HUNTINGton Lives Up to Its Name

Great Egret fyl by

A Great Egret flies by on the marsh side of Huntington Beach State Park, SC (click photos to enlarge)

My first stop on my trip south was to one of my favorite photography destinations, Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. There always seems to be something to photograph there, especially along the causeway that separates the salt marsh from the freshwater pond. Two great habitats adjacent to one another provide plenty of opportunities for seeing all sorts of interesting critters. This is especially true if you time your trip to coincide with low tide on the marsh side occurring close to sunrise or sunset. Such was the case last week when I stopped in for the afternoon on my way south – the tide was falling and skies were partly cloudy. But, by Huntington Beach standards, things were pretty slow on this cold day.

White Ibis probing

White Ibis probing for prey in an oyster bed

There were plenty of ducks on the pond side, but very little activity on the marsh side of the causeway (which is where the good light is in the afternoon). Finally, a couple of White Ibis landed and started feeding in a tidal channel amongst the exposed oysters. They probed and swung their head from side to side. Periodically, they would open their long bill, and with a snap of their head, gulp down some unseen prey.

White Ibis with Grass Shrimp

White Ibis with what looks like a Grass Shrimp

When I examined the images later i saw what looked like small, clear shrimp as their primary taste treat, most likely a common species known as Grass Shrimp.

White Ibis with small fish

White Ibis captures a small fish, most likely a killifish

Every now and then an ibis would land a bigger meal, usually a small fish resembling a killifish of some sort.

Great Blue Heron strike

Great Blue Heron strike

Another wader joined the ranks of the ibis and began searching the retreating water for its dinner. Although I was hoping for a big fish capture (it missed on this strike), the Great Blue Heron seemed content to snack on the Grass Shrimp as well.

Snowy Egret hunting

Snowy Egret hunting

The last wader to join the hunting party was a gorgeous Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret hunting 1

Snowy Egret uses a quick jab for small prey

Snowy Egret hunting 2

Snowy Egret deftly grabs a Grass Shrimp

Snowy Egret hunting 3

Snowy Egret sideways head snap with Grass Shrimp

Snowy Egret eating grass shrimp

Snowy Egret gulping Grass Shrimp

Snowy’s tend to be a little animated in their hunting style, with quick steps, jabs, and then, unlike the upward head snap of the ibis, a sideways head jerk followed by a gulping bill gape.

Snowy Egret strike

Snowy Egret strikes deeper for larger prey

Snowy Egret strike close up

Snowy Egret strike close up

Snowy Egret with goby

Snowy Egret snags a bigger meal

Suddenly, the Snowy Egret ran and plunged its stiletto bill deeper into the channel and emerged with a most unusual-looking prey.

Snowy Egret with goby close up

Snowy Egret with goby

It had a long, skinny fish, with a pointed tail and odd dorsal and anal fins. After looking online, I think it must be a goby, perhaps a Sharp-tail (or Highfin) Goby, Gobionellus sp. These elongate bottom-dwellers inhabit estuarine mud flats in the southeast.

Snowy Egret swallowing goby close up

Snowy Egret gulping down goby

After carrying the fish around for a minute or two, the egret finally managed to gulp it down.

Snowy Egret swallowing goby at end

Snowy Egret swallowing goby

That seemed to satisfy the Snowy Egret and it flew off down into the main marsh.

Bald Eagle fly by

Bald Eagle cruises over the marsh hunting for any easy prey

Right after that, one of the local Bald Eagles cruised overhead, scanning for any easy meal it could catch, or steal from another of the hunters found at Huntington Beach. I was getting hungry myself, and as a cloud bank started to move in, I headed south to Savannah for the next leg of the trip.

8 thoughts on “HUNTINGton Lives Up to Its Name

  1. HI Mike! The introductory image from this blog is just stunning. The Great Egret … alone… much like your signature bobcat image. is so stunning in its simplicity. Am still more of a cat/bobcat person than a bird person…. this whole series is awesome. the water droplets that explode as the snowy egret plunges for his next meal….. wish i had an image like that for the next “water” internal competition at the local cnpa…. all i can say is thank you for sharing.

  2. Mike we agree that your pictures are stunning, you have come a long way from the Brownie Box Camera and old canoe on your trips around the marshes at Dobe Point.

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