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Rich -

I dunno. I'm not convinced about Oscar. He published a study of the
diets of wading birds at Orange Lake, and asserted that they ate
virtually nothing but cutworms (injurious to crops), grasshoppers
(ditto), crayfish (thought to eat the eggs of game fish), and
cottonmouths. Donald Jenni did a similar study in 1961 and found insect
and reptile prey to be nil (e.g., Tricolored Herons ate 97% insects and
no fish according to Baynard, 94% fish and 6% insects according to
Jenni). This was prior to the Migratory Bird Treaty and I think Oscar
made up his results to make the birds appear to be more directly useful
to man than they actually are. His intentions were noble, there's no
question he loved the birds, and there's no question he was a great
field man. But the Reddish Egrets, the wading-bird-diet paper, and the
several unduplicated nesting reports for Alachua County (including
Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Belted Kingfisher nesting in
"holes in dead trees," and Grasshopper Sparrow) suggest something amiss.

However the report by Philip Philipp (what were his parents thinking?)
does throw a small monkey wrench into my theory. Philipp indicates that
he helped to locate a nest and that he saw both parent birds there
"while photographing an Egret." It's possible that he was just passing
on what Baynard told him, but the way he wrote it sounds as though he
saw them himself. So I could be wrong about all of this - it's happened
before, once or twice, or so people tell me....

I keep forgetting that I promised to send you a ca. 1909 photo of
Baynard that I located at the FLMNH. I just don't seem to get over there
anymore.

Very best regards,

Rex

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