Bug Catching 101

We’ve all had those moments in our lives when your gut tells you to run and grab a camera, but you don’t, so instead you end up kicking yourself for days over the priceless photo or video footage lost.

Well, when the egrets started chasing the lawn mower, I knew it was going to be one of those moments.

snowy white egret

This is an egret. (Picture courtesy of Google)

egret standing on a car

This is an egret standing on top of a student’s car on campus.
(Picture courtesy of me)

Egrets are funny-looking birds that hunt through the grass on their dinosaur feet looking for bugs. And what is a lawn mower really but a bug-spewing machine?

You have to admit, it is pretty smart for a bird to learn the order in which the campus lawns are mowed and then congregate on those lawns early in the afternoon to wait for the mowers to appear. You see, they know that those noisy contraptions will not only shoot bugs into the air, but also clear away the excess grass, effectively uncovering any tasty morsels still hiding on the ground.

The Mister and I stood outside for about half an hour watching the process. The mowers cut a strip of grass, taking no caution not to run over the watchful birds, and the egrets scurry around the mower catching bugs and trying not to be run over. They know how close the mower can get before they need to run away (which is surprisingly close, seeing as how the Mister and I were very sure a few were going to lose their lives).

What’s REALLY funny, though, is how the birds never expect the mower to go backwards. They know how close they can stand in the front and to the sides and will eagerly run in behind to snatch up bugs once the machine has passed, but when the mower goes in reverse it throws the whole flock into disorder and you can see panic in the ranks. It’s hilarious.

There are also times when the egrets get caught up in a particularly plentiful patch of freshly-mown grass and forget to follow the mower to the other end of the yard. When this happens, one or more of the birds will look up and realize the bug machine has left them behind and will take to the air, flying at full speed toward the unfortunate maintenance man on the mower. Some overshoot their target and have to turn around. Several nearly landed on the man’s head. He caught us laughing at his predicament and just shook his head, clearly understanding that he was part of the entertainment.

So island lesson for last week: Egrets love yard mowing day, but yard mowers do not love egrets. We’re pretty sure he was even trying to run some of them over. But alas, they might not be the smartest birds in the world, but they do know how to scurry frantically away from an approaching lawn mower.

So live to chase another mowing man, egrets. And when you do, I hope to actually have camera in hand to document your antics for the off-island world to see.

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