Saturday, April 4, 2015

"The Jewel of the Chesapeake Bay"

I have wanted to get this photo, or something close to it, for a couple of years. Granted, a huge water tower with a sign on it isn't too scenic, but it does convey to all the message that North Beach is the "Jewel of the Chesapeake Bay." I have always thought personally, however, that the jewel of North Beach is in the shadow of this tower: the salt marsh just outside the town.

As the numbers of osprey increase, prime nesting sites become contested. There is a pair who have nested on a platform overlooking the marsh pond for years. This spring finds a second pair who have designs on the territory and it has lead to aerial combat and general disagreeableness. One of the pair have taken to spending time sitting on the water tower, so I finally had a chance to combine an icon of the Bay with the sign.

Here is one of the reasons why I say the marsh is the jewel of the town. Most of the photos I have posted lately have been taken in this venue. There are an enormous variety of birds that visit this location over the seasons. These photos were taken on Thursday, the first day the Snowy Egrets arrived following their migration. The marsh is tidal and there wasn't very much water present, but I managed to film this one cooperative bird which landed in a photogenic location.

Because there is so little water during low tide, it is actually easier to both see and catch minnows. I love the way the light from the water is reflecting on the outstretched wing. To tell the truth, I thought some of these muddy backgrounds looked like painted backdrops for the egrets.

All four Snowies I saw yesterday were sporting breeding plumage. The longer, lacy, branched feathers (also known as aigrettes) on the tail, the crown of the head, the back between the wings and chest feathers are all part of the change that takes place as the herons and egrets come into the breeding season. Notice the similarity between the word egret and aigrettes. Hint: their etymology is the same.

These are the same feathers, prized for lady's hats a hundred years ago, that almost caused the extinction of the species. It was the movement to save these birds that eventually led to federal protection of most bird species in the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

I have never noticed the snowies being so cautious in the past. I saw different egrets do this on at least four different occasions and each time, when I looked up, I would see a large bird. Each time, it was either a vulture or an osprey and not an eagle. Being a relatively large bird in their own right made me wonder of what other bird it might be afraid.

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