This morning I went back to the Gatorland Bird Rookery. I was excited to see our baby tri-colored herons again. I wasn’t disappointed! I saw three new species of babies today (green heron, double-crested cormorant, and common moorhen). I even saw a double-crested cormorant hatch! Very cool. :)
When we were first going in the Early Entry gate, Mike directed us to a baby green heron nest. We all stood there for a few seconds, wondering “where are they?” (and I might mention that a lot of these photographers have much bigger lenses than I do, and we must have made a pretty impressive crowd, all searching the landscape in front of us!) Then we sighted these guys out under some palms on a little island in the palm:
It seemed like there were more cattle egrets on nests today then in previous visits. I love the breeding colors of these guys – the orange and purple are very striking.
I went back to the nest of the tri-colored herons that Dyeyo and I saw last week. They were just hairballs then, but now they’re a little bigger and they’ve acquired a lot more color to their feathers. They were demanding food from their mother as I watched.
Here’s another picture of just the babies. Look at the green and blue hues in their stubby little feathers.
Mike allowed us to step around to the back of the rookery to photograph these wood storks in their nest while the light was still good. The babies have grown. This is actually two nests, and I saw a baby head pop up in the back nest today for the first time (not in this picture though).
The snowy egrets are still displaying and sitting on their nests. This one was attractive as he posed in the sunlight.
As I walked toward the observation tower, I heard little calls from below the boardwalk, and I looked down to see a family of common moorhens. The babies were pretty good swimmers but they couldn’t yet feed themselves. They were adorable to watch as they flapped their little stubby wings around when their parents came over to give them a bite.
Look at his feet! They seem decidedly disproportionate to the rest of his body! I climbed up the observation tower and continued to watch them. There were a total of three babies and the two parents. One of the babies was smaller than the others and it got extra attention (and at one point, it seemed to say “no way guys, I can’t swim in water that deep!”)
From the tower, I could see the nest of the baby anhingas that Dyeyo and I first saw three weeks ago. They are very big now, and I finally got a decent picture of them (they are always in shadow in the morning).
From the observation tower you can see straight into a nest of a double-crested cormorant (and there are several more nests higher up, too). The cormorant was sitting on her nest, just like she has been for the past three weeks. I started to wonder when her chicks would hatch. A branch fell from one of the higher nests, and she caught it, then spent several minutes positioning it precisely in her nest (hey, if you’re sitting on a nest all day, I guess repositioning branches is the most exciting activity at your disposal!)
I had started to go downstairs when one of the other photographers mentioned that there were two chicks in the nest. I was surprised, since I certainly hadn’t seen any. He told me that there were two chicks and one egg left. So I went back upstairs to watch the nest for a while and hope that the mother would stand up for a minute. A couple of other photographers came and went while I waited (for almost half an hour). It was worth it, though. She finally sat up a bit and fed one of the chicks:
I think the baby is less than a day old, and it looked so small and pink! I wonder when it will start to get some fur on that little head.
As I watched, the mother finished feeding the chick. (By this time I was the only photographer up there – everybody else had gotten bored waiting on the bird to move.) She sat still for a minute, then she got kinda agitated and kept sitting up and poking into the nest with her beak. Then out popped another little baby! I’m pretty sure I witnessed the egg hatch, as the baby was covered in goo and still has its butt in the egg. The mother poked it for a few minutes with her beak, then tucked it underneath her and continued to sit.
It will be fun to go check on them in the next week or so and watch “my” baby grow up! :)
There were several new nests of tri-colored heron babies. I couldn’t make myself stop taking pictures of them. They’re cute little guys!
Most of the giant egret chicks are pretty big now. Even though they are almost full size, they still sit in their nests and fuss for food. These guys were cute pestering their mom:
This nest, right up next to the boardwalk, has three chicks that are all a couple of weeks old. They fussed and fussed until their mother brought them food, and then chaos ensued as they all vied for the same mouthfuls. When she ran out of food, she moved off to the back of the nest, and the babies continued to fight among themselves. They were pretty loud. Then the mother flew off, and as soon as she did, the babies became completely silent. How funny! “Mom, come back, we didn’t mean it!”
As I laughed at the chicks, the snowy egret right next to them stretched her legs, and I saw that she had two tiny chicks in her nest. There was also at least one more unhatched egg.
Across the boardwalk, I spied another anhinga nest, this one with smaller chicks. The babies look like they just have soft blankets on their backs instead of feathers.
As I left, I found these two little blue herons building their nest near the entrance to the rookery. It looks pretty small…they’d better get busy building!
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!
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