“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E” Birds”, Part 2

“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E Birds”, Part 2
James J. S. Johnson

“Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

Is that an egret, standing on top of my head?*

Photo credit:  Marcia Webel (St. Petersburg, Florida)

(*Actually, the egret was perching upon branches behind me, not atop my head.)

It is a blessing to use our heads, to watch birds, such as egrets.

As noted in Part 1 of the “E” Birds “E” is for Eiders, Eagles, (of which there are many varieties), Eagle-owls, Egrets, Emus, Eagle-owls, Egrets, Euphonias, Elaenias, Eremomelas, Elepaios, Earthcreepers, and Emerald hummingbirds — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter E.

In this Part 2 (reviewing “E” birds), 2 categories of “E” birds are considered: Egrets and Emus.

snowyegret-gatorlandflorida-ad2016

Snowy Egret at Gatorland by Lee

EGRETS

Regarding Egrets, see, e.g., Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis” as well as her “Baby Snowy Egrets at Gatorland”.

It is truly amazing to see egrets seeking food, at Florida’s Gatorland, while presumptively and precariously perched atop the backs of drifting/semi-submerged alligators. As ornithologist Lee Dusing once observed:

Most times these alligators and birds get along fine. People are tossing food to them and so they abide each other. It is amazing how different critters get along. I can only imagine how it must have been when they were first created. There was no desire of the gators to eat the birds. Today, under the curse, it is a totally different situation.

[Quoting Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis”, See also my report on how Cattle Egrets practice “mutual aid” with various terrestrial herbivores, in “Cattle Egrets, Cattle, and Other Herbivore Neighbors”.

Since those egrets have been described, as just noted, previously, not much will be added here, regarding them, except for a few comments regarding their distribution, i.e., regarding the ranges they inhabit.

greatwhiteegrets-by-bencemate

Great White Egrets (photo by Bence Mate)

The Great White Egret (Ardea alba) is well-known in North America, as the range map below shows, but most of America only hosts this tall egret during the winter months.

greatwhiteegret-range-map-wikipedia

Great White Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

Breeding occurs mostly in the Mississippi River watershed corridor states, with a swath of the Southwest and southern coasts providing year-round habitat of this long-legged shorebird.

A tall and stately bird, the Great [White] Egret slowly stalks shallow [waters of] wetlands looking for small fish [or frogs, or snakes, etc.] to spear [or grab] with its long sharp bill. Nests in colonies of up to 100 birds. Now protected [legally], they were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s and early 1900s for their long white plumage.

[Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRD OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2004), page 371.]

Another familiar white-feathered egret, in America, is the Snowy Egret.
The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small-scale heron with snowy white plumage, famous for its “golden slippers”.

snowyegret-wikipedia

Snowy Egret (Wikipedia)

Like the resourceful Cattle Egret (mentioned above — see coverage of this wide-ranged and herbivore-helping egret,) the Snowy Egret is small in size, as herons and egrets go. However, unlike the Cattle Egret, its feathers are all white, and its feet are a mustard-yellow (or goldenrod yellow) in color.  The Snowy Egret is a wetland bird – preferring swamps (including mangrove swamps), pondshores, marshlands (including saltmarshes), island shores, and estuaries (including tidal mudflats).

As shown below, the Snowy Egret has a breeding range that includes some patches of America, mostly in part of the Northwest and in the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. Also, the Snowy Egret is a year-round resident of America’s Atlantic coast and America’s Gulf of Mexico coast.

snowyegret-range-map-wikipedia

Snowy Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

 More than a century ago the Snowy Egret (as well as the Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill, various cranes, ducks, geese, swans, other members of the heron-egret family, doves, as well as insectivorous passerine migrants, etc.) was wastefully being hunted for its fancy feathers, jeopardizing the entire American population — until the Migratory Bird Treaty was enacted (and was enforced).

Regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty’s historic importance, see “Looking Back 100 Years, at the Migratory Bird Treaty: A Bird’s-eye View of How It was Hatched”.

Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis,Roseate Spoonbill, and
Great-tailed Grackle, flying over coastal marshland (Photo credit: Eric Ripma)

Thankfully, populations of egrets (and other long-legged, long-necked birds, such as cranes, herons, flamingo, roseate spoonbill, ibis, etc.) have rebounded, since passage (100 years ago) and enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

EMUS

Regarding Australia’s Emu (as well as regarding other ratites, including the smallest ratite — New Zealand’s kiwi), see ornithology professor Lee Dusing’s “Sunday Inspiration: Ostrich, Rhea, Cassowary, Emu & Kiwi”.

Also, for a close-up (albeit abrupt) perspective on an Emu, see “Lee’s Five Word Friday: 9/16/16”.

Emu (Dromaius novahollandiae) in the wild (Wikipedia)

The Emu is the second-largest (non-extinct) bird, by height; only the Ostrich is taller. By weight the Emu is the world’s third-largest bird, weighing less than the Ostrich and anther ratite “cousin”, the double-wattled Southern Cassowary.

The Emu has an over-all height of about 180 cm. (70”); to the top of the back it measures about 100 cm. (40”); it can weigh up to 55 kg. (120 lbs.) and have a beak up to 12 cm. long (5”). The body is very bulky, the coloring of the plumage brownish. The feet have three toes [each]. … The nest [typically located in scrubby steppe grassland habitat] is a hollow in the ground near a shrub, and it is covered with leaves, grass, et cetera. Various females lay 15-25 eggs, which are incubated by the male for 52-60 days [during with time the male loses a lot of weight, due to not eating], depending on the interruptions made by the male to find food and water. The nestlings, which have a distinctive white and brown-striped plumage, achieve complete development and sexual maturity within 2 or 3 years. The Emu can run at speeds of up to 50 kph. (30 mph.).

[Quoting Gianfranco Bologna, SIMON & SCHUSTER’S GUIDE TO BIRDS (Simon & Schuster, 1981; edited by John Bull), page 143.]

Since the Emu was described previously (as noted in the previous sentence), no more will be added here, other than to note that the Emu’s native range covers most of Australia. (Also, emus have been, and now are, raised commercially in America, for their meat, for oil, or sometimes as part of investment scams.)

emu-range-map-wikipedia

Emu range map (Wikipedia)

In recent years I have observed, in the wild, many varieties of Egrets – especially Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egret. Also, on a few occasions I have observed (very close up) domesticated Emus – and they are not fully “tame” even when they are “domesticated”. All of these birds, which range in size, are marvels in motion — examples of God’s super-genius bioengineering.

Whenever we look at such feathered creatures, we should be amazed, and we should admire God’s handiwork, — because God has given us the ability to use our minds (which are somehow linked to the physical “hardware” of our heads, especially our eyes and brains). In a sense, we have such birds “on our heads”, as we think through the blessings God has given, due to Him creating such birds.

So, if our minds are renewed to proper reverence of God, as the Creator of all creation (Revelation 4:11), our “heads” can empirically accept and analyze these visual blessings, as feathered exhibits displaying God’s glory.

Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “F birds” – perhaps some of these: Fairywrens, Falcons, Fantails, Fernbirds, Fieldwrens, Figbirds, Finches, Firetails, Fiscals, Flamebacks, Flamingos, Flatbills, Flowerpeckers, Flycatchers, Foliage-gleaners, Forktails, Francolins, Friarbirds, Frigatebirds, Frogmouths, Fruiteaters, Fulmars, Fulvettas, etc.! Meanwhile, enjoy using your eyes (and the rest of your head) to appreciate the blessings and privileges of daily life, including opportunities to observe God’s avian wonders, like egrets and emus.

><> JJSJ

Birdwatching Tips – Herons, Egrets, Bitterns

Little Blue Heron at Lake Hollingsworth

Little Blue Heron at Lake Hollingsworth

Lev 11:19  And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.

Peterson’s Field Guide Videos have great information about how to identify birds in the Heron, Egrets and Bittern Family. This is a very good video.
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See the other video in this series:

Peterson Field Guide-Videos

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Ardeidae- Herons, Bitterns

Birds of the Bible – Herons

Wordless Birds

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Herons – Color Key to North American Birds, by Frank M. Chapman

Herons

Color Key to North American Birds, by Frank M. Chapman, 2011

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Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns, Egrets Family

Herons

the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:19 ESV)

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:3 NKJV)

Color Key To North American Birds cover

Bird Images pg_092192. Great White Heron (Ardea occidentalis). Ads. White, no “aigrette” plumes. A white Heron about the size of a Great Blue Heron. What is supposed to be a gray-blue phase of this bird has been called, a bird which resembles No. 194, but has the head and neck whitish.Range.—Southern Florida, Cuba and Jamaica.

196. American Egret (Herodias egretta). L. 41. Ads. White, about 50 straight “aigrette” plumes grow from the back between the wings; legs and feet black. Ads. when not breeding and Yng., the same, but no plumes.Range.—Tropical and temperate America; breeds north to Virginia, southern Illinois, and California; later strays to New Brunswick, Minnesota, and Oregon; winters from southern California and Gulf States southward.

197. Snowy Heron (Egretta candidissima). L. 24. Ads. White, about 50 recurved “aigrette” plumes grow from back between the wings; legs black, feet yellow. Ads. when not breeding and Yng. The same, but no plumes.Range.—Tropical and temperate America; bred formerly north to Long Island, southern Illinois and California; now very rare in eastern North America; winters from Gulf States and southern California southward.

194. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). L. 45; W. 18.5; B. 5.5; Tar. 7. Ads. Center of crown white, head crested; legs blackish. Yng. Similar, but no crest, crown wholly black, plumage more streaked.Range—Northern South America north to Arctic regions; breeds locally throughout most of North America range; winters from about latitude 42° southward.

194a. Northwest Coast Heron (A. h. fannini). Similar to No. 194 but much darker; upperparts bluish slate black; tarsus shorter, 5.3.Range.—Pacific coast from Vancouver to Sitka.

194b. Ward Heron (A. h. wardi). Similar to No. 194 but whiter below, neck darker; legs olive; larger, L. 52; W. 20; B. 6.5; Tar. 8.Range.—Florida; coast of Texas.

202. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax nævius). L. 24. Ads. Crown and back greenish black lower back, wings and tail ashy; head with two or three rounded white plumes, except just after breeding season. Yng. Grayish brown streaked with white; below white streaked with blackish; outer webs of primaries, pale rufousNotes. An explosiveqûawk.Range.—Western hemisphere; breeds in North America north to New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, and Oregon; winters from California and Gulf States southward.

203. Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violaceus). L. 23. Ads. Blue-gray; crown and ear-coverts whitish, rest of head black; scapulars streaked with black; head with two or three rounded, white plumes, except just after nesting season.Yng. Crown black, streaked with whitish; primaries bluish slate, no rufous; back brownish streaked with white; below whitish streaked with blackish.

Range.—Tropical and subtropical America; breeds north to South Carolina, southern Illinois, and Lower California; strays to Massachusetts and Colorado; winters from Gulf States southward.

198. Reddish Egret (Dichromanassa rufescens). L. 29. Two color phases independent of age. Ads. Dark phase, Head and neck rufous; back slate; about 30 “aigrette” plumes. White phase. White, including plumes; tips of primaries sometimes speckled with gray. Yng. Rufous and gray, or white, without plumes.Range.—West Indies and Central America north to coasts of Gulf States, Illinois (rarely), and Lower California.

199. Louisiana Heron (Hydranassa tricolor ruficollis). L. 26. Ads. “Aigrette” plumes, short, dirty gray; rump and belly white; legs blackish. Yng. Head and neck brownish; throat and line down foreneck white; above slaty washed with brownish, rump, and belly white.Range.—West Indies and Central America north to Gulf States, casually to Long Island and Indiana.

200. Little Blue Heron (Florida cœrulea). L. 22. Ads. Head and neck maroon; rest of plumage slaty blue. Yng. White, tips of primaries bluish, legs greenish yellow.Range.—Tropical America and eastern United States; breeds north to Virginia and Illinois, later may stray north as far as Nova Scotia; winters from South Atlantic and Gulf States southward.

201. Little Green Heron (Butorides virescens). L. 17. Smallest of our Herons. Ads. Crown, glossy green-black; throat and line down foreneck buffy; rest of head and neck purplish chestnut; back green washed with bluish gray. Yng. Neck and below streaked with blackish; back-feathers not lengthened; duller. Notes. A rattling oc-oc-oc-oc-oc, a startling scow, and, more rarely, a deep, hollow groan. (Brewster.)Range.—Tropical and temperate North America; breeds from Gulf States north to Nova Scotia and Manitoba; winters from Gulf States southward to northern South America.

201a. Frazar Green Heron (B. v. frazari). Similar to No. 201, but rather larger and darker, neck more purplish, light stripings on throat and foreneck more restricted. (Brewster.)

201b. Anthony Green Heron (B. v. anthonyi). Similar to No. 201, but slightly larger, and paler, light markings of wings, neck, and throat less restricted and whiter. (Mearns.)

Range.—Arid portions of southwestern United States, south into Mexico.


Green Heron – From Color Key

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Little Egret

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Little Egret ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 4/6/11

I’ve recently been updating the Heron and Egret galleries (Ardeidae) on the website and I noticed that the elegant Little Egret hadn’t yet featured as bird of the week. Its one of five species of egret resident in Australia and in breeding plumage it is easily distinguished by the only one to have a pair of head plumes – as in the first photo – in addition to breast and back plumes. The only other egrets globally with these head plumes are the closely related Snowy Egret of the Americas and the possibly conspecific Western Reef Egret, neither of which has been recorded in mainland Australia (there are records of the Western Reef Egret in the Cocos Islands).

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

In non-breeding plumage, it lacks plumes and is most easily separated from the similarly-sized Intermediate Egret by having a dark bill rather than a yellow or orange one. It’s best and worst field mark is the yellowish feet – best because this feature is shared only with Snowy and Western Reef Egrets and worst because you usually can’t see the colour of the feet in their normal habitat – wetlands – though visible in flight as in the second photo.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Little Egrets are versatile feeders and often dash frantically around in shallow water, Greenshank-like, in search of small vertebrates. They also feed by stirring up prey with their feet and will also take fish, as in the third photo. This one has just grabbed a fish and is rushing off to avoid the attention of the nearby Royal Spoonbills. Egrets and Spoonbills often try to steal each others food. For examples, have a look at http://www.birdway.com.au/threskiornithidae/royal_spoonbill/source/royal_spoonbill_c35816f.htm (spoonbill chasing spoonbill) and http://www.birdway.com.au/threskiornithidae/royal_spoonbill/source/royal_spoonbill_c35824f.htm (great egret chasing spoonbill).

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) by Ian

In Australia, the Little Egret is commonest in northern Australia, but also occurs in smaller numbers in eastern and southeastern Australia, in Tasmania in winter and in central and western Australia when conditions are suitable. It also extends widely through Eurasia and Africa. The Australian race has yellow lores between the bill and the eye, but that of the nominate Eurasian race normally has blue-grey lores as in the fourth photo of one on a beach at the Cape of Good Hope. Globally, Little Egrets are quite variable and their taxonomy is still poorly understood.

Like other egrets, the global population of Little Egrets suffered severely in the late 19th century because of the fashion trade in plumes. It was this trade in plumes that lead to the establishment of the RSPB in 1889, a silver lining if there was one, and populations have recovered since.
Links:
Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. (Deuteronomy 14:18 NKJV)

The Egrets keep company with Heron and Bitterns in the Ardeidea Family of the large Pelecaniformes Order which includes the Pelicans, Ibises, Spoonbills, Hamerkop and Shoebill.

The Heron is one of the birds mentioned in the Bible, so is found in our Birds of the Bible – Heron page.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cattle Egret

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) by Ian Montgomery

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus) by Ian Montgomery

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cattle Egret   by Ian Montgomery

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)2 by Ian Montgomery

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)2 by Ian Montgomery

At a time when wildlife populations are generally under pressure, here is a success story about a species of bird, the Cattle Egret, that has undergone a spectacular world-wide expansion in range over the past century of or so.

In the 19th century, the Cattle Egret occurred only in tropical and subtropical Africa, southwestern Europe (the nominate race, Ardea ibis ibis) and in southern and southeastern Asia (the distinctive race Ardea ibis coromandus). Now, it breeds in every continent except Antarctica, though it turns up as a vagrant on sub-antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the South Orkney Island. Originally adapted to feeding with large herbivores, its expansion has followed the of spread humans with their livestock.

The expansion started in southern Africa with breeding first recorded in Cape Province in 1908. At about the same time, vagrants started crossing the Atlantic to eastern South America, where it probably became established in the 1930s but breeding was not proven until 1950 in Surinam and British Guiana. Some birds were reported in Florida in the 1940s and breeding was recorded in 1953. Since then, the species has spread all over South and Central America, much of the United States into Canada and has simultaneously expanded its range in southern Europe and the Middle East.

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)3 by Ian Montgomery

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)3 by Ian Montgomery

Concurrently, the Asian race was extending its range southeastwards and arrived in the Northern Territory in the 1940s. Cattle Egrets were first record in Victoria in 1949, southwestern Western Australia in 1959, South Australia in 1964, Tasmania in 1965 and started breeding in Queensland in 1963, the same year in which they were first recorded in New Zealand. Now, it is an abundant breeding bird in the warmer parts of Australia and mainly a winter and spring visitor to southern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

In non-breeding plumage, the feathers are almost entirely white (first photo, bird in flight) apart from traces of buff on the crown and looks like a dumpy version of the Intermediate Egret. When breeding the Asian/Australian race has extensive gold on the head, back and breast (second photo) and looks quite different from the much paler eastern race (third photo). The bird in the latter photo is perhaps atypically pale for an eastern bird, but it has the reddish bill, legs and iris that are the courtship colours of both races.

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)4 by Ian Montgomery

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)4 by Ian Montgomery

The fourth photo shows several Cattle Egrets standing guard in a proprietary manner around some young Brahmins at the Orient Wetland north of Townsville last Friday. Although they are very gregarious, the dominant birds exclude other birds from the favoured feeding spots just behind grazing animals. They feed mainly on grasshopper and other invertebrates disturbed by herbivores but are flexible and will eat a wide variety of other food including young birds. So, the global expansion has a dark side and I recently read an article, thank you Jeri, expressing concern about predation by Cattle Egrets on the nesting colonies of the Red-winged Blackbird in California (http://tricolor.ice.ucdavis.edu/ ).

Meanwhile back at the website, following last week’s release of the revised home page, I’ve been working on redesigning the family pages and species galleries to make them neater and easier to use. It will take time before the revisions get generally applied but you might like to check out the Crane family thumbnails(http://www.birdway.com.au/gruidae/index.htm ), colour-coded by region, and the Brolga gallery with larger images (http://www.birdway.com.au/gruidae/brolga/index.htm ). I’ve also increased the size of the photos in this week’s bird of the week. This will mean that I’ll probably often exceed the intended limit of 200KB for the weekly posting. Let me know if this is going to be a problem, but I suppose most of us now have broadband internet.

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

The Cattle Egret is now, according to the I.O.C., divided into 2 species. The Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus) and the Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). The Eastern breeds in Asia and Australasia, and the western nominate form occupies the rest of the species’s range. Here in the United States, we have the Western Cattle Egret. Those of us who live here in Florida see them all the time, just like in Ian’s forth picture. You will see one or more per cattle. They love to stand right by them and look for bugs or whatever as the cows pull up the grass to eat. They seem to get along and the cattle don’t seem to mind them standing there, almost in their face sometimes. Thanks, Ian, for more great photos and information.

The Cattle Egrets are part of the Ardeidae Family which has Herons, Egrets and Bitterns. They are in the Pelicaniformes Order.

Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. (Genesis 9:9-10 NASB)


Family#26 – Ardeidae
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First Family Page Completed – Ardeidae

Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) by Ian

Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) by Ian

I just completed the first Birds of the World Family page. Well, at least as far as I can find photos for it. I now only have 223 more family pages to go.

Check it out at Family – Ardeidae It is part of the PELECANIFORMES Order. At least according to the latest IOC 2.1 version. I hope you enjoy the photos of the different Bitterns, Egrets and Herons.

Update: 08/09/09

Finished the Family – Struthionidae (Ostriches) page today. It is in the Order – STRUTHIONIFORMES Now at 2 down and 222 to go. Plus 37 partial ones – no photos yet.

Updated: 08/13/09

I finished all 229 (I found some birds that had flown from my original lists)  Bird Family pages as far as the list of each species within the families. Now I am going to make some  indexes to help find the different birds in either taxonomic or alphabetical order. Then I will be adding various photos to each family.

New Photographer Added

Great Egret by Quy Tran

Great Egret by Quy Tran

We have a new photographer who has given permission to use some of his photos. Quy Tran is an amazing photographer. He has quite an eye for capturing his subjects. Quy is fantastic in his compositions. Check out his Gallery at Quy Tran Galleries. Not only does he have wildlife photos, but his closeups are amazing.

Roseate Spoonbill by Quy Tran

Roseate Spoonbill by Quy Tran

Thank you Quy for your permission to use some of your photos. All his photos are Copyright © Quy Tran and are being use with his permission.

Bambi by Quy

Bambi by QuyButterfly by QuyButterfly by Quy

Butterfly by Quy

Butterfly by Quy