ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis
"A Spring Show"
There may be snow on the surrounding mountains, storms a brewin’, and people still wearing coats, but I know Spring is here. You will know it too, when you see the Almond and Apricot blossoms in bloom, and if you check on the wildlife outdoors. The Cattle Egret for example, actually puts on A Spring Show by dramatically changing its beautiful white feathers to an orange-buff color on the crown, breast, and back. All this to set the stage and attract females at breeding time, and fortunate for us, southern Utah is part of their breeding area.
The Cattle Egret has undergone a population expansion, spreading from parts of Asia, Africa and Europe to much of the rest of the world. The massive and rapid expansion of the Cattle Egret's range is due to its relationship with humans and their domesticated animals. Unlike most other herons, the Cattle Egret feeds in relatively dry, grassy habitats, and has a special relationship with large animals such as the African Cape Buffalo and Elephants. Where man and his cattle go, so go the Cattle Egrets. A good portion of the Cattle Egret’s food comes from catching insects and small vertebrate prey that are disturbed as these animals move about grazing. The Cattle Egret also removes and consumes ticks and flies from these large animals. This becomes a two-way benefit. The large animals stay healthier without the pests and the Cattle Egret gets food.
As you travel outdoors this Spring, look for the Cattle Egret all decked out in its breeding colors. Marilyn Davis is the artist this week. If you have questions about birds, the monthly Red Cliffs Audubon Meeting ("Up Close & Personal With Birds" - Shirley Surfus) on Wednesday, March 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the Tonaquint Nature Center, or the Field Trip (To See the Greater Sage Grouse) the following Saturday, call 435 673-0996.
If you wish to great the dawn, breathe in some sweet Spring morning air and have fun with friends, join us on our field trip the Parowan Gap on Saturday, March 17 at 5:30 am at the BLM. We will be seeking the amazing Sage Grouse (details here).