By mid July many chicks are now larger than some of their parents. They don’t fly. They are still being feed by a parent sticking regurgitated meat down their throats, followed by beak battles. The youngsters will gang up and together clamp down on mom’s or dad’s beak and head. With the motivation of more food now and no need for manners, they are learning balance, gaining strength, quick reflexes while devilishly exploring their large angelic wings.
The snowy egrets are here. Just a few so far. By May 18 there are chicks from the snowys joining the dozen-plus chicks from the great egrets. By June it’s a village, alive and jumping.
The new colony seems spread over five clustered pine trees.
It is difficult to see which trees are holding nests. Only as the chicks grow large and test their wings in play is there a better opportunity to observe them. The fledglings poke upward through the pines with long white swaying necks and suddenly display outstretched wings.
The grove of pine trees can sustain a sizable colony that can annually renew, grow and continue for generations.
On March 27, 2019 six great egrets are spotted in a grove of pines a few yards from the old colony. Hardly drawing attention to themselves, they have built their nest platforms. Now they peek out from the pine needles and begin their ceremonial behavior. They fan out feathers into a lacy cape. The lores, the area between eyes and beak, change from yellow to a brilliant green, nearly neon. They point their beaks to the sky.
Occasionally they fly, circling their chosen spot. One is seen at the pre-school next door, snipping a branch from a tree in the schoolyard and returning to expand the nest.
Their return was anticipated, but the return was never for sure. Now six egrets begin. Soon they may be joined by more great egrets and the later arriving snowy egrets.
Looking at a map of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, it is provocative to see that this egret colony is at the center.
It is a window showing the natural world that is always with us, peeking through the constructions of civilization with a spiritual force.
How much natural world do we need? “Half-Earth,” says E. O. Wilson in his book of the same title.
For weeks from January to early March 2019, it is about the changing beauty of the ecosystem. Color rich reflections surround mallard and coot. A couple egrets that didn’t migrate visited at least once. A couple possible egrets had been rumored in nearby Leydecker Park in February. An arriving gull in silhouette shows another mood of March, while waiting for egrets.
GREEN TREE WITH EGRETS
A Monterey pine leans over the lagoon on Bay Farm Island in Alameda, home to a San Francisco Bay Area egret breeding colony. Nesting begins as early as February and continues through August .
The egrets and the tree are almost hidden. After the chicks are born and they begin to grow, the tree will resound with the rhythmic clacking of egrets. The egret is the logo for the nearby Harbor Landing plaza, but the lagoon, tree and egrets are out of sight.
A meandering path around the lagoon goes under the tree and around the water’s edge. There are seven villages connected by a mile of walkways and foot bridges. It’s a place for strolls, dog walking, bicycling and bird watching. On the lagoon are ducks and night herons, and perhaps a kayak or rowboat. There are condos on either side of the lagoon, many with docks and boats out their back doors.