In mid-September Arthur and I drove down to the Florida Keys for a few days of camping, birding, and snorkeling. One morning we took a walk along Bahia Honda State Park’s Sandspur Beach before snorkeling. We saw a few birds, including a Reddish Egret who was actively hunting in the surf. The light wasn’t great so I wasn’t planning on taking any photos, but then I noticed the bird was banded. I got out my camera and took a few shots.
From my photos, I was able to tell that the last five digits of the band were 24697. With this partial information I went to the USGS Report a Band site to report the sighting. I was surprised that I was unable to submit the form without the full band number. So I did a little Googlin’ and found Clay Green via Heron Conservation. Though he wasn’t banding birds around the Keys, I was hoping he’d be able to send my information on to someone who could use it.
The following reply came back from Dr. Kenneth D. Meyer of Avian Research and Conservation Institute (posted with permission).
We (ARCI) banded this bird on 27 January 2010 on Ohio Key, Florida Keys (near where Amy saw it). Sexed by blood sample as male.
We were deploying satellite transmitters at the time but did not tag this bird because he had a large growth (external, abdomen) which Dr. Marilyn Spalding, a veterinary pathologist, advised may have been a result of a previous nematode infection (Eustrongylides sp.) that had become walled-off.
We have observed the bird several times since then while working in the area, but not recently. Very good to know he’s still alive and in the area. The eight Reddish Egrets that we captured in the lower Keys and tracked by satellite all remained year-round in the area, making habitual seasonal movements of, at most, 30-40 miles.
When captured and when later observed, this bird had several white and gray primaries, wing coverts, and tail feathers (bilateral). I’m wondering if Amy saw this or was able to take any photos.
Here I have to admit that at the time of the sighting I was so excited to a) see a banded bird and b) be able to photograph readable band photos that I didn’t spend nearly enough time just plain observing the dang bird. D’oh. It was behaving in a manner I would consider entirely normal for a Reddish Egret – actively hunting by darting around the shallow water, gingerly avoiding us human observers but acting neither overly wary nor especially confiding, and moving around on the beach as big waders do. I also didn’t notice many odd white feathers on the wings or tail, and I certainly didn’t notice any lesion on the chest. Here are my two best photos of the bird.
After seeing my photos, Ken indicated that the lesion had been quite large; it may be out of sight in my photos or it may just be gone.
I was glad to find the group who banded the Reddish Egret (REEG, by the way), and that my information may have been slightly useful. I learned my lesson, too. I am quite content to quietly observe a single bird for an extended period of time… but in this case I got a little bit overexcited about seeing a banded bird. Next time, I need to calm down and do what I enjoy most — observe the bird! After I record that band number, that is!