During my boat safari at Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, we ventured out into the Bay of Bengal for a short while before heading back into the mangroves. The waters were very choppy and it was quite a roller-coaster ride. As the boat braved the waves, we could see small fish leaping out of the water to escape the boat.
We came across a group of Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis). There were about 10-12 of them following our boat.
Very soon, it became apparent that they were around for a purpose other than curiosity. They were, in fact, hunting the fish that the boat was “dislodging”. I’ve seen Gulls and Terns associate with fishing boats earlier, but this is the first time I’ve seen Western Reef Egrets engaging in this behaviour.
The random movement of the birds as well as the choppy waters made for a very challenging photography situation. After a while, the group left the boat and headed back towards the mangroves. However, very soon, another group came and joined us in their opportunistic pursuit.
They are masterful hunters on the wing and their strike ratio seemed to be very good. We could see them catching fish very often. In some cases, the other members of the group would give the successful bird a chase in a bid to steal the fish. Following is a sequence of images after an Egret successfully caught a fish.
Photographing frenzy aside, it was interesting to see them engage in this behavior for about 10 minutes. They finally left us as we approached the mangroves.
Later on, we came across them hunting in the mangroves in typical Egret-style.