The Smith Children's Garden made a new friend today in this great egret (Argea alba) who came to visit! Before strolling over to the waterfall and treehouse, the egret hunted brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) on top of the Pfeffer-Beach Butterfly House - a most welcome sight. Brown anoles, the common lizard seen skittering around these parts, are an exotic species from Cuba and the Bahamas...and they love, love, love to eat butterflies.
It's always nice to see native species like this egret find our lizard population. It was especially fun to watch this bird hunt today: like a kitten, he wiggled his rear end before striking his prey. His neck, so long and so slender, almost seemed like a burden as it swayed to and fro as he focused his aim. It reminded me of when I try to take pictures with my telephoto lens fully extended - it's so difficult to steady my camera and focus on the subject!
Hopefully, the egret will stick around and continue to rescue our butterflies from their lizard predators. The egret definitely has great timing, showing up in the Smith Children's Garden today: all month long we're learning about birds in the weekend W.O.N.D.E.R. program at 10:30am (also offered on Monday and Tuesday, January 16 and 17). Kids get to find out what makes a bird a bird, investigate feathers, learn how to use binoculars and more. Birding is a great lifelong hobby - and southwest Florida in the winter is the perfect time to pick up this hobby! It's not just the human snowbirds who migrate south this time of year; birds with actual feathers, like white pelicans, swallow-tail kites, blue-winged teals, and many more join our resident birds, like the great egret, making bird-watching a real treat.
In addition to the month-long weekend W.O.N.D.E.R. program, we're also hosting a "migration celebration" for kids this Saturday, January 14, from 10:30am-2:30pm in the Smith Children's Garden, as part of the fantastic Southwest Florida Nature Festival at Rookery Bay. If you don't get your ducks in a row for this event, there are plenty of other birding opportunities in our area - for example, take a drive through Big Cypress on nearly any morning and you will see a stunning diversity of birds.
...or you can pop by the Garden and hope to see this lizard-chomping egret!