Birding Among the Dead

On a Saturday morning I headed to a Catholic cemetery on Highway 152, just east of Watsonville. I did not bring a bouquet to pay respects to a long lost relative (my family is not Catholic) but I had my bins, camera , and sketchbook. I was here at this cemetery to see a rare Santa Cruz County Bird. There were three of them, feeding on earthworms amongst the grave markers.

The cattle egret is a smallish egret than prefers grasses and lawns to aquatic environments. If is often in the presence of livestock, hence it’s name, where it may perch on the backs of cows, sheep or goats. Flocks follow livestock as the scare up bugs and insects.

When I arrived at the Catholic cemetery by mid morning, the place was full of families tiding up plots and replacing flowers. There were many cars parked along the roads that bisected the plots. I thought that with all the human activity, the egrets might have been scared off. I checked all the sections looking for the small white egrets. Finally in a section that was not being tidied up and there where the three cattle egrets, hunting earthworms in the still wet grass. Bingo! County lifer!

I pulled over to the plot and the egrets continued to feed showing no interest in my arrive. I got out, grabbed my sketchbook and pencil and sat in the passenger seat and sketched away. The three birds actually moved closer, after all they have associated with large mammals for centuries.

These birds were a perfect subject to sketch. They were unfazed by my presence meaning that they did not change their behavior because of my close proximity. A great way to spend a sunny Saturday morning in a cemetery.

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