Big Bird

I’ve been happily busy doing some special, behind-the-scenes research and event organizing for the Jonathan Clark House museum, and I don’t have a new post ready for our ongoing Alfred T. Bonniwell documents series. So how about a short historical nature break, instead?

It’s spring in southeast Wisconsin, and the birds are returning to the banks of the little creek in our backyard. (Okay, our “creek” is really a man-made storm water drainage ditch, but it’s filled with native plants and grasses and we like to think of it as a creek.) Anyway, the birds love it, and every now and then a really big bird will drop by for a snack. Like this guy, who paid us a visit last week:

Havell, Robert, engraver, after John James Audubon, Snowy Egret or White Heron, 1835, plate 242 from The Birds of America (1828-1838), hand-colored engraving and aquatint on Whatman wove paper. National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mrs. Walter B. James. Public domain. Click to open larger image in new window.

The Snowy Egret is a large, handsome bird, whether seen in flight or slowly tiptoeing through a suburban backyard. While not as numerous as many other Wisconsin waterfowl or songbirds, the Snowy Egret is a regular spring and summer visitor to southern Wisconsin, and is one of several hundred bird species that the Clark family and their neighbors may have encountered during the early days of pioneer settlement in Mequon.

For more information about the Snowy Egret, or any of the world’s other birds, my favorite place to start is All About Birds, a great web resource from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And if you enjoy John James Audubon’s hand-tinted engravings of North American birds and other critters, the National Gallery of Art has 453 of them digitized and online, including today’s Snowy Egret.

I’ll be back soon with more Clark House History. See you then.