Snowy Egret, Egretta Thula: Saint Augustine Alligator Farm,
Saint Augustine, Florida: USA
I have posted this image before. Back in August 2015, I posted it on my blog, and must confess that it is one of my favorites photographs. It was shot in April the same year at the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida.
The Alligator Farm is a great place to photograph nesting herons, egrets, storks and spoonbills. On the north end of the facility is a lake, supplied by a natural water source. Once Gators reach a certain size they are moved into the lake. Trees surround the lake, and the wading birds move in each spring to nest above the gators.
Gators and nesting birds are about as natural as you can get, even though this situation is in one of Florida’s most popular tourist destinations. In the wild, wading birds naturally nest over alligators as they provide protection against predators such as raccoons, opossums, and bobcats. This is not to say that the birds are completely safe. I have often seen nestlings fall out of a nest to be quickly gobbled up by a hungry gator.
Natural predators are not the real threat to this beautiful species. The real threat comes from man. This photo shows a male Snowy Egret with it aigrette feathers raised in nuptial display. Aigrettes are graceful ornamental plume feather tufts of egrets and some herons in their breeding dress.
The demand for these delicate aigrette plumes in the millinery trade was the reason that these beautiful birds were driven to near extinction at the turn of the twentieth century.
The mass killing of egrets for the millinery trade was also the catalyst that initiated the formation of the Audubon Society. Its members were instrumental in passing the Lacey Act (1900), which ended the use of birds and feathers in the millinery trade.
Fortunately the conservation measures worked, and these exquisite birds made a tremendous rebounded. However, now, more than one hundred years later these bird and others are being threatened by rapid habitat loss. Habitat loss across the world is one of this century’s greatest threats and all will be lost unless we do something. The real question is; what do we do? Whatever the answer, it must be achieved on a global scale.
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 300mm f2.8, 1/1250 @ f7.1