Saturday, November 20, 2010

Great egret

Great egret, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

It surprises me how a short time out in nature with my sketchbook can eliminate a week’s worth of stress! Last Sunday afternoon was warm with a cool-ish breeze, and filled with a lovely golden light.

I sat to the side of the path that winds around the north lake at Freedom Park, reveling in the abundance of butterflies nectaring on cassia and Spanish needles. As I started to sketch the grasses and water, a great egret walked into view.

I knew this was a great egret and not the white version (morph) of the great blue heron because of its black legs. Great blue heron legs are yellow, though sometimes grayish-yellow. Great egret legs are definitely black.

For the longest time I had no memory device to remember this trivia, until I associated *egret = ebony* to describe the ebony-like leg color. Now I just have to remember that it doesn’t apply to every egret! We have snowy egrets (black legs, yellow feet), and cattle egrets (yellow legs and feet) here in Southwest Florida, but they’re smaller birds with slightly different head and neck shapes.

Pond apple trunk
  This lake is part of a constructed wetland designed to relieve flooding during our rainy season (approximately June through September) and to purify water before it enters Gordon River and Naples Bay. The park also incorporates existing wetlands to the east, which has old stands of cypress and laurel oak, and some lovely old red mangroves and pond apples.

I sketched these directly with a Sakura Micron Pigma pen, and then added watercolor pencil to the lake sketch, washing over it with clear water from my Niji waterbrush. If you’d like to read more about great egrets, visit the links below.

You can also click on the caption of the top image to visit my Flickr photostream for more sketchbook entries.

National Geographic
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology