Egrets, Herons, Osprey, Anhinga – The Willet Pond

Later in the afternoon, the green mass of trees and shrubs around one edge of a large pond called the Willet Pond was crowded with large white birds. Most of them were Great Egrets, with their long yellow bills, and smaller Snowy Egrets, with fairy-like plumes of feathers, thin black bills and legs, and golden feet. At least one appeared to be an immature Little Blue Heron, all white, but a little stockier than the Snowy Egrets, and with greenish legs and feet. During the hour or two I spent at the pond, watching from a small observation platform along one edge, more egrets drifted in, one by one, to join those already in the vegetation.

Several yards away, near tall grass around the edge of an island in the pond, the striking long neck and tall, blue-gray form of a Great Blue Heron immediately drew the eye with black plumes on the head, and fierce long bill, like a dagger. It was several minutes before I noticed a shadowy, dark Little Blue Heron only a few feet away, a smaller, very dark bruised-blue lurking against the background of marsh grass and wind-rippled water. Three, four, five Tri-colored Herons were dotted here and there around the edges of the islands and the pond – animated and colorful, in different shades of dark blue-gray on the back and neck, with tints of dark maroon, and white bellies.

Several Forster’s Terns hunted over the pond the whole time I was there, a dozen, maybe more. There were always at least a few in the air, hovering so gracefully and so much fun to watch, so light and delicate and airy, plunging into the pond for fish. One Royal Tern flew over low and circled around for several minutes, sleek and stronger in appearance, looking almost heavy by comparison, though graceful in its own calmer way, the golden-orange of its bill clearly visible.

Double-crested Cormorants sat on a snag out in the water and on the edge of a dock and in the low branches of trees. A Belted Kingfisher rattled and flew out from a branch on the edge of the pond, its brilliant blue colors flashing, then it disappeared into the trees and I didn’t see it again.

On the opposite side of the pond from where I stood, the water merged into an expanse of tall brown marsh grass. In the distance, beyond the far side of the pond rose the clubhouse of a golf course, and beyond that, the dunes that line the beach.

Red-winged Blackbirds and Boat-tailed Grackles sat in the marsh grass, their conkaree and creaking calls mixing with the cries of seagulls and terns – and the high, clear chattering calls of two Osprey circling over, long, slender, angled wings, patterned in very dark brown, with bright white belly. They flew low enough to see the dark eye-stripe on the face. Like the Forster’s Terns, they were flying overhead and calling most of the time I was there, a constant part of the scene.

The thin, dark, long-necked, serpentine head of an Anhinga – sometimes called a Snakebird – emerged from the water – truly a strange, almost eery sight. Another Anhinga perched on a snag over the water, silver wings draped out to dry, showing elegant contrasting colors and textures in smooth black, rippled gray and light, shimmering tan.

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