Late Fall Beauty in Little Lake Valley

December 1, 2021

The Little Lake Valley grasses are growing rapidly with help from the rains we had a couple of weeks ago and the warmth in the air. As I walk out in these wet meadows, the morning fog drips from the branches of the ash and oak trees, helping to keep the moisture in the ground and absorbed by the moss and lichens that are on every surface that is habitable by these interesting life forms. The interior and northern part of the valley has some flooding which makes for great waterfowl habitat. It is always a surprise to see hundreds of different ducks and Canada Geese out in the fields, quacking and honking to each other and to themselves probably about me if I walk too close.

In front of me today the colors of fall, even though they are fading, are spectacular with the reflections in the water. A beautiful Great Egret, Ardea alba, hunts in the foreground. The focus and concentration of this bird is a singularly fascinating thing to watch. Its neck wobbles with effort due to how long it is. This is our largest white heron, long necked and taller than the Snowy Egret, Egretta thula. GreatEgrets have all black legs and feet and a yellow bill. They are more common on the mitigation lands than the smaller Snowy Egret with the yellow feet.

So, what is it hunting? So many things are the answer. Frogs, snakes, lizards, meadow voles, gophers, and even other birds. No wonder it is so intent on its task, carefully lowering each foot down in front of the other.

The raptors seem to be energized by this weather and are seen sitting in every other tree or electrical pole. As we wait for the next rain, I am glad to see the healthy green grass growing and moisture in the ground.