw one previously in another part of the city and see occasional Great Blue Herons on my path.)

A heron or egret sighting is an arresting experience and I mean that quite literally. Seeing one makes me immediately freeze and maybe even stop breathing.  These birds are large but that’s not the only imposing feature. They are majestic and look as if they were suddenly dropped from another planet. They would appear at the river’s edge, wading in shallow water, hunting for fish or other edibles. Herons hunt slowly, almost imperceptibly. They wait for prey, perhaps stalking a bit, and finally make their move to quickly spear the unfortunate meal with their long beaks. 

This is a Great Blue Heron with lunch.

Great Egrets have a similar shape but with feathers of the purest white. It is not surprising that they appear in many mythologies to symbolize positive qualities such as peace, grace, wisdom and transformation.

Indeed, my routine morning walk was transformed two days ago by this sight:

I watched as the giant white bird glided slowly along the opposite riverbank...

finally lighting on a tree branch.

For someone accustomed to seeing songbirds and woodpeckers in trees, it was a bit strange to behold. 

I stood in awe as the bird surveyed its territory, seemingly content to remain in the trees at least until hunger pangs struck again.

My two sightings of this bird were about a month apart, and I will look out for it again in the coming weeks before it heads to its winter home.

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