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Even egrets have to watch where they step

Marc Murrell photographed this egret with a huge mussel clamped to its foot at Chisholm Creek Park on Monday. This bird was rescued. Most would have perished and become part of the food chain.The next time you’re walking along, and step in a pile of puppy poo, remember, it could have been much, much worse.

On Monday my friend Marc Murrell sent me this photo of an egret that must have accidentally put a foot atop an open freshwater mollusk in one of the small ponds at Chisholm Creek Park in Wichita.

Marc, Great Plains Nature Center manager, said a woman came hustling in, distraught, at what she’d seen while walking one of the park’s many trails. (I’ll bet she wasn’t nearly as distraught as the egret, though.)

In the wilds, the egret would have probably been doomed to death from exposure, or stress, or coyotes, or snapping turtles, or redtail hawks, or crows, or foxes….well, you get the idea.

Marc and Charlie Cope, the local Wildlife and Parks biologist, went to investigate. Marc said the mussel was one of the largest he’d ever seen, possibly weighing about half as much as the bird, and was showing no signs of releasing its grip on the egret’s foot.

(Mussels aren’t known to eat egret or any other kind of meat. It’s that lack of teeth thing for chewing, and their entire digestive system is designed to filter tiny nutrients out of the water.)

Marc figured the egret didn’t have the strength to get aireborne with the added baggage, and that it was floundering around in soupy mud didn’t help the situation.  By the time they’d arrived the bird was exhausted enough to not show much fear. Marc was able to pry the mullosk apart with a pocket knife enough to get the bird’s foot free.

Hopefully the bird will survive the stress of the event. Animals so traumatized often later die. No clue if the act of freeing the bird injured the mussel, either.

One thing is for sure, in 99.9-percent of such occurrences things don’t turn out as pleasant for the bird.

Mother Nature isn’t always nice. She has to provide for things like coyotes, and snapping turtles, and redtail hawks, and crows, and foxes,…well, you get the idea.