To watch a snowy egret is an exercise in relaxation. Its soft round shape and pure white plumage is pleasing to the eyes. Its movements are slow and graceful as it makes its way along the shoreline. Long black legs with bright yellow feet take one slow step at a time – no hurry, no rush.
During breeding season the egrets develop long, delicate feathers on their head, neck and back. These frilly feathers were the centerpiece of a dark period in the bird’s history. In the late 19th century and early 20th (1890-1910) outrageous hats were the fashion trend among the Victorian urbanites, especially New Yorkers. The egret’s breeding feathers were prized among the decorative adornments that included such items as owls’ heads and even intact hummingbirds.
The fashion demand led to countless bloody hunts and the near destruction of the egret’s rookeries along the Atlantic seaboard. Outraged by the senseless slaughter and destruction, a group of Boston women met to discuss ways to stop and prevent the carnage. From these meetings the Audubon Society eventually emerged, and with mounting pressure a bill was passed in 1911 which banned the sale of all native bird plumes.
I cannot understand my species thoughtless disregard for our natural world, but it is uplifting to note the courage and determination of those who step in and demand it stop. Am I among them, or just standing on the sideline bemoaning the fact?