I just completed the drawing above, as an impressionistic depiction of Egrets in flight.
In the thirty-plus years that I’ve lived in California, I’ve become accustomed to seeing brilliant white egrets flying gracefully overhead, or else wading in pools and on moist ground. Before emigrating from England, I’d never seen any species of egret in the wild. Now, egrets are increasingly common in Britain, but when I was young, they were such rare visitors as to be included only in the “Rarest on Record” appendix of the Reader’s Digest Book of British Birds (which was our family’s major reference on the topic).
Shortly after my wife and I moved to Santa Rosa in 2005, we discovered a remarkable natural event that occurs annually in a built-up part of the city. Every year at around this time, significant numbers of wading birds start building nests in a few pine and eucalyptus trees in the center median of West Ninth Street, Santa Rosa. There are several species nesting in close proximity in this heronry: Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, plus Black-crowned Night Herons. Although they don’t nest there, Green Herons and Great Blue Herons can also be seen in the vicinity. None of these species are rare in California, but it’s their proximity to human habitation in such large numbers that is unusual in this case.
My short video below shows both Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets in the treetops at West Ninth Street, then gives a brief general impression of the scene. The trees are surrounded by houses and apartments, and cars cruise by on either side of the street.
Volunteers from the Madrone Audubon Society have assumed responsibility for looking after the heronry. Every year they fence off a portion of the road and put down straw beneath the trees, to protect any baby birds that may fall from the nests.
As you can hear in the video, the birds are quite noisy, and can also create quite a smell on hot days, so I imagine that the local residents are less than enthusiastic about their presence!
Nonetheless, it’s an impressive and fascinating sight for visitors. The photo below is a closeup of a nesting Great Egret, which I took during our visit in 2007.
Egrets in the Park
As I mentioned above, I often see flocks of egrets flying in formation over our house, but they usually don’t land anywhere that’s visible to us. Occasionally, however, a flock decides to feed in the park in front of our house, as shown below in a through-the-window photo, taken one foggy morning in 2016.
Herons At Large
In a previous blog post, I featured a photo of a Black-crowned Night Heron that appeared unexpectedly by the swimming pool of the Z Hotel in Oakland while we were staying there.
My photo below shows a Great Blue Heron wading in the Napa River a few years ago, alongside a gull.
Incidentally, I’m already aware that the egrets in my drawing display features from several different species. I chose features for their artistic impact, rather than for technical accuracy.