This morning I spotted a fairly unusual visitor to this corner of the state…a great egret, Ardea alba. The big bird was wading the shallow end of a small, marshy pond located in the secluded corner of a field a mile or so from the cottage.
In all likelihood this stately, dazzling white guest was a transient, perhaps on the way to the marshy basin area of western Lake Erie where the largest great egret colony in the Great Lakes nests on West Sister Island. Or maybe the bird just wanted to check out the nearby nature center run by National Audubon Society, which uses an image of a great egret as its symbol.
Many folks who see one of these birds mistakenly think it's an albino great blue heron. The legs afford an easy and positive identification key—yellow on the great blue and its subspecies (see below) and black on the great white. They're also slightly smaller than a great blue heron, though not by much. The noticeably scaled-down snowy egret has a black bill; both great blue herons and great egrets sport yellow bills.
Great white egrets are our second largest heron species unless you count Florida's great white heron, which is currently listed as a subspecies of the great blue, and the associated Wurdmann's heron, found only in the Florida Keys and thought to be a color morph between the great blue and great white.
The images aren't great, but I didn't want to pressure the bird too much. Travelers need their rest and nourishment.