Next to the boat ramp at Lake Martin is a peninsula that extends a small distance southwest into the lake. The peninsula is well above the surrounding water and there are several large cypress trees in the water near its northwest side; thus, it is a convenient site for photographing birds wading in water, perched in trees, or flying by.
As I walked onto the peninsula the other day, a Great Egret took off from the beneath the southeast edge of the peninsula to my left. Because it was initially out of view, I didn’t have a chance to capture its takeoff, but I got a few shots early into its flight such as the one below.
I first thought it was going to fly away from the peninsula, but it surprised me and banked hard to the right for a landing at the end of peninsula.
After landing, the egret started walking along the tip of the peninsula. While I stood still and took a few photos of the bird, it kept its head high and seemed very wary of me.
Even with me standing in place, the egret soon took off to my right and headed toward the cypress trees near the peninsula.
I thought it might land in or near one of the trees, but instead it continued flying through the trees and, eventually, out of sight.
This was my first real attempt at bird-in-flight (BIF) photography with my new Tamron 150-600mm lens. That lens and my Canon 7D camera constitute a 6.1-lb load for my old arms to swing around. My attempting to use this lens for sharp handheld BIF shots is probably folly, but I gave it a shot. These photos might not have even made it to this blog had I not discovered a curious item while examining them on my computer screen.
If you look very carefully at the four BIF images above, in each one you will see a white fuzzy spot at the end of the egret’s middle claw on its right foot. It is especially prominent in the last two images, where the sun angle provided better illumination. The two images below are 100% crops of the feet of the egret in the first and last images above, so they are from the flight before and the flight after it landed on the peninsula, respectively.
The “white fuzzy spot” is apparently a small bit of down. But to someone like me who knows little about birds, I found it strange that such a feathery object could remain stuck to the egret’s claw through one flight, a landing in grass, and a second flight. A Google search led me to the answer. As is the case with other members of the heron family, the middle toe on each foot of the Great Egret has a serrated edge. The purpose of this specialized claw to pull off powdery down used in cleaning the plumage of the egret. (See, for example, http://www.earthlife.net/birds/herons.html.) That serrated edge apparently gives the claw quite a grip.
The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.