Date: 11/7/18 11:25 am From: Christopher Hill (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...> Subject: Re: Watauga County egret
Terrific documentation, and putting all your photos up on google drive for everyone to view is a model of how to do this rarity thing. I have not gone to the reference books like Derb, but it occurs to me that there is one more piece of evidence that is still accessible even if the bird is gone. If the perch where the bird was is at all accessible, you could put a ruler up there and photograph it from the same spot as the original photographs (recreating, say, IMG_1674 or IMG_1714 where the bird’s full height is clear). If size is an important field mark, that could be key.
Note: I’m not asking you to do this! I appreciate what you’ve done so far. I just know how much energy people put into rarity identification, and that might be a way to prove/disprove the ID.
I am sorry to say there is no sign of the bird today at this small pond. I initially reacted to the suggestion of an African/Asian species with great skepticism and tried to find anything about this bird which could rule out Intermediate Egret. After going through all the 61 pictures that I had on my camera, all the marks I could see actually seemed to favor Intermediate over either Great or Cattle Egret.
So I'm posting a link here to a google drive folder with ALL the pictures and I hope someone can find a way to eliminate what sounds like a bizarre possibility. Here's the link:
Before the suggestion of Intermediate came up (I had never before heard of the species), Al Olson and I were fairly perplexed by the features of this bird as we studied it carefully in the scope from about 200 feet away. We carefully looked at the gape area of the bill and the structure of the head and bill while holding the sibley book in our hands, and we kept on going back and forth on whether the bird was a Great or Cattle Egret. We had very good looks for long periods from different angles of the rearward extent of the bill, and it never in any view protruded behind the eye. After long viewing the bird with its head tucked, Al finally saw it stretch its neck and preen fro a short time and he said it looked too long to be a Cattle Egret. I didn't see that however as I was distracted by something else at the time.
Sorry for the long post, Guy McGrane, Deep Gap, NC
On 11/7/2018 11:41 AM, Derb Carter wrote:
Some of us have been discussing the white egret found and well-photographed yesterday in Watauga County by Guy McGrane (photos on ebird checklist). It was initially identified as a Cattle Egret and then a Great Egret. After the photos were posted, Jeff Pippen first asked how to eliminate Intermediate Egret, other than it would be an extraordinary record for this South Asia/African species (although it is migratory – and it is also out of place especially this time of year in Watauga County). Some, including me, who have looked at the photos carefully, note that it just does not look right for a Great Egret: bill is stout and wrong shape for Great, bill color not exactly right for Great, legs gray instead of black, and another important field mark I will get to in a minute. You cannot tell size from the photos with nothing to compare, but the observer initially described it as small thinking it was a Cattle Egret. Intermediate Egrets, as the name implies, are between Great and Little/Snowy in size. I have seen many in Asia where it is common and identifiable by size alone. Field guides discuss a key field mark to distinguish Great from Intermediate, and Guy has provided good photos to work with. The gape of the bill of Intermediate Egret extends back to below the eye, while the gape of Great Egret extends well beyond the eye. This is a very obvious and consistent field mark in searching photos of both species, and diagramed in the Wikipedia entry on Intermediate Egret if you are interested in checking this out. To my eye, the gape of the bill in the Watauga egret in all the photos in the series stops below the eye, suggesting it may be an Intermediate Egret. But the posture of the bird in the photos and feathering may obscure the gape, but I lean to it not being obscured and extending only to below the eye. Intermediate Egret would of course be an extraordinary record for NC and the eastern US. I have not even had a chance to look at North American records, but I seem to recall there are records for Alaska. At this point, I just wanted to get this information out while we continue to puzzle over the photos, and especially invite any with experience with Intermediate Egret to weigh in. And thanks to Guy for the excellent photos.