Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Egret at Chula Vista Nature Center, Chula Vista, CA

Fred and I visited the Chula Vista Nature Center yesterday.  It's a wonderful site, run by the city of Chula Vista, and located on the 316 acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

The Nature Center has a clapper rail breeding program and a wonderful educational exhibit on raptors, consisting of captive birds who cannot be released into the wild due to injuries.  They also have several aquatic tanks including one with sea turtles visible from outside the center.

It was a cool day with rain threatening, so after the tour of the Nature Center, I only got a quick walk around the marsh.  I saw a northern harrier, three osprey flying in formation, a northern shoveler and some American widgeons.  The only clapper rails I saw were in the exhibit area, but they were calling quite loudly.

While we were waiting for the tour to begin, a Fish & Wildlife Service employee pointed out a great egret eating what she thought was a rat and asked me if I wanted to put my scope on it.  When I did, we found that the egret was eating, or trying to eat, a white crowned sparrow!  Unfortunate for the sparrow, but we were fascinated as we weren't aware that egrets ate birds (nor is it mentioned in my field guide).  It took the egret about ten minutes to figure out how to swallow it.  He(?) would get it entirely in his mouth and then move it back to his bill.  Pictures follow.  If interested and not squeemish, you should be able to click on any image to see the full sized version.