Tag Archives: cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

The rookery – Part 2

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility. (Rachel Carson)

A torrid sun simmers from a cloudless sky.  Moist air rests on the skin like wet cotton.  Where the shade of trees gives respite from the heat, it likewise proffers habitat for a handful of mosquitoes looking to feast on unsuspecting people.

Hover flies dance in dappled sunlight filtering through the treetops.  Ants march one by one.  A robin flits to the ground to feed its squawking child as a squirrel nibbles on a newfound treat.  From somewhere deep within the motte a blue jay screeches.

A cacophony of alien voices fills the area, a menagerie of languages reminding me of the cantina scene in “Star Wars.”  Birds as large as space ships and as small as stones seem anchored to the ground by eerie shadows dragged beneath gossamer wings.

All the while, the sound of automobiles rumbles from every direction…

When nature learns to thrive where concrete and steel have replaced grass and trees, the aware mind can discover great magic.  The spell cast by such places provides urbanites a glimpse of what has been forgotten.  The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center rookery brings within the city walls a source of awe and power unlike any other place in the DFW metroplex.

The school reports annually to Texas Parks and Wildlife on the nesting season.  This is an excerpt from last year’s summary:

2008 nesting summary for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center rookery

Multiply those numbers by two for an understanding of the total bird population before chicks are born.

A white ibis (Eudocimus albus) perched in a tree (2009_06_13_023014)

Although the UTSWMC rookery lies 300 miles/480 kilometers from the the Gulf of Mexico, it still attracts coastal species like anhinga, tricolored heron and white ibis.  They join year-round residents such as great egret, black-crowned night-heron and cattle egret, as well as summer residents like little blue heron and snowy egret.  But only the gregarious need apply: the solitary great blue heron and the secretive green heron visit only in rare cases, and neither would dare nest in the vicinity of such a boisterous crowd.

A brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) lurking in the understory (2009_05_17_019865)

Large birds account for the most obvious inhabitants even though smaller birds occupy the area as well.  Hawks also know of the UT Southwestern Medical Center rookery and the smorgasbord it offers, and it can be a sight indeed when a buteo sweeps in and captures a meal.

A little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) in thick foliage (2009_05_17_019677)

Already there is new life.  And death.  Nesting boils down to a numbers game: the more children you have, the more you can lose while still being successful at procreation.  Accidents, predation, disease, environment and competition take their toll on adults and chicks alike.  Thus is the way of things.

A cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) in the treetops (2009_06_20_023922)

In this tiny plot of land surrounded by urban mayhem, habitat loss has given rise to adaptation.  So little natural space is left for such creatures.  That might explain the glut of species packed tightly together in the middle of the city, each vying for a chance at survival as seen through the eyes of future generations.

An anhinga (a.k.a. water turkey or snakebird; Anhinga anhinga) on its nest (2009_06_13_023050)

To again quote Rachel Carson: “Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.”  The birds in the rookery seem to understand this concept.  But do we?

[While I have sent multiple requests to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center asking for comments about the rookery, I have yet to receive a response.  I’m now utilizing the back door for that effort.]

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[1] White ibis (Eudocimus albus)

[2] Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

[3] Little blue heron (Egretta caerulea)

[4] Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

[5] Anhinga (a.k.a. water turkey or snakebird; Anhinga anhinga)

[cross-posted to The Clade]


To finish what I started for dearest nathalie with an h, who claims vehemently—and overmuch—that she sees only ducks when visiting White Rock Lake, I thought it time to share some of the other waterfowl who live here but who are in fact not ducks.  To be more precise, these are herons[1].

A cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) perched in winter trees (2009_02_14_009307)

A cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) perched in the trees across the lagoon[3].

A green heron (Butorides virescens) standing in verdant spring foliage (20080629_08323_n)

A green heron (Butorides virescens) hiding amongst branches draped over a creek.

A black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) perched on fallen limbs (2009_02_03_006217)

A black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) trying to sleep on a sunny afternoon.

A snowy egret (Egretta thula) perched on a log in Sunset Bay (20080701_08757)

A snowy egret (Egretta thula) perched on a log in Sunset Bay.

A great egret (Ardea alba) standing along the banks of a creek (2009_03_07_012299)

A great egret (Ardea alba) standing along the banks of Dixon Branch near the confluence.  (I think the mallard drake is there for decorative purposes.)

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing in the treetops (2008_12_28_003901)

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) perched high in the treetops[4].

A yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) resting in the middle of a pond thick with vegetation (2009_04_16_015547)

A yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) resting in the middle of a pond thick with vegetation.

A little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) stalking the shallows of a plant-filled swamp (2009_04_16_015585)

A little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) stalking the shallows of a plant-filled swamp[5].

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[1] While these are all herons by definition, some are called egrets.  ‘Egret’ is the name given to heron species that is normally all white[2] and that grows long, showy plumes in the breeding season.

[2] The term “all white” does not refer to color morphs, forms of albinism or those species that demonstrate white plumage only during adolescence.

[3] The cattle egret perched in trees some distance from me.  Given its small size yet high reflective properties when matched against barren winter trees, I assumed at the time that it was a great egret curled up sleeping near the water’s edge.  Only when I processed the images much later in the day did I see it clearly enough to recognize my error, after which I cursed myself for not taking more than one cursory photo.

[4] Undoubtedly the most difficult heron species to photograph, great blue herons are flighty creatures who avoid humans at all costs.  It’s more likely for me to see one take to the skies and disappear behind treetops than it is to see one standing still near enough and long enough for me to capture a good picture.

[5] Little blue herons are anything but little, yet they are smaller than great blue herons.  This has to be my favorite heron species given its color, something I failed to capture in this image as I was looking at a dark bird in the middle of verdant foliage covered with water, water reflecting sunlight right into my face and the camera lens.  Nevertheless, you can see this bird’s plumage is a vaporous menagerie of my favorite color: purple.

[6] As for the title, see the bottom of this post for an explanation.

A day at the farm

These are pictures from my most recent trip to the family farm.  They neither represent nor embody the pinnacle of what I hoped to share.  Unfortunately, Zooomr remains unreliable and unstable, so I’m proffering these tidbits in lieu of what I originally hoped to share: good quality, large sizes, and interesting perspectives.

I hate flickr.  Actually, I hate Yahoo!, so that remains the sole reason I’ve not made these photos available in sizes other than what is shown here, and I don’t intend to do so as long as flickr remains the only venue available to me.  Let us hope Zooomr gets its act together soon and resolves the litany of issues that service continues to have.

Intertube woes aside, here’s a brief photographic jaunt through the family farm.  I plan to share more later when work and web no longer pummel me with tedious assaults.

Note: All photos taken May 26.


[I’m busy with work, as you’d already guessed, and this is the best I can hold in my hands from which you can take; yes, if you must know, I’m still online with work and still quite busy; this week has tormented my soul. . .]