Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Safe Place to Roost Egrets, Ibis Attract Fans at Library

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Safe Place to Roost Egrets, Ibis Attract Fans at Library

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- The council of egrets and ibis reconvenes nightly, at twilight.

The preferred attire, snowy white. But others in different tones are also in attendance. Great blue herons. Tri-colored herons. Black and white wood storks. Flocks of little brown birds darting to and from the mass.

The convention of birds has become an attraction for people who visit the Ponte Vedra Beach branch library. Every morning, shortly after dawn, and every evening before sunset, especially in recent months, the thicket of trees in the pond between the library and the fire station fills up with birds. Mostly egrets and ibis.

"They descend on the tree and they all seem to be talking to each other," said Betty Frederick, library branch manager. "Some days, it seems as if there's not a branch without birds on it. The green trees almost turn white.

"I don't know what the calling card is out there," Frederick said. "But it's amazing. It's beautiful. We have different groups who meet at the library, and sometimes we all have to stop and go out and stare at them. Some people take photos in amazement."

The conglomeration, while often spectacular, is not that unusual, said Stan Wakefield, a birder by hobby and a part-time manager at the nearby Wild Birds Unlimited store. The birds have simply found an ideal roost, a tree-covered island surrounded by just enough water to protect them from possible land-based predators such as raccoons, foxes, dogs and cats.

The sight is not unique, especially in Ponte Vedra Beach, which has so many retention ponds. The birds feast on frogs, little crustaceans and fish, salamanders and other delicacies along the ponds' banks. But a thicket of trees in the middle of a somewhat sizable pond is comparable to a Four Seasons hotel for these birds.

There are great egrets, the larger of the white birds. And there are the smaller snowy egrets with their characteristic black legs with bright yellow feet, known as "golden slippers" to bird experts, Wakefield said. There are also great and small blue herons, gray herons, white ibis, wood storks and swimming birds such as moor hens and coots. And the cast goes on. …

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