Today is an off Friday and so I spent the morning at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery. There are chicks all over the rookery now. The Great Egret chicks are huge and you wonder when they will fledge. There are baby tricolored herons and baby snowy egrets throughout the rookery. The new sound of baby double-crested cormorants adds to the mix. Only the cattle egrets and the little blue herons still sit patiently on their nests, waiting for their own babies to hatch.
I climbed up into the observation tower to check on my double-crested cormorant nest (where I saw a baby hatch about two weeks ago). The babies have gotten a lot bigger, and now they have a bit of fuzz on their bodies, instead of displaying rough leathery skin that reminded me of a turtle’s.
The mother was feeding the babies as I watched, and I got a fun shot of the baby’s mouth stuck in its mother’s throat. It makes you wonder how in the world the feeding process is comfortable, for mother or baby!
It was very sad, though, because one of the chicks fell out of the nest this morning. Apparently it was dancing around too much and toppled. We didn’t see where it fell (I didn’t want to, anyway). I hope Mama will build a bigger nest next year…this one seems too small for her little family. I went back upstairs after the baby fell, and both parents were on the nest, continuing to feed the remaining babies as usual. Poor little baby. I hope it wasn’t “my” hatchling.
I checked on other babies throughout the rookery. This tricolored heron was one of the first to hatch this year. Now the babies are pretty big, and starting to move out of the nest. The mother keeps an eye on them from a distance. Apparently growing up makes the little guys sleepy…
The common moorhens were out, with two babies. (There were three last week.) The babies fussed a lot and swam after their parents, who rewarded them with bites of food.
Mike decided to amuse the photographers by throwing hot dogs into the water and letting us photograph the birds as they swooped for the food. The exposure was challenging with the bright sunlight, the reflecting water, and the bright white birds. I was fairly happy with these two pictures:
As I left, I stopped to say hi to the little green herons, now old enough to wander around a bit near the Papyrus Islands. As a matter of fact, I had trouble finding the third baby, who was perched in a tree away from the nest.
I watched one chick fishing for its breakfast. Watching the birds looking for fish reminds me of watching our cats stalking their lizards. There is such intense concentration in both cases.
There was another common moorhen family over by the peacocks, and these babies were older than the ones in the rookery. They called to each other incessantly, and they seemed very intrigued by my camera. Each time the shutter clicked, they would just look up at me as if to say “Why?” :)
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!