Oysterville’s Winter People

Dec 2, 2020 | 0 comments

Egret on Clay Street – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

The pair of egrets that showed up a month or so ago are still hanging out.  Their winter address seems to be “Willapa Bay at Clay Street.”  That’s where Tucker and Carol have been seeing them on their daily walks along the bay path in front of town.  Yesterday, Tucker took a few photographs that they may want for their Winter Vacation in Oysterville scrapbook — if egrets keep scrapbooks.  Which is doubtful.

Actually, the doubtful part might not be the scrapbooks.  Some folks could question whether or not these are egrets.  According to Wikipedia (whose information is also sometimes doubtful) the distinction between a heron and an egret is rather vague, and depends more on appearance than biology. The word “egret” comes from the French word “aigrette” that means both “silver heron” and “brush”, referring to the long filamentous feathers that seem to cascade down an egret’s back during the breeding season (also called “egrets”).

Egret In Flight – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

So some could wonder if this lovely white pair, who have apparently moved in for the season, are actually our year round great blue herons in their winter disguise.  After all, we have lots of great blue herons around Willapa Bay.  There are several GBH rookeries near Oysterville and the information about their winter plumage could cause confusion.

Accordingly, I investigated a bit further.  A National Wildlife Federation blog had this to say: Great egrets are a little smaller than the white-phase great blue heron, but the real giveaway is the color of the legs. Great egrets have black legs while white-phase great blue herons have much lighter legs. Herons also have slightly heavier beaks and “shaggier” feathers on their breast.

Carol on “The Bay Path” in Oysterville – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Hooray for Tucker’s fabulous photographs!  The legs of our two visitors are clearly black, an obvious indicator that  these particular “winter people” (in contrast to the “summer kid” that I once was) are, indeed, “great egrets.”  Or just Esther and Ethan if they say so.  They are certainly a welcome and treasured addition to our little community for however long they choose to stay.

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