This morning Dyeyo and I went back to the Gatorland Rookery to see if some of the nests we saw two weeks ago had any babies yet. We were happily surprised to see how many babies there are in the rookery now. We saw five types of babies: great egrets, anhingas, snowy egrets, tri-colored herons, and wood storks. Oh, and we also saw one very fussy grackle, who had made his nest in front of the “big bird” nests and was fussing as if he was jealous that they were getting all the attention!
The birds are such fun to observe in their nests. The babies fuss almost constantly with short repetitive calls. They pester their mothers all the time, poking their beaks into their mothers’ mouths to demand food. The mothers ignore them for the most part, as you can see in this little animated clip (the sequence of pictures was too cute to not string together!)
I’ve noticed in my pictures that the parent birds tend to keep their eyes closed when babies are fussing for food. Smart birds!
When we first arrived at the rookery, I went to the great egret nest that I’d seen last time, right next to the boardwalk. I was curious to see how big the babies had gotten. They were huge! The three birds could barely fit in their nest, and I guess their mom decided they were big enough to stay home by themselves, because I didn’t see her anywhere.
Next to that nest was another great egret nest, with babies about as big as these guys were two weeks ago. There were lots of branches in front of the nest, but I managed to get a close-up of one of the babies:
Overall, there were more nesting great egrets than any other species. This family was cute to watch as Baby started to learn to stretch his wings (literally and figuratively!)
The cattle egrets are still sitting patiently on their nests. Their mates are still bringing nesting material in, just to make sure that those nests are ready for when the babies hatch!
It was breakfast time in this nest, with both parents helping their babies eat. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the size of the fish in the baby’s mouth; it was almost as big as the baby’s head!
After the babies finished eating, their parents moved some twigs around, reinforcing the nest. I was amazed that somebody didn’t get strangled in there, with the babies poking their heads everywhere and with the adults with their necks wrapped around each other.
A couple of trees away, this great egret sat patiently on her nest, rolling the eggs over with her beak. I bet she was wondering when her nest was going to be full of screaming babies.
Most of these pictures were taken from the observation tower. As Dyeyo and I scanned the trees in the distance, we saw these two roseate spoonbills. It looked like they were on a nest. I saw one bring in nesting material, and one seemed to hover nearby while the other sat calmly. Wouldn’t it be cool to get pictures of the babies? :)
There were several anhinga nests today, with fairly small babies. The babies have such big throats! Their heads are so big in comparison to their necks. It seemed like the mother was keeping the babies pretty well under her wing (literally!)
Then I found the anhinga nest that I had observed two weeks ago. At the time, those babies were about as big as the last picture. But today, they were huge! They were stretching their wings like crazy. Their mother kept an eye on them from a distance.
A bunch of wood storks are nesting in the tall trees on the far side of the boardwalk. The wood storks are such ugly birds, but I think their babies are cute, especially when the baby is begging from the mother. The baby on the bottom of this picture reminded me of Squirt in the way that he was lying there falling off the side of his nest.
We heard some commotion behind us on the boardwalk, and saw photographers grouped around this nest of tri-colored herons. The mother had been sitting down on the nest all morning, and this was our first opportunity to see the babies underneath.
The babies are so ugly! They look like they are having a bad hair day. But at the same time, they’re cute. They are so small and colorful…
Not far away, another tri-colored heron let me see the eggs in her nest. She’ll have babies soon, too.
Dyeyo and I walked around behind the rookery, and we got a really good view of this wood stork nest. Actually I think it’s two wood stork nests together. The babies were moving around a lot, and one seemed to be trying to climb out of the nest. At least these guys had the good sense to build their nest over dry land, instead of right over the alligator pond!
The morning was getting late, and we were getting ready to leave, when we noticed that this little baby egret was trying to eat a snake. The snake was about a pencil diameter in width, and it was easily two or three times longer than the baby’s height. As we watched, the baby tried and tried to eat that snake, but he just couldn’t figure out how to get it down his throat. So then his mom took the snake back from him, threw her neck back, and slid the snake down her throat.
Unfortunately there were plenty of branches in between the birds and me, but I thought these pictures were funny. Like mother, like baby!
It’s so strange to see the birds around all the alligators. When the gators start carrying on with their mating noise around 9:00, the birds hardly seem to notice. You see the birds in the water right next to the gators, even on the gators:
As we left the rookery, we passed one of the peacocks. He had his tail extended and I thought this shot of his feathers was cool.
Oh, and Rich says I have to post a picture of a turtle, so here’s my favorite from today. I didn’t know turtle shells worked well as gator pillows, but I guess you learn something new every day!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Gatorland Rookery?
Check out my Gatorland Rookery page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!