The Great Egret Sanctuary


copyright Sandra Smith

copyright Sandra Smith

Egrets. Add an R and it becomes regrets. Is it possible to speak of regret, birds, women friends, and youth in the same post? I’ll give it a try.

Memories of a visit to Martin Griffin Preserve in 2012 set my thoughts to wandering today. If nesting habits allow, the public is admitted from spring through mid-December. A visit to their website indicates “The preserve’s public opening in 2014 has been delayed due to last year’s complete nesting failure of the historic Great Egret heronry. The 2014 opening date is to be determined.”

Why? Take a look at a report prepared by the Cypress Grove Research Center. “We conclude that the most reasonable cause of the complete nesting failure in 2013 is avian disturbance, either through harassment by predatory birds, or by direct predation on adults, chicks, and/or eggs.” There was also discussion that disturbances created by people visiting the site could also be a contributing factor.

I’m grateful that I have the memory of my visit: It was a perfect Northern California day with a light breeze extinguishing the threatened heat from the bluest blue sky. Three women ranging in age from 50+ to 70+ donned their hats and set out to the Great Egret breeding preserve near Stinson Beach. I smile and wonder if a woman’s choice of hats might say something about her personality.

Unlike the Great Egret, who stands still in the water and waits for food to float by, we brought food. Picnic sandwiches in a recyclable paper bag: smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese, and Asian chicken with shredded carrots. Golden beet salad in a fruity vinaigrette and another of white couscous seasoned with bright green cilantro and lemon completed our feast.

The hour drive led us over a twisty road, passing through tawny Marin hills, shady redwood corridors, and past ocean vistas. The trip, alone, was a delight.

We ate lunch first and then up the trail we went. It was a little disappointing that the great birds nesting high in the trees couldn’t be seen from the ground. Because I am a flatland walker, the steepness of the path to the viewing platform was a bit challenging. It was worth it as we were rewarded with colors straight out of a crayon box. Ferns of Granny Smith Apple, new growth leaves of Inchworm, and delicate flowers of Periwinkle, Blush, and Carnation Pink led us to the viewing platform.

Saying that the Great Egret is white is a little like saying the Rocky Mountains are tall. It doesn’t come close to describing the awestruck feeling you experience seeing these birds in their natural habitat.

We sat in the shade under the awning with other visitors and took turns using the viewing scopes to spy on courting rituals, egret eggs, and fuzzy babies. An hour passed quickly and it was time to leave.

I wouldn’t have missed the egrets for anything. But my memories of that day are just as much about sharing an adventure with good friends. Can we put away adult things for just a moment, even though many years have passed since our childhoods? It seems to me that only in that state of grace, spreading our imaginary great white plumes of wings, can we experience true wonder, and recognize and delight in the extraordinary.

Regrets? Today I can’t help but wonder if my visit helped cause the nesting failure. I can do nothing but follow the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” And I can tell you my story.


One Comment

  1. I am so happy to see you writing again. Very envious of your talent. I enjoyed. Thanks

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