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Greenie Bath Time

A few free hours in the afternoon, a nice bird blind, a yard full of Painted Buntings, and a drippy hose…all the perfect ingredients for some fun bird photography!  I took a small birdbath and placed the hose to drip into it.  I positioned it near the Painted Buntings’ favorite bush, right in the middle of their flyway to the feeder.  I climbed into my blind and laughed as the first exploratory birds flew out, saw the bath, and jumped back under cover.  I had a feeling it would take a little while for them to get used to it.  But before long, the first brave greenie landed…and found that he liked it!

First Brave Greenie

First Brave Greenie

You can see the water droplets as the greenie tested the waters.  Apparently he liked it!  He decided it was time for a bath.

Greenie Bathtime

Greenie Bath Time

After a bird takes a bath, he always does a wing flap.  In this case, it was combined with a jump.  Silly looking bird!

Jump!

Jump!

Before long, our greenie had company.  You can’t keep a good bird bath a secret!

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

Things got especially interesting when the third and fourth birds decided to join in the fun.  Apparently the bath wasn’t big enough for everybody!

Bath Time Squabble!

Bath Time Squabble!

A male bunting showed up for just a second, but he immediately flew away.  I took a mental note to set this up more permanently so that the birds are used to it when I go out to photograph.  Plus, once they get used to the drip, I can set up a more photogenic perch.  But until then, here’s one more fun shot of bath time!

Water Droplets Everywhere!

Water Droplets Everywhere!

Sadly, my buntings left the yard early this week en route to their breeding grounds.  Every year they leave around April 24.  On Monday the 25th I was down to four greenies.  By Wednesday the 27th, only one greenie was snacking at my feeders.  I didn’t see him/her on Thursday.

The yard is certainly quiet without them! :(

Gatorland in Early April

I ventured over to Gatorland in early April to see what sorts of snazzy breeding colors the birds were sporting.  For those of you that use my blog to plan your Florida trips, the exact date was April 8.  The rookery was filled with photographers and with beautiful birds.  All the species were there: Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, and Cattle Egrets.   I had been hoping for Cattle Egrets in breeding colors, and I got them!  Actually all the species were engaged in wonderful breeding displays, even the Great Egrets, who as the earliest breeders already have nests with half-grown chicks.

Great Egret Breeding Display

Great Egret Breeding Display

This bird enchanted me all morning.  Positioned high in the Brazilian Pepper bushes, he was still trying to attract a mate.  He regularly puffed up all his lacy feathers and thrust his head to the heavens.  All his antics didn’t seem to impress the birds around him, though.  They were too busy grabbing branches to build their own nests.

Great Egret Breeding Color Head Shot

Great Egret Breeding Color Head Shot

This is a different bird.  Many of the Great Egrets were past the peak breeding color phase, but this one was still showing off those bright green lores and the red eyeball.

Great Egret Chicks

Great Egret Chicks

The first Great Egret clutches are already getting pretty big.  A few Great Egrets had tiny chicks in their nests.  This nest was my favorite – three animated chicks who were begging Mom to regurgitate some breakfast.  I loved how the biggest one stretched his wings in his insistence.

Tricolored Heron Breeding Headshot

Tricolored Heron Breeding Headshot

The Tricolored Heron adults were also sporting their breeding colors with those crazy hairstyles.  Now I see where their babies get their crazy hair from!  Of course, one of my favorite shots from the morning was not the typical rookery shot – it was a back-of-the-head shot of this same bird.

Tricolored Heron Hairdo

Tricolored Heron Hairdo

The Snowy Egrets were mostly on eggs, some with small chicks.  I saw only this one Snowy Egret in full breeding colors. Look at the red on his face!  He was showing off in front of a palm tree all morning lot.

Snowy Egret Strut

Snowy Egret Strut

But my favorite colors are those of the Cattle Egrets.  Our common birds of the cow pastures burst into bright pinks and purples and oranges for just a few days as they attract a mate.

Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors

Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors

There were several pairs of Cattle Egrets who were in similar colors, all building nests and showing off for their mates.  I put on my 2x teleconverter and enjoyed the opportunity for head shots.

As the morning went on, I pulled out my intermediate telephoto and did some flight shots.  A Double-crested Cormorant was hunting for nest material, and he flew regularly between a tree and his nest.  It’s nice when birds are so predictable!

Double-crested Cormorant with Nesting Material

Double-crested Cormorant with Nesting Material

I climbed the observation tower and found myself looking straight into a pair of Double-crested Cormorant nests.  The cormorants were sporting the double crests that they are named for, which are only visible during breeding season.

Look at my crests!

Look at my crests!

My other good flight shot of the day was of this Great Egret.  I loved the graceful spread of his wings and long stretch of his legs.  I enhanced this image in Topaz Glow to emphasize the feathers.  It’s cool how you can see both his eyes!

Great Egret in Flight

Great Egret in Flight

So that was my morning at Gatorland.  It’s funny how when I first started bird photography, I mostly photographed the babies.  Now I have a greater appreciation for the adults and their breeding rituals.  Here’s a parting shot of a Cattle Egret with nesting material.  Such a beautiful bird!

Cattle Egret with Nesting Material

Cattle Egret with Nesting Material

Colorful Backyard Fun

I set up the camera in the backyard last weekend to capture the colorful customers who visited the birdbath and feeders.  We had so many different birds that day – red cardinals, our new visitor the Blue Jay, our pretty Painted Buntings, the red House Finches, Mourning and Common Ground Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, the Brown Thrashers that are nesting nearby, our wintering Gray Catbird, American Goldfinches that are turning bright yellow, Red-winged Blackbirds, and the visiting Orchard Oriole.  I love springtime!

Busy Birdbath

Busy Birdbath

I set up a hose to drip into the birdbath for a few hours that afternoon.  The moving water is very attractive to the birds.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a thousand pictures, right?  I sped it up a bit to keep it interesting…see what you think. :)

I snuck out the back door when I spotted our migrant Orchard Oriole heading towards the bird bath.  He didn’t mind the click-click of the camera as I photographed his splashing.  He also didn’t mind sharing the bath with a greenie Painted Bunting.

Orchard Oriole and Painted Bunting at Birdbath

Orchard Oriole and Painted Bunting at Birdbath

As soon as I finished the video, one of our nesting Brown Thrashers hopped up onto the birdbath.  We had two pairs in the yard a few days ago, four birds who were chasing each other as they fought over the territory.  Like the two male cardinals who chase each other every day, in and out of the bushes, under the tree, over the birdbath, through the feeders, into the blind, out of the blind…  They are going to wear themselves out before they get around to nesting!

Brown Thrasher and Mourning Dove

Brown Thrasher and Mourning Dove

When the baths were over, everybody headed over to the feeders for a quick snack.  I never get tired of watching! :)