Friday, April 5, 2013

Watching Egrets

Plat I, Douglas County, Oregon

My sketches and notes come from early winter.  I'm finally finding a little time for catch up!  Here are my notes and sketches from wonderful times watching our local egrets foraging.

Late afternoon sun glows on fishing egrets, giving a warmth to their whiteness.  Often their necks stretch straight.  One pauses; looking; waiting for motion beneath the water.  Suddenly he turns, cocks his head, and freezes.  Relaxes.  

Out goes his neck!  Head plunges into the water.  Nothing.  He gathers himself, waits for the water to still and watches.  

Splat! This time he has a fish about four inches long, maybe a perch.  He deftly flicks his catch into the air, re-grabbing it head first.  An easy swallow.  The lumps quickly travels his long, slender neck.

The water soon stills again.  The egret’s reflection barely ripples as he slowly stalks, then pauses.  
Splat!  This time the egret comes up with a small crayfish.  This lump also slides easily.

After fishing this shallow bay for fifteen minutes he waits longer between opportunities.  He flies 50 years to the nearby mud flat and preens a few minutes.  Not for long.  Long careful strides as he eases back into the same bay.  

The sun is just slipping behind the hill, giving a lavender cast to the sky and the water.  His feathers, no longer warm and sunny, now harmonize with the grays and lavenders.  

So many fish!  Most of his prey is small, some very small.  He must have caught a least a dozen little fish while we watch.  Some were just tidbits ... and one crayfish.

As dusk falls the several killdeer have positioned themselves scattered along the edge of the shoreline.  It was their reflections I noticed.  The birds blend into the mud.  Our egret has finished fishing.  He flies to the vast expanse of mud and joins other egrets off in the distance.  


  1. Elva these are one of my favorite birds to watch. I love going to the local duck pond to watch them fishing and try to take pix of them altho my camera doesn't capture them as well as I would like. Your narrative helps me understand them much better. Wonderful drawings. Like I said, you need to do a book of your own!! :)

  2. Hi, Elva,
    Thank you for the interesting post and drawings!
    Cheers, Sadami

  3. Greetings, Elva!

    I was trying to order another copy of Walk When the Moon is Full and saw that you were the new illustrator and that you have written a second book. Congratulations!

    I learned about your mother's book through John Holt's Un-Schooling newsletter many years ago. I read it over and over to my 11 children and, through the years to young scholars at our home school center and, presently, to my grandsons. I needed another copy as I am reading it at Academy of Music NW where the children are going to compose a piece to go with the book. This is always a favorite with children and parents. As soon as I begin a chapter, all are on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the upcoming surprise. Alas, (Surprise!) I looked you up and found your photo and your blog! Isn't life grand? I live in WA state, by the way.

    Beautiful drawings of the egrets!

    1. Thank you for your nice note! It may interest you to know Charles Young has just written a concert based on "Walk When the Moon is Full." The first playing is this weekend by the Central Wisconsin Symphony. Good luck with yours! It would be found to hear.

      I'm so glad you love my mother's book!