Cattle egrets will follow anything that stirs up insects and other small creatures in the grass. Typically, they hang out with cattle, horses and sheep, but they’ll also flock to the scene when anyone fires up a lawn mower. They trot along behind the mower, gleaning tasty tidbits from among the grass clippings.
It’s not all easy pickings though. As in the top photo, they have to be alert for when the mower swings around and roars back toward them.
This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Odd Couples.’ See more responses here.
It’s common to see cattle egrets in the company of cattle and yet they still make an odd pairing – the bulky, stolid cow or bull and the slender, flighty cattle egret. The benefits for the cattle egret are clear. They catch insects and other prey disturbed by the grazing cattle (or horse, sheep, goat, etc.). But they also remove flies and ticks from the cattle themselves, which also benefits the cattle.
The cattle also don’t seem to mind being used as a perch. I imagine the egret above giving directions: ‘take a left up ahead buddy.’ The one in the middle is switching allegiances. Below, gotta find someplace with a view when in the tall grasses.
Today we tackle the thorny question of what cattle egrets do when there are no cattle (or horses, or sheep, or goats, or lawn mowers) around. They accompany these various animals and machines to feast on insects and small animals disturbed by the grazing.
When they don’t have others to stir up these things, they do it themselves. This group of cattle egrets methodically combed a scrubby field, eating as they went. As they moved across the field, birds from the back would fly forward and take up their position at the front. By the time a line of birds ended up at the back of the bunch, they’d probably scoured their section of field of easy pickings, so they leapfrogged to the front again.
When they reached the fence at the end of the field, they moved higher on the hill and began the whole process again. Finally, they reached the top of the hill and, after a while took off, first in ones and twos, and then in greater numbers until they had all gone.
This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Gate.’ (See more offerings here.) I remembered these two cattle egrets, on a gate separating two cattle pastures. I like how the birds seem to be engaged, like a couple of neighbors talking over the garden fence, or in this case, on the fence.
Also, I like the feet of the bird perched on the gate. Makes me feel like my feet are positively dainty!
Today marks the 1,000th post on this blog. To mark the occasion I looked for a suitably appropriate subject and couldn’t find anything! So instead I chose this photo since it featured a couple of subjects I must have seen a thousand times.
I pass the turbines at Hawi Wind Farm on my way to the part of the coast where I regularly walk. And I’ve seen an awful lot of cattle/horse/sheep/goat/lawn mower egrets since they are omnipresent. Plus I have a soft spot for them.
In this photo, a flock of egrets is on a mission to get from one pasture to another one. They aren’t the most graceful of flyers, but en masse I find they make a very pleasing sight.
When I’m out walking I often pass fields of cattle. In general they either stare dolefully or run off when I look at them. Recently though, I was walking alongside one field and, at my appearance, the cattle ran to one side of the field, formed a group and then thundered down the hill toward me. When they got close, they did a U-turn and shot back up the hill.
Next day they did the same thing, but this time instead of the U-turn they stopped just across the hedge from me and stared. All the running about had stirred up the cattle egrets that invariably accompany them and that’s when I took this photo. I particularly like the devilish horns of the one animal peering out from the crowd.
I moved on and the cattle followed. We repeated this a couple of times before they decided they’d had enough.
On the third day, my appearance provoked only dull stares. Obviously the thrill of my presence had gone.
Another post on the theme of ‘Glow,’ this week’s WordPress photo challenge.
I looked out of the window early one morning, and saw this cattle egret staring intently, as they do, into fallen leaves bordering the yard. After a few minutes of that, a sudden lunge was followed by the top photo. That’s a green anole wrapped around the egret’s beak as it struggled, unsuccessfully, to get free. The photo on the left shows the egret swishing the anole back and forth, in an effort to finish it off.
I doubt the anole was happy, but the egret certainly glowed in the morning light.