Having spent a lot of time hanging around wetland reserves, I’ve become accustomed to various hunting strategies from different birds. However, there was still one amusing strategy to be seen.
I made my way to my local Sunset Hide at Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Cape Town one early morning in May. In the shallow water stood a Little Egret. These birds are distinguishable by their bright yellow feet. I have seen them numerous times before, so I considered it to be just another Egret sighting.
With the very shallow waters in front of the hide, many shoals of Harders come to gather in the warmer water. I spotted a Purple Heron hidden in the reed beds along the water’s edge. The Heron’s will move close to within striking distance and then freeze like a statue until it is time to strike. Often the fish will swim close by and then quickly swim away resulting in unsuccessful hunts for the Herons.
The Little Egret however deploys a completely different strategy. After taking in the morning sun, it started to move around in the water. I saw some movement from the fish and all of a sudden the Little Egret started to prance around in the most bizarre manner. At first I had to try and figure out what it was doing. It was flapping its wings vigorously, running around in circles, hopping across the water in different directions.
This created a sense of confusion not only by me, but for the fish as well. In between all of this commotion, the Little Egret struck the water and managed to make a catch. This was most fascinating!
Just before I could see whether I managed to get any decent photos, this whole scene played out again.
And then again. It was unbelievable what a successful little hunter this bird was.
Once the Egret had its fill, I looked across the water to the reeds in the background. There the Purple Heron was still standing, in strike position, all but hoping for a single catch.