A couple weeks ago, a friend messaged me on Facebook to let me know that she’d seen at least 12 great egrets in the Essex Bog near the Bangor Mall that morning. While I’d seen a couple great egrets in the bog before, I’d never witnessed so many of these large, white birds in one place. But I was stuck in the office with writing assignments, so no matter how much I wanted to grab my camera and drive the 10 minutes to the bog, I simply couldn’t.
I can’t recall exactly why, but I couldn’t visit the bog the next day either. Or the next.
When I finally got the free time to visit the bog several days later, I figured the egrets would have already moved on. After all, we only see them up here in Bangor when they’re migrating. But I was in luck.
Following the footpath that travels along the edge of the bog, I counted at least 10 great egrets wading through shallow pools, snacking on dragonflies and water bugs. They were easy to spot, their bright white bodies standing out against the tangle of dead trees, cattails and purple loosestrife, a rather pretty invasive species that is spreading throughout the bog like wildfire.
Great egrets are long-legged wading birds, standing about 3 feet tall, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Its large white wings, when outstretched, are about 4 feet long. Their long, sharp bills are yellowish-orange and are used to spear fish. And their long, thin legs are black.
This stately wading bird was hunted nearly to extinction for its plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds. The great egret is also the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America.
Also while at the bog, I spotted two green herons — one standing motionless in the mud by a shallow pool and another perched high in a dead tree. There were also several sandpipers, red-winged blackbirds and eastern kingbirds. With my 100-400mm lens, I managed to get some interesting photos, some capturing the birds in strange poses and with interesting expressions on their faces that later made me laugh.
I also managed to find a female green-winged teal, a small brown duck with an aqua iridescent patch of feathers on its wings. These ducks breed in Maine in the summer, but they aren’t as common as mallards. I believe it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one, though I haven’t been actively looking.