National Geographic : 1954 Aug
288 Samuei A. urlmes An Ever-hungry Trio, Mouths Agape, Awaits Return of Food-laden Parents These cattle egret nestlings at Lake Okeechobee, Florida, are the first ever photographed in the United States (page 290). Fuzz gives way to feathers before the birds desert their rude twig nest. I were out at the rookery on King's Bar today, and we found a nest." The prediction I had made the year before had come true. To First Known New World Nest The next morning Chandler took us to the fish camp where the patrol boat was docked. On our way, two or three miles out of town, we passed a broad meadow where a small herd of cattle grazed among herons. Snowies will sometimes consort with cattle, but our binocu lars showed that these were not snowies. They were cattle egrets-14 in all. I tried to ap proach with movie camera and tripod, but the birds were too skittish for close-ups. Nevertheless, I felt tremendous satisfaction in seeing the birds on American soil. On the island where Chandler guards a big colony of ibises and herons, we plowed labori ously through acres of lavender water hya cinths toward thickets of low willows. Birds erupted from the bushes by thousands: little blue and Louisiana herons, snowy egrets, American egrets, white and glossy ibises. This area, in fact, is the nesting place of most of the eastern glossy ibises in the United States.* We followed a jungle trail through dense herbage and knee-deep water to a little clear ing. Chandler pointed with his machete to a platform of sticks. "I think that's it," he said. "There was just one egg yesterday; now there are two." About here on the previous day Sam Grimes had spotted the first nest discovered in the New World. He had watched the parent birds approach it after much enthusiastic strutting, caressing, and guttural small talk in the willow tops. However, intervening vegetation had prevented him from getting satisfactory pho tographs of them on the nest. Intending to disturb the birds as little as possible, I erected my burlap hiding place in shallow water 30 feet away and settled down to what I expected would be a long wait. Less than 15 minutes after my companions had started back to the boat, the herons and * See "Wildlife of Everglades National Park," by Daniel B. Beard, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1949.